You have, no doubt, been expecting the update for my 2006 travel adventure. I apologize for not having explained what is happening a little sooner. This year, after living in the same suburban house for 30 years, my wife and I are down-sizing to a downtown condominium. A lot of effort was required to empty the basement and the attic of items collected during that time period, especially since both of us apparently have an aversion to discarding anything.
This work was not something that my wife could accomplish by herself, so we have been working together since mid-November to get the house ready to sell while also selecting furniture, hardware, flooring, etc. for the renovation of the condominium. Garage sales, farmer's auctions, and trips to the dump with trash, have occupied the time normally used to plan for my trip for the year.
It appears that there is a lull in the action right now, so I am heading for a little meander down the east coast to Charleston, S.C. I will be traveling on two lane highways where possible in Glee, who is chomping at the bit to get away. Glee now has 234,000 miles on the odometer and still has not used a drop of oil. I guess that I shouldn't have said that before leaving on a trip, but I have a lot of confidence in the old Volvo.
I need to get away to catch a few rays and hit a few golf balls in warmer temperatures. I have been to Charleston in the past and always enjoyed the southern charm of the city. I will update the web page from there just in case anyone is interested. I still hold out hope that there will be time for a shorter foreign adventure yet this winter. A junket to Belize or Mexico City, then on to Cuba and Chile might be worth three or four weeks. Stay tuned.
January 27, 2006
Who said that travel in the USA couldn't be exciting? I departed Tuesday afternoon, headed for dinner with friends that evening in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Glee was full of $2.39 gasoline and her odometer was just about to cross the 234,000 mark. One can't say that I am not confident in Glee's abilities.
Unfortunately, that confidence was a tad misplaced. After a great dinner in Rehoboth and an early start on Wednesday morning, I noticed a smell of unidentifiable burning and a wisp of light, black smoke rising from under the hood when I stopped for a traffic light in southern Maryland. Traveling at 50 or 60 mph appeared to be no problem, but when I stopped for gasoline a little later, the smell and the smoke reappeared. I checked the motor oil and, as usual, Glee needed no oil. I proceeded southward.
I drove hard all day on Route 17, staying off of Interstate Route 95, whose boring drive I detest, and reached Wilmington, N.C. at dusk. As I slowed, looking for a cheap hotel to lay my head for the evening, Glee seemed to slip a gear in her automatic transmission. Then, when starting from a stop, it sounded like she was laying a tiny patch of rubber to overcome inertia. Undeterred, I continued south after a good night's sleep, but the transmission began to needlessly jump into passing gear on occasion. Shortly thereafter, the transmission was obviously slipping whenever I started from a standing stop. I should have checked the transmission fluid, but I pressed on, past the giant Volvo dealership in Myrtle Beach, S.C., picturing a richer, driving-free lifestyle while Glee was being repaired in Charleston. Glee never made it that far!
The car started to continuously cycle through passing gear about 20 miles north of Charleston on Route 17 and I realized that to continue to drive would do irreparable damage to the transmission, so I slid the indicator into neutral and drifted off the highway into the parking lot of a small restaurant. I have always said that God takes care of children and fools and this fool had drifted into the lot of the best low country restaurant that I have ever experienced.
The staff at the SeeWee Restaurant at 4808 Highway 17 in Awendaw, S.C. just 17 miles north of Charleston handed me the telephone and a phone book to call for help. I called AAA to get towed, opened the phone book to a small ad in the Yellow Pages that proclaimed "Volvos Only!" and cited 40 years experience in repairing Glee's ilk. I called and they agreed to look Glee over.
There was no sense wasting time waiting for the tow truck, so I ordered a bowl of she crab soup, a glass of iced tea, and studied the menu. The soup was among the two or three best that I have ever tasted - thick, full of crabmeat and accompanied by a small, paper cup of sherry which made the soup even better. The fried oyster salad was also delicious, but the homemade banana pudding was simply the best that I have ever tasted. When I complimented the well-dressed lady cleaning my table, she thanked me, beamed, and declared, "I made it!" Somehow, I will get back to that restaurant and I recommend it highly to you. The SeeWee is worth the trip to Mt. Pleasant (across the river from Charleston) just to dine.
The tow truck driver, originally a Philadelphian, delivered me to the "Reputable" auto (just Volvos!) repair shop and the friendly mechanics quickly found a leak in the cooling line to the transmission. Three hours later, which allowed phone calls by the office secretary to nearby hotels to locate an inexpensive room for a few days, the leak was repaired and a new radio aerial was installed. This garage is the place where knowledgeable local Volvo owners bring their cars for repair. I met some wonderful local people during my three-hour stay in the office. What great luck! I had found a great restaurant, the perfect garage to wok on the car, and spent a delightful afternoon talking with local folks. Things were working out perfectly and the bill was very reasonable.
Unfortunately, when crossing the beautiful, new bridge over the Cooper River to get to the hotel, Glee just couldn't shift into her highest gear. I quickly called back to the garage and they told me to bring the car back in the morning and they would "have a look." They looked and declared that Glee needed to visit a transmission specialist whom they recommended. Ronnie of Ronnie's Transmission in North Charleston is a good ol' boy, a NASCAR truck driving champion and a close observer of the professional football scene. After a long ride in Glee and a lengthy discussion about the Pittsburgh Steelers in next week's Super Bowl, Ronnie informed me that Glee would need to have the "overdrive gear clutches of the transmission" rebuilt to the tune of $1300. "Not to worry," Ronnie advised me, "she'll be as good as new when we're finished with her on Monday evening."
I am now sitting in the beautiful public library in gorgeous downtown Charleston where the temperatures will reach 65 on Saturday and 68 on Sunday. I will leave Tuesday morning with Glee, her rebuilt transmission, and new radio aerial, headed north after a wonderful rest in a delightfully friendly southern capital. The stay will be a tad longer and considerably more expensive than I had planned, but it will probably be worth it if Glee can last a few hundred thousand miles longer. That would certainly be better than the price of a new Volvo! Incidentally, for those who keep track of those things, the $2.39 gasoline at home was the most expensive of the trip and I filled up just before the breakdown for $2.21 in Georgetown, S.C. Stay tuned.
Obviously, I did not get away again in 2006. The cost of repairing Glee's transmission and the workload of supervising the renovation of our condominium precluded further travels during the winter. Somehow, I grudgingly endured the northern weather and Glee made it all the way through November of that year when she was traded for a 2004 Volvo with only 25,000 miles on the odometer. Though I felt like a traitor, the new Volvo, nicknamed Sadie since she is an S80 model, had 225,000 fewer miles than Glee and I just couldn't justify additional repair expenses. Glee served me well and I miss her. Here's hoping that Sadie lives up to her predecessor.
UPDATE TO 2006