Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Pt. 6

I left about 8 AM Monday morning. It was bittersweet because I was kind of liking Rapid City in a way. It’s kind of funny when you travel, many times you’ll make a small area your homebase, maybe for a week or two, or maybe just for a couple nights, but you learn the streets, you learn where to eat out at, you learn where the gas stations are, public transportation, etc. So for a short time, and maybe after being lost a couple times, your brain adjusts, and does its best to help you feel comfortable, and then one day you just get up and leave! Possibly never seeing that area/town/neighborhood again in your life! I think that’s how the world makes its imprint on us, and that’s why traveling is so important. And not just traveling, but being receptive to the environment and culture around us.

Anyway, enough deep talk! I hit the road again, and it was dry, clear, and low traffic. My favorite conditions for driving. Western South Dakota isn’t much different than the rest of the state. It has a dry, flat look, but with the golden grass everywhere, still manages to be less dry looking than Wyoming.

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This was the first part of the trip where I would be so far from civilization for so long. I was taking the back roads  99% of the time. I’d be taking Highway 79 in South Dakota down to 18 in Wyoming, then onto I-25 for a short stint through Casper, then 220, and then 287, then 28, then 372, then 189, and then 30 into Utah. Did you get all of that?? There was a large expanse (several hours of driving) with no cell phone coverage. Planning the route suddenly becomes a lot more critical, as actual towns with gas stations become few and far between.

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My GPS said there was a gas station at a perfect location. Keep in mind all of my GPS were in offline mode and only using the maps I had downloaded before I left for my trip. The gas station was in a ‘town’ called Jeffrey City, WY. However, I got a feeling I should check out the gas station in Muddy Gap, WY at the 3 Forks Muddy Gap gas station. So, I pulled up into the all dirt gas station. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been at an unpaved gas station! But I fueled up, and it’s a good thing I did. There was basically NOTHING in Jeffrey City, and I would have run out of gas if I tried to keep going. With such little traffic and no cell phone service (I think I saw only a handful of cars in this section of Highway 287), it could have been a very unpleasant day. The drive was pretty uneventful, and even though I didn’t cross any mountain passes, I got up to around 7,000 feet. It’s pretty amazing so much of Wyoming is at such a high elevation. I kind of wondered how many BMW 128i’s had been through this part of the country on these same roads. I don’t think it’s impossible this was the first one.

Coming into Utah was surprisingly exciting! I knew I would be home soon, after such a long journey, and even though I enjoyed the entire trip, and loved seeing those quick snippets of the country, there is something relieving about reaching familiar territory. This is Bear Lake, UT, and although the picture is barely adequate, it is a view I’ve seen many times.

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After this, I drove through Garden City, UT, and into Logan Canyon and was home in no time at all. I pulled the small BMW in the driveway to meet its new stablemates. Red, white, and blue do kind of go well together.

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According to my odometer I covered 2,943 miles in 4 days. Definitely a new record for me, and overall the car was a pleasure to drive. I unloaded the nearly endless amounts of crap out of the car, gave her a wash, and went to grab a couple pictures of the new arrival. I’m excited to get the paint to a better condition so it will pop a little more. That Florida sun is deadly to cars, but fortunately it still looks pretty good.

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Pt. 5

The night went by quickly.

7 AM came early, but it was a beautiful, clear morning and I enjoyed the sight out the motel room window.

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I got off to a good start though because the owners of this motel make a decent breakfast. Not quite homemade, but definitely better than any continental breakfast I’ve had. Eggs and pancakes were homemade, and the co-owner wife kept bringing out more fresh food for me to eat. This place was high on old-school, function-over-form charm.

Here’s a panoramic view of the dining room/lobby:

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Car warming up a bit. You can again see that sag on the rear wheels from all the crap I was toting across the country.

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I had been debating last night and today if I was going to go to Mt. Rushmore. I compared the different routes, and the time of arrival, and seeing if I had time with my work schedule etc. Finally, I decided I was going to go, since it would only be a additional few hours and cost, but still cheaper and shorter drive than if I went to Mt. Rushmore by itself at a later date. The quickest router was up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota where I would hang a left and drive about 5 hours. I ended up being really grateful I did. I just needed to keep heading north on I-29 out of Mound City, so I once again got back on the interstate. This route would take me around Omaha, which I have been to quite a few times while driving for Greyhound.

Spotted a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series airplane on the way. These aren’t that common anymore and although American Airlines, Allegiant, and Delta still have a lot in their fleet, Delta has decided to get rid of all of theirs by 2020 (had to Google that info). MD-80’s have been around a long time. I remember flying on one in the ‘90s, sitting in the rear by the engines is a very noisy experience and the tail kind of wags which makes the rear an unpleasant place to sit. However, they are a unique aircraft as they have rear-mounted engines, which also means the horizontal stabilizer is moved up. Quite a unique configuration, and the engines sound like fighter engines.

The rear mounted engines are what make it so easy to spot.

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Here’s a cool youtube video of one on takeoff. Listen to those engines!

 

Anyway, back to the drive. I got to Sioux Falls and headed West. It was extremely windy, and the wind didn’t let up for one second the entire time to Rapid City! The speed limit is 80, so at 85 MPH, the lightweight BMW was being tossed around like crazy because of the wind. I didn’t want to slow down even if it meant less wind noise and better vehicle control. Yes I’m stubborn. Unfortunately there was an issue with the passenger side window where it wasn’t quite going up all the way. It turns out it just needed to be reset! I wish I had known that before I took it on the highway. haha. The wind noise was quite high in the car because of it, and it was the first time I didn’t enjoy driving this car. However I did make it to Rapid City just fine and made really good time.

I don’t even know what the purpose of this is, but it was cool.

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A couple hours after Sioux Falls, I was crossing the Missouri River.

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And 3 hours after that I was at my hotel. One of the best feelings I have felt is arriving at a ‘home base’ after a long drive. When you’re driving around for days at a time, you never quite feel like you belong, so for just a few short hours, hotels/motels can kind of be that temporary home that you can rely on to be a jumping spot to other adventures. This hotel (Residence Inn Rapid City) ended up being the best hotel I stayed at on this trip, and probably in the top 5 hotels I’ve stayed at in the USA. It’s so new it wasn’t visible on the satellite maps. I arrived, got checked in, and made sure to get a photo of the many bugs that were drawn to the beautiful Montego Blue front bumper.

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This was the hotel room, and although it doesn’t seem like much, it was actually quite expansive, and included a nice kitchen with a full set of dishes and silverware, as well as a dishwasher.

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The funny thing is, this hotel was actually cheaper than Audrey’s Motel in Mound City, MO. Most likely because of Rapid City being a huge tourist destination site and I had just arrived right after the high tourist season. The reality is getting a good deal on this room is probably half the reason I liked it so much. hahaha

But there wasn’t much time to hang out, as I needed to hit Mt. Rushmore since I would only have today to see it. I grabbed some gas at a random gas station along the way because I couldn’t locate my preferred Chevron or Shell. It was BJ’s Country Store in Black Hawk, SD. Then I was back on the highway a few minutes before I arrived at the Memorial. The park only charges by the car, so I can come back in the next year for free if I want! Even if that is highly unlikely.

It’s kind of a cool site even before you get there. Although I’ve seen pictures a hundred times, and thought for sure it would be bigger, there is definitely some  presence to the faces molded out of rock.

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Another cool aspect of the Memorial is the walkway up to the amphitheater. It has a flag for every state as well as an inscription in the granite showing the year of statehood.

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I explored as much as I could, and then it was time to head out. I had to drive the car out of the exit of the parking garage in order to get to the upper level to take some more pictures. It has been a dream of mine for a long time to get a picture of my Acura Legend (that I no longer own) and Mt. Rushmore in the same picture. Although the BMW is not quite the same as my Legend, I was still able to take the picture I wanted, and I found that to be very fulfilling!

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Since I didn’t want to have to deal with gas in the morning, I decided to top of the car as well as grab some dinner. I put in my to go order at the local, highly rated Indian restaurant. Then I went and topped off at this station mostly because it didn’t have ethanol in the gasoline. As well as being premium. Usually the non-ethanol gasoline doesn’t have a premium option because it’s designed for snowmobiles, lawnmowers etc. that run off of regular lower octane gas.

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Well that’s it for today. Lots of ground covered, and only one day until I’m home. It was a great day overall! Even if the Indian food was some of the most overpriced, bland Indian food I’d ever had. lol. I don’t recommend Kathmandu Bistro in Rapid City.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Pt.4

Saturday morning was an early one. Grabbed my suitcase, checked out of the hotel, and got started. First stop was the Chevron near the hotel to top off on 2.5 gallons of premium fuel. It was nice to be leaving before 7 AM on a Saturday. Nobody was really up yet, and the roads were clear. It was a humid day, but I imagine every day is a humid day in this part of the country.  Only today was foggy as well.

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Since I’m in the car a lot, I can’t always get a feel for what the locals are like, and that’s part of the fun when traveling, is seeing how you’re different from others, and how you’re the same. Fortunately the radio ended up being a good hint of local life. This gospel music definitely livened up the morning, and it continued for at least an hour.

From Hattiesburg to Jackson was a short 90 or so minutes, and then I would leave the highway for the Interstate. Hopped on I-20 which then led me across the Mississippi river. Didn’t get very good photos, but I did get something at least!

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And on into Louisiana! I have never been in Lousiana and where I was going was definitely not the popular tourist destinations such as New Orleans. Since Louisiana wasn’t really on the way home, I only made a quick detour through Tallulah, LA which would lead me up to Little Rock, Arkansas via back roads. I was really glad I took this route, as it was pretty obvious time didn’t move at the same rate here.

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Twenty minutes later and I was in Transylvania! Lousiana that is. Winking smile

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Something odd happened on this stretch of highway. My radar detector alerted me to potential police ahead, so I lowered my speed to just over the speed limit. As I passed the Louisiana State Trooper parked on the side of the road in his white Suburban, I was a bit dismayed to see him pull out onto the highway immediately after I drove by. Considering I had temporary, out of state plates, possibly an illegal amount of tint for the area, and a title that had someone else’s name on it, I wasn’t super thrilled to see him barreling up behind me at a high rate of speed. I double checked my speed and dropped it to the exact 55 MPH speed limit. He was still right on my tail. Odd thing was he didn’t have his red and blue lights on, so I just locked the cruise control in and hoped for the best.

It was probably less than a minute before he passed me in the ongoing lane, but it felt quite a bit longer. He plowed ahead at probably 90, and then when he was about a mile in front of me, hurriedly veered off of the highway onto a dirt patch, creating a nice dust cloud in his wake. I thought maybe he was just checking me out and would now pull me over, but he stayed on the side of the road and I continued by. Then I saw another State Trooper on the other side of the road. Still unsure of what was going on, I just carried on my way, until I saw the reason for all of the fuss. A huge caravan approached from the opposite direction, which several more State Troopers leading the way, and a few other large, black SUV’s and several other vehicles I could only imagine were support staff vehicles and then more State Troopers at the trailing end of the entourage. I didn’t think it was the President, but I looked up his events that day, and none of them were in the area, then I looked up the Governor of Louisiana and he wasn’t supposed to be in the area either. Whoever it was, they appeared to have chosen a back road on purpose. I’ll never know who it was though!

Next border crossing was into Arkansas. Sorry Tyson, I didn’t get any other photos of state borders beside this one, and I definitely didn’t stop to take a photo!

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I had to make sure this sign did not say Welcome dumbass. Fortunately it didn’t. Dumas, AR what a name! I stopped at the Piggly Wiggly here and used the restroom and bought some Twinkies and water for the drive. Only the best nutrition for me! It was my first visit to a store I’d heard the name of many times, and I was once again the only caucasian in range. It kind of reminded me of my journeys to SE Asia, as I suddenly became more aware that I was the one out of place. The store was quite a rundown place, but people were nice enough. Back on the road, with banana flavored Twinkies in hand. An interesting sidebit, Twinkies used to all be banana! But during WWII, they needed to send the bananas to the war effort (back when they actually used real fruit for flavor), and so they changed the filling to the white cream that the majority of us are familiar with.

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An hour and a half later I was in Little Rock, AR (home of our 42nd President). Although I didn’t get any photos, it’s a fairly average looking and feeling city. It was the middle of the day on a Saturday so I didn’t have to deal with much traffic and although the street system was absurd (lots of rundown one-way streets), I was able to find a little Asian noodle place that was bound to have a trendy crowd from what I read on the reviews. It was called Three Fold Noodles and Dumpling Co. and I got a nice parking spot right in front. After a long wait, I received my overpriced food with small portions. It was actually pretty good, but I was surprised at how popular it was based on what I witnessed. You can easily find better quality dumplings for less in most Chinese restaurants. It was a good opportunity to see what the locals were like. It was interesting because it was ALL white people, which was an interesting change after Mississippi and Lousiana. Everyone had a fairly plain apperance and style as well. Maybe I would fit in here! I am, of course, basing this off of one restaurant with hipsters haha.

I soon was on my way again after filling up at the local Shell.  I headed west on I-40 and then eventually north on I-49. Pretty soon after that the scenery changed for the better. Rolling hills and some more trees made a nice change from the flat plains I came in on. A bit of a rainstorm came soon after this photo. Glad I got that wiper changed!

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About 3 hours after Little Rock, I had reached Bentonville, AR. This is the home of Walmart, and boy did it show! A Walmart amphitheater, a Walmart museum, etc. I crossed the border into Missouri and honestly was kind of excited. The northern part of Arkansas went from being pretty to quite ugly and it was a pretty weird vibe all around.

My next stop was Grandview, Missouri which is right before Kansas City, Missouri. Now this was a busy city. It was about 7:30 PM and I still wasn’t sure where I’d be eating or sleeping that night. I did some web searching while at the gas station and made up my mind that I didn’t want to stay near Kansas City. Crime was high, and I had some valuable items in the car. This car has frameless windows, which means they are quite a bit easier to break into usually. I decided to get something that Kansas City was famous for, their BBQ! I found somewhere called Smokebox Cafe and wasn’t expecting much, but ended up being very happy with the food. I know it doesn’t look like much, but this was absolutely the best barbeque I’d had. It wasn’t particularly cheap, but it was delicious.

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I made this stop a quick one and ate every last bite, then headed out on Interstate 29. I have to say, Kansas City, MO has some of the most confusing road systems I’ve ever seen. People were weaving in and out of lanes left and right just to get to the exit they needed to take. My GPS was having a field day with messages instructing me on which lane to stay in. It is a city I am at no risk of moving to anytime soon.

While I was at the restaurant, I did make a quick reservation for a motel in Mound City, MO. It was about an hour’s drive, and was called Audrey’s Motel. Fully expecting it to be a cutesy motel with a name like that, I was quite surprised that it was a motorcycle motel, independently owned by a military vet. He was a very cool guy and we talked for a bit even though I wasn’t expecting to have a conversation. The funny thing about towns like this and people that live there is that they kind of force you to slow down, even if you don’t want to. It took a while to fill out the paperwork and a while for him to record my details, etc.

I didn’t take a picture of the motel, so I grabbed one from the web.

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I decided to take the baby Bimmer on quick drive since I had unloaded quite a bit of my stuff I wanted to see how it drove with a bit less weight. I found a deserted road and wound her up pretty good. It was a lot of fun, and the way the revs build and the sounds that are made, it’s tempting to keep doing it.

But I knew I had a long drive the next day, so back to the motel I headed, parking in the back out of the way of others and also within viewing distance of my west facing motel window. I quickly got settled and hit the sack. At this point I had traveled around 1,650 miles since leaving Ft. Lauderdale. It felt really good to be this close to home.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Pt. 3

Friday morning . . . time to drive home . . . to Utah!

Wow, just thinking about the drive was daunting! I woke up early and got everything together and gave everyone hugs goodbye. I don’t think anyone really likes goodbyes. I used to be a lot better, but as I get older I realize how fragile life is and you never really know what the future holds. Anyway, I packed up my stuff, threw it in the car, started it up and headed to the gas station. First things first, I need a fresh tank of gas!

Got the radar detector installed on the window and my OBDII scangauge wired up so I can monitor things like engine temperature (especially since I didn’t know how old the thermostat and water pump were). $3.39 for Premium and I was again on my way.

Here was the route I planned on taking.  The estimated driving time was 37 hours and a distance of 2,751 miles if going the fastest way.

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But since I had already been through a lot of those states, and was dead set on avoiding traffic and construction, I chose a slightly different route. This took me through Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas which I had never driven through before. It’s a slightly longer drive, but it’s kind of fun to add a couple more states to the list of those visited.

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I left the gas station and hopped on Florida’s Turnpike. Florida has a lot of toll roads and they get very expensive, like $25 for a short distance expensive. I felt like I was in Tokyo! Combined with 6% sales tax and the gas not being any cheaper really, it was a bit pricey just to drive out of there! The funny thing is the turnpike should probably be an Interstate based on how useful the direction is, but they wouldn’t get their toll money that way. The next stop was at a mid-turnpike rest stop to get some water. It was like a mini-mall, and had several different food options as well as other trinkets. It was pretty large with lots of parking, and it turns out there were several of these along the turnpike. That must be what the tolls pay for. I got the extra water because it was getting hot outside and the A/C wasn’t working right! Only one zone of the dual zone climate control system was even slightly cold. So I did a bit of searching on the BMW forums and didn’t find a concrete reason, so I headed out again. Soon enough I was on I-75, and then later I-10 which heads west through the Florida Panhandle.

Next stop was for gas in Live Oak, FL. There is a McDonald’s right next to the Chevron, so that was also my lunch stop. I had driven about 5 hours and basically gone nowhere haha. I only covered 363 miles. Florida’s speed limits aren’t super high and they have lots of police parked in the trees.

From the McDonald’s I was able to spy on my new acquisition, and had to admit to myself I really did like how it looked.

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Back on the road again. The scenery started getting slightly different, mostly because the trees got taller and closer. I actually found this to be quite beautiful compared to the vegetation on the desert roads in and around Utah.

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I drove through Pensacola, but couldn’t see much from the freeway, and of course time was on the line, as I had a lot of distance to cover in order to be back in time for work, as well as give myself some cushion with any unforeseen issues. The bridge going into Mobile, Alabama was pretty cool though, and I enjoyed the little bit of change in scenery.

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One thing that is very random is the rainstorms. Although I don’t have any photos, I learned very quickly that the wiper blades on this little car were not up to the task. I stopped at an Advance Auto Parts in Mobile. I didn’t see any other white people for this entire part of my drive and stop. I found that kind of fascinating, how we sometimes are so isolated from the rest of the world, but it’s not necessarily intentional, it’s mostly just because of how and where we live. Of course the wiper blades are a ripoff in the store, so I only bought the driver’s side. Attached the wiper and got back on the road!

Later was a stop in Lucedale, MS where I got some gas at the Chevron along Mississippi Highway  98. At this point I had put on another 359 miles. I also took this time to book my hotel in Hattiesburg, MS. The car was getting good mileage, so that made me happy. I should mention I left the Interstate back in Mobile so I could go the path that would lead me through some previously unvisited areas. It felt quite remote, and there was definitely a different vibe in the backwoods parts of Mississippi.

Next stop was Hattiesburg! I actually got there before sundown which was nice, and since I was heading west and changing time zones, I got a little extra sunlight out of the day. The hotel was the Candlewood Suites Hattiesburg. This Waffle House was right by it, and I am amazed at how many Waffle Houses there are in the South!

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The hotel was definitely nothing special for the price. But it did give me a jumping off point for some real Southern seafood. The choice was the Purple Parrot Café. I got the food to go as the place was packed on a Friday night, and sitting in my hotel relaxing sounded just fine to me. The hot crab sandwich was amazing, and even though the portion was a bit small, I was really impressed with the different flavors they packed into one entrée. Pretty soon after that I hit the sack. I knew I needed to wake up early to get going on the next section. In total I drove about 790 miles today, and spent about 13  hours on the road. Not too bad for the first day!

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Pt.2

After chilling for  bit, I headed down to look at the car. Chris had to fight with the property management folks to let him park the car in this spot. Apparently the valets take their job very seriously, and this car must have really spoiled their routine. But because Chris fought back, it means the valets didn’t have the key to the car, or need to move it. Thanks Chris!

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It was nice to see the car in person, mostly because I know the seller had done a bit of work to the photos to make the color pop a bit more. Love the color. It’s bright, without being too bright. BMW sold the 1 series in a darker shade of blue as well, but I’ve already got 2 dark blue vehicles, so this color fits in just right.

Later on Thursday, Chris had a break in his schedule and so we headed out to the ocean. There was a large storm earlier in the week so a lot of ocean debris (plankton etc.) was in the water, but the water was such a great temperature! We went a bit further out with Amelia and had a blast. Of course I got sunburned, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you travel! After catching the waves a bit on the boogie board Chris brought, we headed back in and washed up our feet at the little fountain. Amelia was pretty obsessed with getting every last piece of sand off her little feet!

After that Fabiola (Chris’ wife) and Amelia and myself went and picked up Olivia at the bus stop. It was SO freaking hot. It was only a short walk, and as soon as we arrived at the stop I found a nice tree to provide some shade. The humidity combined with the low elevation and proximity to the equator add up to some very intense heat. It was a few years since I’d been in Florida when I went to watch the space shuttle launch, but that was in February. It was 20 years ago I was there in the summer, and clearly I forgot how hot it was.

After getting back to the apartment and even though I was exhausted due to lack of sleep, I knew I needed to try to get a temporary registration for my cross-country drive. Going through so many states without a plate seemed like a pretty big risk, and if I could avoid it I would. Florida is fortunately a bit more lax on registering cars, and they have private companies available to do this, so there was an office close by that was able to get me on my way in less than 30 minutes, and it was only like $6. The culture is interesting down here. People seem more interested in image, and try to dress the part even if they aren’t wealthy. Of course, that’s probably what people think of me driving the cheapest BMW sold in the US! haha. Driving around was fun, but I was a bit cautious considering I was in a new environment (the car and the location), and let the zip-zoomers of Ft. Lauderdale do their thing. I liked how the car drove, but could tell immediately it might need an engine or transmission mount, or both. The way the power builds is very progressive, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to really do much testing because of traffic and low speed limits around Ft. Lauderdale.

Once I was back I decided to at least get all the crap I had delivered out of Chris’ apartment. That took way longer than I expected, mostly because the property managers didn’t seem to want to let me borrow their cart. haha. So after many trips up and down the elevators carrying large boxes, I got everything in the car. The little 1 had a bigger trunk than I expected, even though it looks tiny. I didn’t get a pic of how full the interior of the car was, but there wasn’t any room left in the trunk, and I even had a few items in the back seat. Poor car probably never had so much extra weight to tote around.  Surprisingly the rear end didn’t sag that much.

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Got the plate added, checked the air pressure, and now I’m ready to roll. And yes I will be removing the M license plate frame. Winking smile

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Now that everything was loaded, and Chris would be done with work soon, I took a breath of relief. There are so many details to address when traveling and arranging for so many possible outcomes, that it’s quite a nice feeling to have at least some of it done. I was planning on polishing the headlights and changing the oil, but it was incredibly hot still, and I wanted to spend more time with Chris.  When he was done with work, we got ready to go have a bbq by the beach. The property Chris lives in also provides access to the beach and a cabana complex. It was just across the street, and you’re suddenly in a different world. The ocean is pretty amazing as a change of scenery compared to Utah.

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These little lizard like things are everywhere. I was told they aren’t lizards though. But along with geckos and gecko poop, there’s pretty much always something to avoid stepping on.

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Fabiola working on the food, and Chris prepping the BBQ. The girls were hanging out with the neighbor kids.

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The rain soon rolled in and made the BBQ a little more interesting. Apparently it’s basically a daily occurrence to have at least some rain. It’s so warm here though, that it wasn’t that annoying. After some delicious food, we hung out a bit more, saw the skies clear and then eventually headed back to the apartment. The great thing about being a guest is it’s okay to relax! I have a hard time relaxing so it was nice to just kind of check out mentally even though I had a big trip ahead of me. As usual, Chris and I stayed up a bit chatting about whatever entered our minds. Chris inflated an air mattress for me and I took a Benadryl and was out like a light.

Until next time . . .

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles Pt.1

The seller wasn’t willing to take any payment other than cash, and it had to be in person. Oh boy, one of those sellers . . .

But fortunately, Chris lives in Ft. Lauderdale which is just a short drive away from the seller! I suggested to Chris the idea of him buying the car for me, and he was willing! I have to admit I was a bit surprised since it would be an inconvenience for him, as he’d have to either go early before work or on a weekend. Also I was worried he wouldn’t like the idea of having me pay him back since I knew a bank transfer would take a few days. Chris had plans the weekend of the 18th of August so it was going to be hard to make it work. But then they canceled at the last minute because of some crazy thing called the Red Tide in Sarasota. So Saturday was going to work after all. Chris went and met the seller and called me so we could talk about the condition of the car. The seller was a rule-following kind of guy and wouldn’t even adjust the selling price on the title to avoid multiple taxation, but that’s okay, I’m sure he gladly accepted the stack of cash Chris handed him! haha. Got the car covered on insurance and Chris brought it back to his place. Not only did Chris take an Uber to go meet the seller at his expense, but he also took the car to get a PCV Heater recall at the dealership on Monday, again taking an Uber. Thanks Chris!

I did end up getting the flight booked on a day that my boss would let me leave! Fortunately, since I gave a bit more notice I was able to get some more time off to hang out with Chris and his family. I booked with Frontier and it was quite cheap, and a lot cheaper than the other airlines, but I found out why later. Now I just had the joy of waiting around 3 weeks owning a car I had never seen. When I bought my Audi A4 sight unseen, the several days waiting for it to be transported across the country was pretty anxiety inducing, especially since the truck driver wouldn’t answer my texts or calls. But luckily in this case, I knew the BMW was in good hands.

I sent a lot of parts and tools to Chris’ house since I knew I would be 100% on my own and sometimes in very remote areas with an unproven vehicle.
Here’s just some of the items I bought and had shipped to his house:

-Aluminum Jack, jack stands, wrenches, oil, oil filter, air filter, tire slime, tire plugs, air compressor (no spare tire, because BMW), socket set, drain pan, etorx, mallet, funnels, shop towels, tape and alcohol (for buffing headlights and attaching xpel), headlight buffing kit, gloves, spare headlight bulb, tire gauge, fire extinguisher, spark plugs, spare coil, accessory belt kit (including tensioner and idler pulley, and a windshield shade. I also shipped a complete thermostat and electronic water pump replacement kit from FCPEuro because they are known to go bad around 100k miles.

I left September 5th from my house, and since there weren’t any Ubers available (there’s usually only 1 or 2 anyway), I headed out on foot to the bus stop with my backpack and rolling suitcase. The plan was to take both of my bags on as carry-ons since they were both small enough to fit, and I already paid the extra baggage fee to Frontier airlines. I read up on all the TSA rules as far as tools since I was carrying a few items with me so I wouldn’t have to buy them in Florida or buy a second set of something I didn’t need two of.  But that didn’t really make a difference as I found out later. I caught the free bus to the transportation hub where I had booked a ride from SLExpress to the SLC airport. That was a pleasant ride and there was only one other passenger.

Checking in at the airport was easy enough, but I was stopped at security because of my tiny electric screwgun. He told me I would have to check the bag because they didn’t want people unscrewing parts of the airplane. I guess a standard screwdriver is not a risk though. haha

I checked the bag after a very long wait in line and left to Denver. I had flown Frontier a lot in the ‘90s in my drum and bugle corps days, but that was a long time ago and things have changed a lot. I felt like I was on a military airplane because the seats were so stripped down to make them thinner in order to accommodate more passengers.  You can see the seats in the pic below. I usually take pictures of the plane card on my trips to document what type of plane I was in.

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The flight to Denver was uneventful and short, and it was a short walk to the next gate, and then we got on the plane and pulled out soon enough even out of the gate. I even took a pic of the plane I was on.

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But then we just sat on the tarmac, for 10-15 minutes before the pilot announced we were returning to the gate for technical issues. Working in technology, I know how rare it is that everything actually works without having at least one issue going on, and with planes it’s the same way. They have several small issues going on that may or may not be enough to ground the plane, and is probably up to the pilot to decide if it’s safe to fly or not. Whatever it was, it took 2 technicians an hour to decide they couldn’t fix it, so we had to go back inside and wait for another plane. Things were already downhill, but I thought it would be a quick transfer to the other plane as it had recently de-boarded. But nope, they called security and the police to do a ‘security check’ of the airplane. Not sure why as passengers had just used it to arrive. They took 30 minutes or so, but then the waiting really kicked in. The funny thing is the attendant kept announcing it was for security reasons, but all the security personnel had already left. As we waited, people just stood and sat in the walkway of the terminal. The entire half of the terminal was blocked. I always find it fascinating that people are so eager to do something, to the point they will sacrifice all of their comfort and block the path of other patrons. Even stranger to me is that if they sat down on a seat, they wouldn’t be delayed in boarding or miss the flight, or get anywhere later for that matter, but I’m not a behavioral sociologist so I’ll leave that one to the experts. haha. Eventually the pilot came back with a McDonald’s bag in his hand and shortly after that we were allowed to board. I think the flight was 3+ hours delayed now?

I got a few minutes of sleep on the way to Miami. The seats really did not allow sleeping to occur easily. We arrived safely in Miami, which is a very old and rundown airport. I was kind of shocked considering how much money must go through there every day. Fortunately there was a cheap train that would take me to a terminal near Chris’ apartment. After 30 minutes waiting on luggage (this is why I never check bags), I was good to go, and caught the train, informing Chris of my status, since I was worried his schedule would be affected since it was a work day. One thing I did not expect to experience on the train was a language I hadn’t heard before. There were 2 black people speaking what I can only assume was a French Creole or a Haitian Creole. It was fascinating. Loud and obnoxious, but fascinating. After a $5 fee and a pretty short trip (45 min?), I awaited Chris at the Ft. Lauderdale Tri-Rail station. I sent him the GPS coordinates so I figured it would be easy to navigate to my location, but this is a busy metropolitan area, and the entrance to the station is definitely not clearly marked. After waving to him as he drove by on the freeway on ramp, I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at the situation. Nothing really had gone as planned, but everything had worked out fine.

We parked in the underground parking and went up to the 4th floor apartment and I hung out with his daughter Amelia on the balcony. Really a pretty view and the heat wasn’t too bad yet since it was still early Thursday morning.

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From that same balcony I could just barely see the baby BMW at the end of the parking lot.

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BabyBMW

More to follow!

Searching for a BMW . . . again.

Around July I was kind of starting to get over a hard breakup, and what do you do to fill the void in your heart? You buy something, of course! So I started looking at the BMW 1 Series. It’s a small car, that was only released to the USA as a coupe and convertible and was available as a 2008-2013 model year car. In Europe it was also available as an ugly hatchback with a ton of different engine options including diesel, with 2 or 4 doors.

There were two different models available in the US. The 128i, and the 135i.  The 128i uses an inline 6, naturally aspirated (non turbo) engine with 228hp and 200 lb. ft. of torque, and the 135i uses a twin turbo inline 6 with 300hp, and 295 lb. ft. of torque. Technically for 2013 only their was also the 135is also that had even more power. All were rear wheel drive (RWD), and available with manual transmissions. And surprisingly, for older models the price difference between the 135i and 128i was not that significant. Not only that, but the 135i was usually spec’ed with higher level equipment (HID headlights, sport suspension, sport seats). So, you would naturally choose the 135i right? Especially when it’s so cheap and easy to add even more power?

Well yeah, except the 135i’s (and 335i’s) have a serious reputation for being unreliable, mostly due to the more complex setup that the turbos require. Additionally they are usually modified heavily and in good stock form they can be quite pricey. Not only that, but the 135i was the beginning of a change for BMW. They were moving to turbos whereas for decades they had held out on adding turbos to their gasoline engines. So the 128i was kind of the last hoorah for a naturally aspirated, RWD, manual transmission cars in a lightweight coupe format from BMW. You can still buy newer small BMW’s with RWD and manual transmissions, but they’re turbocharged. I don’t have anything against turbocharged cars, as I own 4 of them, but I wanted to experience this car, as it was supposedly more fun than the 135i because of it’s lighter weight, less front heavy design, and from what I’ve read was truer to BMW’s heritage. One of the comments I read a few times included the word balanced, and that’s what a sports car is to me.

The problem as mentioned earlier is I do want some of the nicer features, but who buys the cheapest BMW available new in 2008 and outfits it with expensive options? Not many people did, and that’s why it’s hard to find one with HID’s and sport seats. I really wanted the sport seats because the standard seats are known to be horrible. To me, they look as flat as a park bench, with no support. Sidenote, it’s fortunately easy to find one without the unpleasant BMW iDrive and navigation.

I came across this little beauty in Miami, Florida. Keep in mind, most of these are silver, grey, white, or black. I’ve only seen 2 red ones listed for sale, and one gold one, and this was the only Montego Blue 128i I found. It also happened to have the sport package including the sport suspension and sport seats, as well as the bi-xenon HID’s.

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Sooo, it wasn’t perfect. Fading of the headlights, a cracked taillight, interior trim a bit worn, fading tint. But I couldn’t really resist the paint color. It’s rare to find a 128i spec’ed like this, let alone in a color that’s not monochromatic. So I got ahold of the seller and started talking with him off and on. He was kind of short with replies, so it was hard to get information from him (one of my least favorite types of sellers). So I let it be for a while. Eventually the ad was taken down even, I checked with him a couple weeks after that and he still had it. Of course at this point, I’m not thinking rationally, I’m thinking emotionally; “Will I be able to find this color again?”, “At this price?”, etc.

I did do some searching on the color and found out from the VIN as well that it was Montego Blue, and although the pictures were obviously modified for wow factor, it was still a really nice color. So I started arranging to purchase it. Only problem was it was in Florida! And the seller didn’t want to take anything but cash in person. It was a crazy time at work, and I scheduled one day off that was later ‘revoked’. I was planning to fly down, pick it up, visit my friend Chris for a few hours, and then book it the 37 hours home. I should have just taken the day off sick. I had to pay $100 just in flight cancellation fees.

Until next time . . .

New fuel filter and grille for the A4

There are certain things that I notice don’t ever seem to be replaced on cars, no matter how well maintained they appear to be. One of those things is fuel filters. Since the car has now over 157k, I figured it was time to actually install the fuel filter I purchased a few months back.

Fortunately it is in a fairly convenient location. I mean, not as convenient as other cars I own, but still not horrible. Just in front of the passenger side rear wheel there is a plastic cover to remove that allows easier access to the filter. Audi has gone to a different style of connector than I’m used to, one where you just have to push in the tab on the side to release the connection. In theory it’s easy enough, but can be a bit tricky without knowing how the connectors work.

Here you can see the connectors, I’ve already removed the filter.

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Old filter next to new. There was quite a bit of gasoline still left in the old filter! I recouped some of it to use in the lawnmower, but the fuel on the inlet side was pretty dirty so I wasn’t able to use it.

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New one going in. Overall it was quite a simple job. The old filter was the original filter judging by the date stamp of sometime in 2005.

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I did remove the gas cap to relieve pressure on the lines, so I was expecting a check engine light (CEL) for that when I forgot to tighten it back up before starting. I did get a CEL, however it wasn’t for the gas cap. It was for the duty cycle of the fuel pump being too low. I figured it was just that way because of the filter change, so I cleared the code. I then began to wonder what the normal duty cycle should be. After some internet searching, I found out it should be around 50%. The CEL showed it at 38%, so I decided to pull more info with my laptop. I found out that my fuel pump is actually at 78% duty cycle at idle! Which is a bit high. So since I have a road trip coming up, I decided to bite the bullet and order a new fuel pump. I hate to throw parts at the problem instead of diagnose it further, but I don’t want to have roadside issues. I’ll find out soon enough whether or not this was the cause of the high duty cycle. Other causes could be clogged or bent lines.

I also took this chance to swap out my homemade grille for a custom grille. Originally, nobody made a grille that was the same style as the Audi RS6, that is with all mesh and no license plate bracket. So I made my own following a guide online. It was very difficult, and didn’t quite match my expectations, but did improve the looks. Since a company now make a grille that looks the way I want, I decided to purchase it. I also took this chance to put the Audi rings back on the grille. Although I do have to admit, it is somewhat entertaining when people take a second look at the car while I’m driving. My only conclusion was that they didn’t know what brand/model of car they were looking at. In order to do this, you have to remove the entire front bumper cover. The first time I did this, it was a bit painful, but since I knew a bit better how things worked, this time went much faster. Ignore the bug guts, the entire car needs to be washed.

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Honda S2000 clutch master cylinder replacement

The S2000 might have been slightly neglected lately, partially because it doesn’t seem to need as much attention, and also because I’ve enjoyed the car a lot the way it is.

I’ve noticed the clutch pedal at times was stiffer than normal. After trying to lubricate a few parts as I read to do online, it still didn’t return to how it was. I began to think the clutch was starting to go. I wasn’t incredibly worried about it, but then I came across a youtube video of a guy with a similar problem with his Acura NSX. He had tried to top off the fluid, but the fluid disappeared. My fluid wasn’t really leaking that fast, but I did have to add a tiny bit once a year or so. He found that his clutch master cylinder was the problem, and it was leaking inside the car! I got a flashlight, got contorted underneath the steering wheel, and lo and behold there was a sign of a tiny leak from the master cylinder! Since this car and the NSX in the video were about the same age, it kind of made sense. The clutch master cylinder is in the center of the photo, and the clutch pedal is on the left. The oil looking stuff next to the piston going into the cylinder shouldn’t be there.

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Fortunately, it was quite a simple job! I just needed to stay contorted long enough to get a couple nuts off of the cylinder, as well as remove the lock pin holding the clutch pedal to the piston. After doing that, and disconnecting the line going to the clutch slave cylinder, it came out pretty easily.

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New next to old. I found it interesting that Honda sells the entire assembly as one piece, instead of selling the reservoir, cap etc. separately. The cost was about $107 with shipping, which I felt was reasonable considering this is a Honda original part that should be good for another 16 years.

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After I got the new one in, I connected the line, tightened the nuts, attached the piston to the cylinder and added brake fluid. Then I jacked up the car, and drained some fluid out of the slave cylinder to get the air bubbles out. I took it for a drive, and it was shifting great again. The clutch pickup point is earlier than before, but I’m guessing that’s due to different piston position. I have driven it a few times, and still haven’t adjusted to the new clutch position! But it’s great to not worry about being able to get the transmission in gear or not.

Paint prep update 3

Things are slowly moving along with the S6. Armando offered to work on the damaged rocker panels that I mentioned in Paint prep update 2. They were quite a challenge, and I can see why. The metal was pushed and folded up, and in order for him to get the metal down to the original position, he had to cut the metal, put pins in it, and pull out the rocker panels until they were in the right place. Then he welded the cut metal, sanded it down, and put a nice coating of rubberized paint all the way down the rocker panels. This is how the car was originally also, so it’s a nice touch. He texted me some pictures of the process.

Passenger side:

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Driver side:

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I stopped by later and got the pictures below. Here you can see one of the pins he attached to pull with, as well as how much he had to cut the metal.

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It’s quite the sight to see the car in such disarray! You can see here he also has taped off the windshield and has opened the sunroof so that he can paint without making lines around the sunroof. There are so many details to address. He’ll have to put tape behind the holes in the door panels where the moldings fit as well as the door handles, and even in between the doors. When I last talked to him, he said it was about ready for paint! So the next update will hopefully show some pretty blue paint.

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