Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A new roommate, a winter adventure, and a Georgia mishap

Dear blog,

It's been a while since I have written. We have been playing musical roommates around here and I've also been out of town for the holidays. Our new roommate has now moved in and I'm sure that there will be plenty to report in the coming months as his less favorable habits rear their ugly heads.

In the meantime, I'll share this little story with you.

My holiday vacation was a trip to Illinois to visit my kid brothers. The plan was that I fly in and then drive back with my brother, who will then move in to be our new roommate. It was a bit on the chilly side with 13+ inches of snow and temperatures ranging between 8 and 22 degrees for most of the 9 days I was there. After getting my fill of winter fun, the roommate elect and I loaded up his truck and headed home to the sunshine state.

A great deal of our time was spent preparing his truck for the trip. The temperatures were expected to drop further right as we were leaving, and who knows how much new snow there was to be? The truck was sitting on 4 crappy tires. The camper shell needed to be installed. There was no jack, no spare, no tire iron, no head liner, no carpet and no heat. The truck needed an oil change, an air filter, and the bed was full of snow.

We started out with a trip to the snowy junk yard. We scrounged around for hours and ended up purchasing a wheel, a jack, a tire iron, and a headliner for the truck. Unfortunately, they didn't have the tire we needed, nor any usable carpet. Upon our return to the house, my brother went to work ripping the carpet out of the floor of the truck in the driveway that had apparently been abandoned by the owner of the house they were renting. (shhh... don't tell anybody)

We worked frantically, shoveling snow from the truck bed, digging the camper shell out of the garage, then installing the headliner and carpet. The truck was really starting to come together by the end of the next day. The next step was to pick up an oil filter, air filter and thermostat. Our hope was that installing the thermostat would result in the heater working again.

My brother took the truck up to his friend that worked at a Hyundai dealership so they could perform the repairs and maintenance. After a couple of hours he called me. "We need to replace the universal joint." "Really? How bad is it?" "He says that if we make it to Florida, to call him and let him know, because it will have been a miracle."

The good news was that the replacing of the thermostat did in fact result in working heat!! That should come in handy. The bad news is that it's new year's eve and we are supposed to begin our 1,200 mile trip to Florida the next day at 5pm.
For those of you who don't know, here's the lowdown on u-joints.
A universal joint, U joint, Cardan joint, Hardy-Spicer joint, or Hooke's joint is a joint in a rigid rod that allows the rod to 'bend' in any direction, and is commonly used in shafts that transmit rotary motion. It consists of a pair of hinges located close together, oriented at 90° to each other, connected by a cross shaft.

In this case, there are 2 u-joints connecting the transmission to the rear differential via the drive shaft. What that means is if the u-joint fails, the truck is now more of a nifty fort than a vehicle.

It was a risk we simply could not take. For all we knew, we would make it 50 miles before this damn truck became our icy grave. We purchased the part and my brother spend the morning of new year's day installing it at his buddy's house. Fortunately this buddy had a pretty nice garage. They had to perform a few miracles just to get the old one off the truck.

After repairing the truck, my brother returned home. We had about 4 hours before it was time to embark. My brother thought this would be the perfect time to BEGIN PACKING!!!

We frantically packed up his belongings and loaded them into the newly renovated vehicle. It was freaking COLD!!! It was getting colder with every passing every minute. As the temperature approached 8 degrees (Fahrenheit!) we finally left at a little after 6pm... merely an hour late. Not too shabby!

My brother was the driver (drive nazi), I was the chef and accountant. I think we made a good team. To be safe, he kept the truck to a top speed of around 60mph. Everything was going well until we reached Georgia. On a side note... any time I have an incident while driving home to Florida, it always occurs in Georgia... I don't understand why.

At any rate, we were in Georgia with about 4-5 hours to go, when we heard a loud pop followed by the violent shaking indicative of a blowout. My brother expertly pulled the truck over to the side of the road. This was fortunately part of the Georgia highway that was equipped with a shoulder. Otherwise it would have been much worse!

We get out to survey the damage. The tire is torn to ribbons. The truck is off the shoulder by a little bit but we start jacking it up anyway. The jack is at an angle and is pushing the truck up and out at the same time. This is causing the entire rear axle to slant, resulting in the popped tire pretty much staying on the ground.

A concerned (about money) Georgia resident stopped to help. He saw the slanted axle and assumed that it had snapped. He assured us that he had a shop just down the road and could take a look at it. We were convinced that repositioning the truck and jack was all that was needed. He was nice enough to let us use his hydraulic jack, which took a fraction of the time to get the truck off the ground.

I took a moment to share a few details with him about how we pooled our resources to get the truck on the road. He said something to the effect of "Oh, so you guys don't have very much money do you?" "Nope, sure don't buddy!" Suddenly he was more interested in getting out of the cold than helping us with our "busted axle." The spare was installed and we were on our way. Surprisingly, the axle was just fine!

We were both deliriously tired and missed our exit to get on I-10. We had to take a detour through Lake City, which added even more time to our laborious venture.

Finally, 22 hours, 12 degree temperatures, 8 Coke Zeros, 5 old tires, 3 mobile deli sandwiches, 2.5 tanks of gas, and a blowout later, we were HOME!

I'm rather proud of our chariot. The 92 pickup did a bang up job!

Thank you.

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