Monthly Archives: May 2015

Preparing the Mustang to drive 5100 miles

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Preparing the Mustang to drive 5100 miles

From 13-May through 22-May

 

The piece of equipment that’s arguably most critical to a long-distance raodtrip is the car itself. Without the car… well, obviously it’s important. You can’t drive anywhere if you don’t have something to drive.

 

So I got the oil changed – full fancy synthetic oil and everything.

I brought it to the dealership; had them give it the full inspection, and make sure that all the bits and bobs were in the right places, and would last me through the entire trip. They ended up just replacing the battery, saying that everything else was in good shape. I didn’t completely believe them, but I guess time and distance will tell whether they were right or not.

That was all nice and lovely and simple. Low-stress repairs and preparations are what I enjoy… but unsurprisingly, they weren’t the only things I had to deal with before I drove out of Massachusetts.

 

I’d spent Wednesday with my Grandma, having a nice lunch and seeing the Hukusai exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art. It had gone well, even though the day had started pretty rough when I’d miss-judged when the street cleaning was, and my poor car had gotten towed away 😦 But everything was going well since then, and we were driving quietly down Route 2, back toward dinner with my Mom.

And then, a plastic bag was in the road in front of me.

 

Obviously, I didn’t particularly worry about it. Since… you know… plastic bag.

And the bag itself didn’t do anything, I’m sure. But the bricks or rocks or something solid inside the bag… well, that smashed the car up something fierce.

 

“Is everything ok, Ben?” My grandma asked. I could hear something scraping and grinding under the car.

“It’s fine Grandma, though I’ll have to pull over to see what’s struck under the car…”

 

When we finally found a spot to pull off the highway, nearly two miles had gone by where all I could hear was the grinding and scraping from the front end. And when I got down under the car to check, my fears were confirmed: the font air deflector, the part of the bumper that stops grit and dust from getting into the engine, was torn nearly clean off.

That was the sound I’d been hearing – the deflector grinding against the pavement, being held on by two heavy bolts near the back.

So I pulled it off, and we went and had dinner.

 

The next day, I called a few body shops, but none of them could do the work before my planned departure date… none of them could even do it within a week of that day! But I did get one stroke of luck; one shop gave me the number of a dealership that could order it next day, though I’d have to install it myself…

So I called them. I confirmed the price ($180, which was cheaper than the $200 that the internet showed me). I confirmed the part (the front air deflector, the big plastic piece with the front clips and the two bolts in the back). I confirmed the delivery (Friday, between 9:00 and 11:00). I confirmed that they’d call me as soon as it was in (they promised that they would, and took my number). Everything was set, and I went back to packing and getting everything ready.

Then Friday comes. I call them back at 1:00 PM, asking whether UPS has come in yet. It had, of course, so I rushed out to pick up the part and get it bolted right up.

When I step into the parts shop, they’re mostly empty – advantage of a holiday weekend, I guess… but this put me at ease; not something I’m used to, when dealing with cars. So I got a little paranoid, even when they said that they had the part right in back, and went to bring it to me.

 

Well… they weren’t wrong. They did have a part in back. But it wasn’t the one that I ordered; it wasn’t even close to the price that they’d quoted on the phone the day before. Instead of ordering the primary deflector, they’d ordered the accessory air splitter that bolts to the main deflector. An important part, to be sure… but not a completely necessary one. Which is why I hadn’t bothered them to order it in the first place.

So they typed away at the computer. Looked up diagrams and schematics, parts inventories and store listings. They found me a store that had a main deflector in stock, just 19 miles away.

But those 19 miles take a long time during Memorial Day… and it was a solid hour later that I pulled into my second dealership of the day.

 

But it seemed that I wasn’t the only person who was tired that day, since I woke up the old gentleman sitting behind the parts counter. After explaining who I was, and that the other dealership had just called him, and that yes it was really me, he did walk back into his labyrinth to pull the part out.

Once he had it, and he brought it over, was when the fun began. See… Ford doesn’t attach the hardware to the part – it comes separate. I’d made the dangerously incorrect assumption that a dealership would stock enough nuts and bolts to install whatever equipment they happen to have on hand. Or… you know… that the parts guy would be able to at least read the installation manual enough to know what those parts even are.

Well, they don’t, and he couldn’t.

 

So after three trips trying out different size bolts, I called up the original dealership to find out what size I should be getting. A size that, it turned out, he had! But it didn’t have a washer, so it slipped right through the plastic part.

So we put on another washer… still to small. So we put on a second washer.

And then I finally installed it! Under his watchful eye, reminding me every few minutes that they wanted to close soon.

And then, they billed me extra for “specialty” parts.

But, at the end of the day, the car was finally ready to go. All the parts were installed, all the fluids topped off, and all the things that should be checked had been checked. Everything that could be done, had been done. Now all that was left was to make the drive…

The beginning of the end: that start of leaving Cambridge

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Leaving Cambridge, the beginnings

13-May-2015 through 24-May-2015

 

I was offered a job. That’s always a good thing, but it’s sometimes also a kind of stressful thing… especially when that job is literally completely across the country, in a place you’ve never been, doing what basically amounts to your dream career.

So while there was never a question of whether I’d accept the position, there was a question of “how the heck will I actually make the move to this completely new city?”

 

The whole adventure of planning the move was made a bit easier by the fact that my lease in Cambridge was up at the beginning of June, and so I’d have to be moving out soon anyways. So no lease to close out, and packing everything up needed to happen no matter what I did. So I started with that, and worked through the whole logistics of planning the trip in parallel.

Books were thrown into boxes, and a list of places to stop along the way was compiled. Furniture was dealt with while I figured out what I would need to bring with me in the car… and what I could just have shipped to me once I arrived.

The real challenge was the time commitment – being able to get the whole drive done alone meant that I had to keep the days short – the goal was 500miles or less each day. So I looked at each leg, found the ones that were a bit too far between friends, and started reserving campgrounds. That was another goal of the trip – minimize hotels and motels… the final plan didn’t even have me staying a single night in a motel, though the assumption is that if the driving becomes too much any evening, then I’ll definitely skip the campground and just find a roadside stop for the night.

That was the trick that I pulled out, and that I’ve pulled out for almost all of my trips – backwards planning. I started the day that I needed to be at my destination, and worked backward. Making sure that each leg could be done, and then finding out when I absolutely had to leave Cambridge based on that info.

 

From the start, the plan that materialized was to leave Memorial Day weekend, and arrive in my new home town of Hood River by the third weekend of June.

Along the way, I’d stop in to camp with my old Roommate in New York, do some bouldering in Tennessee, visit friends and family in Oklahoma and Arizona, and then do some canyoneering in Zion national park. Yosemite was on the list as well, of course, as was linking up with a friend out in California to duo-roadtrip the final stretch into Oregon.

So that whole plan gave me a little over a week to pack, plan, and visit with everyone that I could in the short time that I had left in Cambridge… not a simple task, to say the least. But I was thankfully able to make at least most of it happen, and even made time to get a few climbing trips in…

One last Charles River kayaking adventure

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Kayaking the Charles, one last time

Saturday, 16-May-2015

 

 

In 2014, I spent a ton of time on the water.

In the early part of the year I bought myself a yearly membership to the Charles River Canoe and Kayak group – basically giving me unlimited kayak rentals for the whole summer.

Normally, I don’t usually do memberships like this, but in this case it was too good to pass up – $120 for a year, vs. $18 an hour. And since I’m me, I intended on getting every cent of my moneys worth.

So I kayaked after work.

I took dates on double-kayaking trips, and sometimes even rented two kayaks (I could get a second one for free as well) if I didn’t think we needed to be in super close proximity to each other for the date.

I intended to get a membership for 2015, but then I got laid off. So I held off. And held off some more.

I didn’t go Kayaking at all, until I found myself packing up and getting ready to move. Then I realized that this would be my last chance to paddle down the esplanade.

(Ed Note: Does this read like an ad for the rental company to anyone else? Just me? Ok, good. Please continue)

 

So Chirag and I met up for breakfast. Because that is how all adventures should start – with a healthy and filling breakfast. In this specific instance, an Indian buffet that we stopped into in Davis Square.

The creepy thing was that the entire restaurant was empty when we arrived. It was just a buffet, three broken TVs (Yep, they were all showing the “if you want to watch a program, then connect this TV to a cable system” prompt), and too many wait staff for a current clientele of zero.

But don’t forget; Chirag and I are trend setters. Not 10min after we sat down and got some deliciously spicy treats, the place was nearly full, with tons of families and random Somerville hipster groups.

So we ate. Then we took the T. Then we got in a Kayak. Two Kayaks, to be precise.

Then we explored.

 

<Ed Note, again: Please excuse the lack of pictures yet again. Ben still doesn’t have access to his desktop where they’re all stored)

 

We went up into the esplanade, checked out the sailing club, and generally made nuisances of ourselves to the geese patrolling the area. It was perfect – the flowers were in bloom, and the water was still semi-clean, since the geese had only just recently arrived from the South.

Johnny called us about 45min in, to let us know that he would be putting into the water soon. So we took the chance to paddle back, link up with him, and then go through the esplanade from the other direction.

Our first run had been going west-bound; starting at the sailing club and moving West. The second run started near the Mass Ave bridge, and moved East toward the Longfellow bridge.

It’s technically the same stuff either way, but taking it from both directions gives different views – different shorelines, and different sides to the bridges. We also got a chance to stop off on one of the docks, which is always a nice little bonus.

An excellent day on the water, by any measure.