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September 11, 2008

2008 GTTSR: Going Home. Autobahns & Roadside Rescues

Filed under: 08 GTTSR — chuck goolsbee @ 10:51 pm

We’re in Spokane, having driven from Bozeman… the long way. Our day in a nutshell: Triple Digit Autobahn runs, a scenic side trip to a quintessential Montana spot, a roadside discovery, and finally, a roadside rescue. A critical part (a bolt) fell off a critical part (brakes!) in northern Idaho. While we were diagnosing the parts store closed… but we were rescued by a fellow Car Guy. He found us, invited us to his home workshop, gave us the part from his bin, and saved our day. Click the ‘More’ link below for the full story and photos.

Here is the JagCam footage. I’ve tried something new, namely a longer movie (1 frame every 3 seconds instead of 4) with a mixed soundtrack. Too long for YouTube, I had to use Google Video. I’d love to hear feedback on it. Enjoy.


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We awoke and had breakfast in the lobby of the hotel, finished packing and started in on the task of packing the Jaguar. All week we had the luxury of a luggage truck! We just left our bags with them in the morning and arrived to find our bags in the hotel room each night. Very nice. No such luxury for the return trip! I have an old leather suitcase that holds all my tools and spare parts, which we had left inside the boot of the car all week. The rally had given us some gifts too: a set of small bags, jackets, etc. So we were going home with MORE stuff than we arrived with, and the boot was pretty tight before. We could always resort to mailing our stuff home if we needed to, but we figured we’d give it a try to pack everything in the E-type’s miniature boot.


Above: One brick left in the Tetris game of E-type boot packing!
Photo by Mark Collien

We actually managed to stuff everything in! You’ll note my nice shoes are out of the bag, as well as a couple of other hard items. My “messenger bag” computer bag filled in that last remaining spot. Having the tool box on the luggage rack helped too. Speaking of which, this allowed us to mount the JagCam quite a bit higher. It puts the camera square into the slipstream, so we’ll see how it does at speed. The perspective though is so much better when done up high. Closer to the original that inspired this whole JagCam thing.


Above: The JagCam mounted atop the tool case. More “speed tape” was added later to keep stuff from flopping around too much.
Photo by Mark Collien

We set off westward on I-90, loping along for a bit, and stopped for gas an exit or so down the road. Topped off with gasoline and caffeine, we pointed the bonnet westward on that bit of autobahn and opened the taps to the three big Skinner’s Union carburettors allowing the big cat stretch its legs as it was designed to do. (1:09-3:30ish in the JagCam movie.) We ate up miles at a prodigious rate, slowing only for construction zones, the city of Butte, or when impeded by drivers not minding their mirrors. We crossed the Continental Divide (2:41 in the JagCam movie) just east of Butte (~3:00 in the JagCam movie) and I chose to drive the old Montana Highway 1 also known as The Pintler Scenic Loop. I’d seen road signs pointing to it for decades, but had never driven it. Now seemed as good a time as any! (Note to anyone looking for data for their own drives and stumbles upon this entry via Google or something: My suggestion is to drive the loop south/east from Drummond, not west/north from Butte as we did!) We left the Interstate and drove through Anaconda. I was telling Mark that I recall everyone telling me that it was a “ghost town” back in the 80s, but that was an exaggeration. I know that it had some hard times back then, with a long strike, and the mines & smelter shutting down, but it hasn’t reached the status of say, Bannack quite yet.


Above: Termination Dust on the peaks above Anaconda.


Above: The smelter stack, still standing.
Photos by Mark Collien

We left the Anaconda & the Deer Lodge Valley, climbing upwards on what was probably the longest bit of “no passing” double-yellow lined straight road I have ever driven in my life. You could see for miles, but no passing allowed. All I can figure is a bunch of idiots have killed themselves and others on this stretch of highway. Of course I only note this because we were stuck behind a pickup truck most of the way up this road. (3:57 – 4:13 in the JagCam movie.) At the top of this was a gem of a lake, Georgetown Lake, surrounded by mountains, and fantastic views… which were hard to capture from the car and the road provided very few places to pull over and soak them in, so sorry, no photos. (4:19-4:30ish on the JagCam movie.) Driving it the other direction would be more scenic. Past the lake the road dived down a canyon, where we had a short construction delay. After we cleared that I pulled over and allowed the road to clear ahead of us for a more enjoyable drive through the curves of the canyon. After that we popped out into a quintessential Montana valley. running north/south, ringed by mountains, a wide valley. Beautiful place. The town of Phillipsburg sat alongside the east slope, with what looks to be a cute little ski area (with some challenging runs from the look of the place) above. I’ll have to return again.


Above: That wonderful little valley holding Phillipsburg.
Photo by Mark Collien

I was so taken by this place I had to pull over and just look at it, so at the foot of the valley I left the highway and found a road going off to a spot where I assumed would be a good view back the way we came. (5:09 in the JagCam movie.) I parked the Jag and we just loitered for a bit, shooting photos and absorbing the beauty of the place. (5:10 – 5:38 in the JagCam movie.) Here are a few of those photos from both Mark & I:


Above: Me and my camera.


Above: Me and my car.


Photos by Mark Collien


Above: Different photographer, same photo.


Above: Mark soaks it all in.


Above: The “Speed Tape” holding the JagCam steady.

Back on the highway again, we headed north out of this magical valley and back towards the Autobahn… but before we get there I spot something out of the corner of my eye… a couple of old cars on the side of the road, right when Mark was talking about looking for an old Triumph to buy. Sure enough, there’s an old TR6! Parked behind a 1972 VW 1303, both with “For Sale” signs on them. I hang a quick u-turn and stop to check them out. (6:14 – 6:20 in the JagCam movie.) Unfortunately the tin worm has eaten a fair chunk out of both of them and we carry on down the road.

You will note that the JagCam suffers another oddity about this time. We’d seen it do this earlier. It flashes a full white screen, then stops recording. The software had lost connectivity to the camera, it seems via a bad cable. As such it missed a long section of road, from roughly Drummond, all the way to Thompson Falls, where we stopped for lunch. Neither of us shot any photos in this almost 200 mile stretch. It was just another “eat up miles as fast as we dared” section of Autobahn cruising. Where we left I-90 we stopped for gasoline, and both of us picked up some gifts for folks back home. I grabbed some Huckleberry Syrup & BBQ sauce, and some silver/turquoise earrings for my family members. We swapped drivers and Mark took the wheel. This spot is where the Clark Fork takes an odd S-turn and takes a recursive course northeasterly, meeting the Flathead river and resuming it’s west-northwest course towards Idaho, Lake Pend Oreille, the Columbia, and finally the Pacific. Today however we were planning on just going to Idaho. We rejoined MT 200 once again, near the town of (“you call someplace”) Paradise (“kiss it goodbye”), Montana. The Clark Fork Valley is a wonderful place, and as I have mentioned before, a preferable alternate to driving I-90.

When we arrived in Thompson Falls hunger drove us to picking a spot for a bite. Since I’ll eat anything (but Mark won’t) I had him take his pick of eateries. We pulled into a cafe on the main street of town (MT 200) named Minnie’s Montana Cafe. I ordered a club sandwich since I’m an omnivore – since Mark is a vegetarian he picked a veggie burger. Lunch was good.

I brought my laptop in to sort out what was going on with the JagCam, since it had stopped working earlier in the day. It mostly sat on the table rendering video. The old G4 just doesn’t have the horsepower anymore. Oh well.

Once we were fed and ready, we climbed back into the car, got the JagCam running properly again, and pointed ourselves west. (7:00 in the JagCam movie.) We really didn’t have a destination in mind, other than my home. There was no way we’d make it all the way there today, so it was just sort of serendipity where we’d end up for the night. I love to travel this way, though I know how most folks would be driven crazy by it. It was after Labor Day, so I know that finding a hotel room would never be a problem.

I also LOVE to travel in a unique old car, and Mark was going to find out why a little later. Meanwhile we made our way out of Montana and into Idaho. Somewhere along the way I recall hearing a metallic “clink” on the underside of the car as we sped along MT 200, and didn’t think much of it though.

The Idaho panhandle is an odd place.

At its northern end I liken it to a slice of civilization squeezed between two empty places. Northern Montana, and extreme northeastern Washington state are very sparsely populated. A few small (tiny!) towns sprinkled around the valleys and lots of mountains with a whole lot of nothing in them. Not so in Idaho. It is (by comparison) a densely populated place, with town after town and several big lakes. Driving along MT 200/ID200/WA SR20 is a jarring experience. You go from empty Montana, to bustling/crowded Idaho, and back to empty once in Washington. I prepared Mark for this weird series of events coming our way. Not long after reaching Idaho (About 8:30 in the JagCam movie) I noted a vibration at my feet when Mark decelerated. At first I thought it was the exhaust, but it seemed like too much. There had not been too much need for brakes in Montana, but now in the traffic and stoplights of Idaho, there was a raucous noise arising from the front end whenever the brakes were applied. Pulling into the town of Sandpoint I instructed Mark to pull into a parking lot. (9:53 — 10:05 in the JagCam movie.) I had a look at the front end, especially the brakes, but could not see anything amiss. I decided to try things for myself and took the wheel. I drive for a while, and can tell something is really weird when the brakes are applied. I drive along until we arrive in Priest River, and pull over into the parking lot of a auto parts store. (11:08 in the JagCam movie.) It is after 5 pm, but the store stays open until 6. I need to have a closer look at the brakes. This means we have to remove wheels, which means EVERYTHING has to come out of the boot. Reverse Tetris time.


Photos by Mark Collien

I start with the driver’s side… why I don’t know, but it SEEMED like the noise was coming from there. I pull off the wheel, and check the brakes. They seem fine. I pull out the pads, and there is a big gouge in one of them, as if a rock had been in there. Perhaps that was it? I reassembled and took the car for a short lap around the parking lot to see. (11:36 in the JagCam movie.) Nope. Still making noise. Meanwhile, several folks stop by to check out what is going on. One of them is a local “car guy” who knows exactly what sort of car this is and chats with us briefly. He says he lives nearby and has a shop with a lift in case we need help. I thank him and carry on with the passenger side and he heads into the grocery store next door.

Once I get over to the passenger side, I figure out EXACTLY what is going on. I grab the caliper to check the pads and the whole thing is loose! That noise I heard back in Montana was one of the caliper mounting bolts falling off the car! I pull the other bolt off so I can buy a mate to it in the part store, but they have already closed up shop. Oh well. Recalling the offer of help I walk into the grocery store and find our good samaritan, a wonderful man named Todd Sudick. I show him the bolt and he says he likely has a similar one at home. We pack up the car and follow him to his home nearby. (12:27 — 12:45 in the JagCam movie.) I park the car in his workshop and we get the wheel off again. (13:08) Sure enough he has a bolt. It is not a Grade 8 like it should be, but it is the right size. That is what we need to get back on the road… it should get us home where I can replace it with the exact right bolt. The car goes down onto its wheels again (13:20) and we’re ready to go!


Photos by Mark Collien

This is exactly why traveling in an old, interesting car is so rewarding! Here a stranger sees us on the side of the road and not only stops to say hello, he invites us to his home and workshop, and provides us with the parts we need to get back on the road! If we had been driving in a Toyota, that would NOT have happened. But in an old sports car, it does happen, and will happen. Everywhere I have ever driven in this car, it becomes a passport to meeting people. Even just stopping for gas people come up and talk to you. They tell you stories about the one they had, or their uncle had, or their dad had, etc. Old cars bring joy, memories, and nostalgia out of people. They break down social barriers and connect you to people you would never meet otherwise.

So here we were in Priest River, Idaho, missing a simple bolt. It could have stranded us for the night, but instead it introduced me to somebody new who helped me out and got us underway once again. If you have an old car and you haven’t taken a trip in it out of fear of being stranded, I say drop that fear and go! There are Todd Sudick’s all over this country waiting to be met. Hop in the old MG, Ford, Jaguar, whatever it is you have and take to the roads. Pick the two-lane highways and get reacquainted with America. You will not regret it!

I traded email addresses with my roadside rescuer, provided profuse gratitude for his assistance, and then Mark & I went on our way. We stopped in town again to fill up the tank and wash the windshield (13:59.) I repositioned the JagCam to its usual mount and we headed off with me at the wheel. The sun was going down and we started to find a place to stay. We crossed into Washington, (14:43) and did not see any hotels in Newport that looked reasonable. Since I knew that following SR 20 would take us out into the wilderness again I pointed the Jaguar south towards Spokane. We’d be assured of a place there.


Photos by Mark Collien

As the sun sank into the Pacific over the horizon I fell in behind a big truck along US 2 (14:45 — 15:27.) It was a comfortable spot since the big rig would hopefully serve as a noisy deterrent to any deer who happened to want to cross the road. Should a deer not be convinced to stay away the enormous machine would provide a nice big battering ram to reduce the animal to smaller bits prior to it coming in contact with the diminutive Jaguar. I passed the big truck as we arrived in the suburbs of Spokane and felt confident that we would not encounter any suicidal roadside ruminants.

While we were driving towards Spokane Mark came up with a list of hotels by surfing on his iPhone. We found a room at a Quality Inn on the north end of town and checked in. They had a jacuzzi, which was awesome. Both Mark & I slept like proverbial logs.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for the update!

    Comment by vrooomie — September 12, 2008 @ 10:54 am

  2. Kraftwerk!!! what else!

    video much better – captures more of your movement – less ‘suddenly there, suddenly gone’ bits… but more hassle to work with and upload no doubt…

    look forward to the words…

    Jerome

    Comment by gondwana — September 14, 2008 @ 1:59 am

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