SOL Day Five: Fixing Jerry’s Generator & Touring Mesa Verde

One of the fears people have about taking an old car out on an extended trip or tour is “what happens if it breaks?” This subject came up a few times on our little Southwest Oil Leak email list, and the consensus came down to: “We’ll all pitch in and help fix it.” Darrell Grimes driving an XJ, volunteered to be “the sag wagon” and generally stayed at the back of the pack. His trunk was filled with tools and supplies. The tour was filled with people who had lots of experience working on these cars, a few of them professionally. Having performed my share of roadside surgery over the years I know I’m pretty confident that I could get my car running again in just about any scenario short of a con rod exiting the XK horizontally. Ironically, short of the Bedell’s failed voltage regulator at the start of the tour, the cars had run great – until yesterday, when Jerry Mouton’s generator failed. He drove on his battery all day and planned to swap it with one he’d been carrying in his boot for twenty years in the morning.

Looking for breakfast: David Fey, Jerry Mouton, Darrell Grimes, and Paul Wigton.

The hotel restaurant was closed for breakfast so we gave up on food and decided to fix Jerry’s generator. As was prearranged, we had more mechanics that the job really required!

Paul Wigton opens his toolkit. Note the big hammer?

My car is the 715th E-type that was built after the change from a generator to an alternator. My struggles with alternators are well-known, having gone through many Lucas and Hitachi units over the years. Jerry’s car is a year older than mine, and it was interesting to note the differences, especially regarding the placement of the electrical drive component: in the early cars it sits down inside the frame rail, rather than above it like my alternator does.

Paul attempts to bend a nut to his will in order to remove the generator.

This made removing the generator more time-consuming than originally thought by this group of esteemed mechanics. The “twenty minute job” stretched closer to one hundred and twenty minutes when all was said and done.

The belt comes off.

Lloyd Nolan, Paul Wigton, & Jerry Mouton at work. OK, Lloyd is just supervising.

I didn’t participate much, beyond shooting photographs and making jokes. So when things got tough I wandered off and admired other cars…

David Langley fitted a steering wheel from an XK onto his S2 E-type. I think it looks great.

How many moron mechanics does it take to remove a generator from an E-type?

Apparently, three.

The boot of Darrell Grimes' XJ. Filled with tools and vital fluids.

Jerry had more problems than just a generator!

The belt that came off Jerry’s generator seemed to be made of the same low-quality crap that lead me to give up on the double/grooved belt for early E-types and go with a single AC belt for some Ford product. I went through a half-dozen of these bad belts before I switched and have yet to change my single skinny belt.

Jerry & David fit the new generator and belt back into the car.

Once the old generator was out, and the pulley swapped it all went back in a whole lot faster. We walked to the cafeteria near the visitor center and grabbed a meal (it was now “lunch” rather then breakfast time) before we hopped in our cars to tour Mesa Verde.

Passing Tweety on the road in Mesa Verde

Tweety in an area where forest fires had burned the trees about 8 years before.

This was my first visit to Mesa Verde, despite coming close many times over the years. For some reason I thought it was just a single, large cliff-dwelling, but instead it is a rather large, sprawling, complex of them. I’ve visited some of the remote cliff dwellings in the Gila Wilderness, but until now have not seen the many sites at Mesa Verde. It is a truly impressive place, and I highly suggest a visit if you haven’t been there.

Spruce Tree House from across the canyon.

We started with Spruce Tree House, which is a mid-sized cliff dwelling that is a short hike down a canyon.

Inside Spruce Tree House.

It is fascinating to see these dwellings. How well they are constructed, and then realize the relatively short period of time that they served their primary purpose.

The USGS guys chatting with the USNPS gal.

Half of the park was closed, but we drove around and walked to all of the important sites that were accessible. Much to my surprise there were signs of structures not only in the cliffs, but also along the ridge tops. Some were clearly dwellings, but also there are storehouses and reservoirs. There are also some structures that have no clear purpose.

Cliff Palace from across a canyon. This is the largest and most well-known Anaszi Cliff Dwelling in the US.

One of the ridge top structures.

After a long day of touring these sites and walking through the various museums, we all gathered for a fare-well dinner at the restaurant located at The Far View Lodge. The sun was setting and an evening rain shower approached the mesa, providing a suitably dramatic backdrop for our evening.

We had to wait a bit to be seated, and ended up at three separate tables, but a grand time was had by all, and we ended up closing the place. It was a great end to a fantastic week on the road with these amazing cars.

Waiting for our table(s)

Finally, here is the full week of time-lapse footage shot from that bizarre camera rig attached to my car:

SOL Tour Day Four: Rocky Mountain Highs

Leaving Cortez, heading up to the mountains

We’d crossed the desert southwest and were now t the feet of the Rockies in Cortez, Colorado. Today’s drive is a loop through the San Juan mountains, visiting the towns of Telluride, Ridgway, Ouray, Silverton, and Durango.

Our timing was perfect, as the aspens were turning color as we rose in altitude, so we could see each stage of Autumn as we rose from ~6000′ up to just over 11000′.

A rest stop along the Dolores River.

Continue reading “SOL Tour Day Four: Rocky Mountain Highs”

SOL Tour Day Three: Monument Valley, Moki Dugway, and Malts at The Patio.

Dawn at Monument Valley from the campground at Gouldings.

Monument Valley is both an amazing, but also mundane place. Amazing in that it is a real-life Roadrunner & Wile-e-Coyote landscape, with stunning sandstone towers, spectacular color, and John Ford Western Vistas.

However, it is, and always has been, home to many people, and with people come mundane things like fences, buildings in various states of entropy, and of course the bane of landscape photographers everywhere: telephone and power poles. I will admit to retouching away two poles and quite a few wires from the above shot. It pains me to do so, but …. *bleagh!*

I find myself in this place with my face always up. I spent the night before sleeping out under the stars. In the nighttime, gathered in a group of fellow Jag nuts in the campground I just stared at the sky – soaking in the stars, satellites, and meteors above. I slept (without the benefit of a sleeping bag, therefore snuggled up to the ~500lb iron, aluminum, and stainless steel heat sink known as the exhaust side of the Jaguar XK Engine) staring at the moonless sky whenever I wasn’t asleep. Before dawn I arose (the night had pulled all the heat from the XK, and so I was without my source of external warmth by around 4am) and shook off the chill with a stroll around the campground with my monopod and telephoto lens – shooting dozens of variations of the image above. Eventually the light grew to enable hand-held shooting and the awakening of slumbering campers.

The E-type serving as the world's smallest, least-practical RV.

The angle of my all-night view.

My fellow campers finally getting their morning coffee: Larry Wade, Larry's nephew Travis, Dianne Meboe, and Mike Goodwin.

Despite the myriad of telephone and power lines strung throughout the canyon, this campground is truly a visual feast, with wind-sculpted sandstone in every direction. I watch the dawn’s light crawl down the walls and illuminate the whole scene. But I also know that this place is a mere nook of this scenic wonderland and I find myself being drawn out of the canyon and towards those free-standing monuments to the east. Morning light is fading into the day’s haze, so I pack my cameras and gear, bid my camp-friends adieu, and motor off.

I like Big Buttes and I cannot lie…

I hope to connect with my friend Paul and his “poiple” car for some shots out on the valley floor among the monuments. Unfortunately he spent the night in Chinle, AZ, a lengthy drive from here. I call him, and he’s on his way, so I let him know where I’ll be. I pull up to the parking lot of The View hotel and ponder going out onto the valley floor. The nice lady at the park entrance tells me there is no way my “little car” will make it. The roads are all dirt, and suggested for 4WD vehicles with high ground clearance. I can barely slide my hand between the ground and the E-type’s exhaust!

Continue reading “SOL Tour Day Three: Monument Valley, Moki Dugway, and Malts at The Patio.”