The little red triangle creeps slowly along the green rout line on the computer map. But, as slow as it is, we have left Texas and New Mexico behind and are now on our 3rd Time Zone & into our 3rd state, Arizona. We have crossed the Continental Divide! We are where water runs into the Pacific! And now we know why we see so many large pieces of tire tread on the freeway.
Pretty much every place we have been, including Houston has had record heat waves since May. The news typically says variations of, “9 months with no significant rain.” or “35 consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures, with a lot more forecast.” Heat is hard on tires.
More on that later, but large tread pieces on the highway are very common on our trip.
We have not been able to see some friends who, because we passed by unexpectedly, were out of town, but we had the pleasure of seeing most of the folks that we’d hoped to.
This ‘poor planning’ on our part is sometimes our fault, but usually due to surprises listed below or doctors offices not running like finely crafted Swiss watches.
Janet wanted to have her routine 3 month check up in Dallas/Ft Worth. It is a big metroplex and should be easy, but it was not.
You see, Janet’s AARP Medicare Advantage insurance only had ONE gynecological oncologist for the whole area. That doctor’s office did not seem to ever answer their phone during business hours. We left messages that they took about 5 days to answer. The ‘answer’ was sort of “Well, we will get back to you.”
Then, days later, “Please fax us ALL of your medical records. The doctor will read them and then we will let you know when we can make an appointment.” Why can’t we email them?? So, we need to find a Fax machine.
Janet has perhaps over a hundred pages of medical records, not counting bills. Why would they realistically want EVERY lab report? Or a years worth of every visit, especially the reports when they thought that she had Turista? And her mammograms, dermatologist and other data seemed unneeded for a pelvic and two blood tests.
Well, it turns out, that after loosing over a week, that the only gynecological oncologist was going on vacation and not available in time. Too bad they needed her medical records to know that. The “We have many other gynecological oncologists in our group. We all take the same insurance.” Was also wrong.
Those folks did not accept Janet’s insurance, and that wasted another long time to determine. So, we set our sights on Tucson and eventually got an appointment for blood test Aug 10 and doctor for the 12th, when he gets the lab back.
Other surprises include, but are not limited to; replacing the battery in Amarillo, TX, a blowout 12 miles west of Roswell, NM, and a day lost replacing the radiator in Las Cruces, NM.
The battery took quite a while to establish that it was really the battery and not many other problems that can give similar symptoms. But, we could travel as we learned more about exactly what seemed to be the problem. For example, did we leave the dome light on last night? Etc, etc.
The blowout was easy to diagnose and figure out. Pretty exciting too, but Janet brought us to a stop, in a safe place, without rolling the car or involving other vehicles. ‘Bless you my child!’
Luckily, we only had to unpack SOME of our load to get out the jack and the tiny spare that cars seem to have now. Dave got into his ‘fix the car clothes’ and we changed the tire. Then Dave walked back to retrieve the tread, laying in the middle of the road. And we only had to drive back 12 miles to the first unlocked WiFi, where Dave discovered that Discount Tire had a shop only about 5 miles further back. They replaced the blown tire under warranty and its twin that was the same model, same age, same miles, and which now we did not trust an inch. All’s well that ends well.
The radiator took longer. This car is a 2000 Dodge Caravan, perhaps bought in 1999. In 12 years the only cooling system problem was that the hose between the radiator and the expansion tank had a crack about 18 months ago and was not sucking back coolant and so the radiator got low. The Dealer fixed it and it has used virtually no coolant since. Until July, when another dealer was fixing an oil leak and said that they’d checked the coolant and the pH was all wrong and they’d replaced the coolant.
Odd, since another dealer had recently installed that coolant and no one had tinkered with it since, so just exactly how did it get wrong? But, we just paid the bill and left.
However, it is also odd that ever since, we have been having to add about 1 to 3 cups of coolant per few hundred miles. It seemed to be the pressure cap, so we tested that and it was a little leaky and it has been triple digit weather almost every day. We thought, “That explains it.” So we bought a new pressure cap, but the problem was not much better. Well, it is very, very hot out.
On Saturday, the Aug 6th, Dave borrowed a pressure tester and discovered an invisible hairline crack that opens at 12psi, near the pressure cap, in the plastic that is the whole end of the radiator. We did NOT like the idea of trying to patch it and driving across very hot desert and perhaps the crack growing and blowing the end off of the radiator, with no cell phone coverage and a hundred mile tow.
Since it was 11AM Saturday, the mechanic could not get to it until Monday, so we bought a radiator that was sold as the EXACT radiator for this car, but several aspects had to be modified and some features just lived without. Our very surprised friends in Las Cruces had the tools and a place we could work and worked hard for hours with us to help change it. Things in this car are so compact and crowded and there are gobs of things attached to the radiator. It was challenging to figure out how to remove it and worse to remember what screw went where to put it back together. But, we are on the road again and it seems OK so far.
As we neared Tucson, they had just had a hard, but short rain that caused our secondary road to have many small flash floods crossing it. Happily all were minor enough to safely drive through.
We are, in spite of the above, mostly having fun. We have been seeing many friends and several sights along the way, like The Cockroach Museum near Dallas, BRIT, a super environmentally friendly, AKA “Green”, company that a friend works for in Ft Worth, TX. We have visited the World’s Largest Pistachio in NM, the UFO Museum in Roswell, NM and several more ordinary Tourist spots like the Palo Duro State Park in TX and White Sands National Monument in NM.
Well, time to drive some more. Cheers,
Dave & Janet