Let’s Keep on Rollin’!


To start things off today I’ve finally decided on a name for my newest, meanest, machine. Every good vehicle needs a name, and just like my old Subaru Impreza wagon was affectionately known as the “Green Burrito” I’ve dubbed this addition to the fleet the “Hello Kitty, I’ve Got the Blues-mobile” in light of its status as a former Nashville, Tenn. Police car and its glorious Hello Kitty accouterments.  

Today’s post is brought to you by Runza and Z Wireless. No really, I’m typing this on the demo laptop at the cell phone store where Laura works. (By the way, she can hook you up; don’t hesitate to call her at 308.380.5993)

I made Grand Island Nebraska after a long day across eastern Colorado and Western Nebraska.  After changing the fuel filter (without a set of flare wrenches it was going to be nearly impossible to get the fuel pump so I abandoned that plan) I went for a short test drive. The car still wasn’t really running optimally, at full throttle it started backfiring and kicked like a mule.

I thought about putting on the spark plug wires that came with the car, but once I opened the box it was easy to see why the previous owner hadn’t. The wires were cut-to-fit, which meant you needed a pair of spark plug crimping wires. This was an un-budgeted expense, so I decided to skip it. After all, the car seemed to do ok at part throttle, and really, who can’t drive 700 miles with only part throttle?

Side note: Years ago I had a Fox-body Mustang convertible that the transmission blew up on. After replacing it with a used unit in Tucson Arizona I set out for Des Moines. Heading down the big hill into Alamogordo New Mexico overdrive and third gear went out at the exact same moment. Suddenly we were heading down the mountain in second gear, banging off the rev limiter in heavy traffic. After pulling over to change my underwear I checked the fluid in the transmission fluid (why, I don’t know, but I checked anyways) and since the motor was still running I decided to press on. I drove from Alamogordo to central Kansas in second gear the whole way, bouncing the motor off the rev limiter at 52mph. In Kansas the alternator blew up, I threw in the towel at that point, called Justin and waited for him to show up with the truck and trailer.

So, in short, you could say have some experience with being patient. This experience was going to come in very handy in the hills of eastern Colorado. With the fuel/spark/whatever problem the car’s effective speed was hovering somewhere around 62mph. The only way that I could exceed the speed limit was the use the rolling hills as slingshot, giving all of the throttle I dared without touching the brake so I could maintain an uphill speed of somewhere around 45-50mph depending on the steepness of the hill.

Using this approach I didn’t have to worry about passing any cops unless of course they got curious about the non-matching plates, the burnt out taillight, the missing turn signal, the body damage, or any of the other semi-serious issues with the car.

Fortunately I haven’t been pulled over (yet) and I haven’t stopped rolling. There have been a few hairy moments, including the heavy rain and winds I encountered in eastern Colorado which tossed the car around like Mike Tyson kicking Steve Urkell’s ass.

Dodges of this era use a torsion bar front suspension, which Mopar freaks love, and regular folks believe is a design only slightly more advanced than the stone wheel. Based on what I read on the internet (an always reliable source, to be sure) these particular models had issues with the front suspension in severe service applications. Combined with the “light as a feather” over-boosted power steering I think I could handle any slalom by just steering with a single finger.

It also means that if you lean down to change the radio station the car is likely to violently swerve into the other lane, and when you panic and over-correct to then swerve to the opposite side. After swerving back and forth several times across both lanes of traffic I finally figured out those smaller corrective inputs would allow me to stay out of the oncoming traffic lane.

I did manage to get in some gravel travel when I made my own detour after a highway closing. With the setting sun in my rearview mirror I made tracks down some lonely gravel roads, hoping that the car held together, because I was long walk from anywhere.

After arriving in Hastings I stopped to buy gas, and after executing a U-turn (always a big of a gamble when you’re rolling with the turning radius of a city bus) and the check oil light came on. (I thought I’d been hearing a bit of a lifter tick) Two quarts of Pennzoil quieted it right down however, although I’d run into another problem.

The battery on my cell phone had been getting low, and I’d sent Flo a message telling her to meet me at the Z Wireless store in Grand Island at 1:30AM, and also to bring beer. Since my phone died before she responded I had no idea whether or not she’d gotten the message.

I can’t tell you how I excited I was to see her when I pulled into the parking lot at Z Wireless (promptly at 1:30AM I’d like to point out).

Even though it had gotten dark hours ago the heat and the humidity were still oppressive. The temperature was still over 80, and everything just felt damp and sticky. And after hours of handling the Hello Kitty steering wheel cover my hands had started to get dirty and sticky as well.

At this point, I really, really, really, wanted a shower. Sometimes the funk in the Hello Kitty I’ve Got the Blues-mobile got to be too much. Plus, I was getting really tired of the Christian radio station, which seemed to be the only thing I could pick up even after I re-bent the antenna in hopes of improving the radio reception.  


The best thing about staying with Flo in Grand Island has to be that her guest bedroom is in a basement room with no windows, which is perfect for late nights at the bar or late arrivals. You can sleep in as late as you want, and even in the midst of the hottest summer I can remember Flo’s been keeping it so cool in her basement that you could literally cure meat down there. It’s a perfect spot to rest up, relax, and sleep as late you want.

Flo, on the other hand, didn’t get as good of a deal. We stayed up until 4AM; drinking and talking outside, and then she had to get up for work at 7AM, which meant she had a much shorter night than I did. I went to bed at 4AM, but I didn’t even start to think about getting out of bed before noon.

After I woke up, took a shower, and stripped down the sheets and tossed them in the washer (am I a great house-guest or what?) I hopped back into the HKIGTB-mobile and headed across town to meet up with Flo at Z Wireless.

As soon as I got there Flo grabbed her keys and we headed over for some Runza. Now, I’ve discussed this particular tasty treat before, and it’s still the highlight of any trip to Nebraska, (besides visiting Flo of course). Also, when I set out on this great adventure I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t pass a Runza without stopping at least for one of their delicious slushies.

Passing through McCook Nebraska last night it killed me to pass a closed Runza. After eating nothing but pretzels all day (I screwed up and left the box of candy I bought on the roof of the car) I would have killed for a fresh, hot, Runza sandwich.

Seriously, if you haven’t been, you’re missing out.

Now that I’m showered up, belly full, and gas tank full, I’m waiting out the heat in hopes that sometime after five it’ll cool enough to make being in the car more bearable. Driving it across town it’s still got the same miss it had before, but I’ve already made it this far, I just need to go a little farther.

And now, time for a budget update!

Yesterday was an expensive day, I spent:

$8.47 at the Dollar Store (power steering fluid, brake fluid, water, snacks)

$6.47 at Savers (I bought a used cooler to keep my drinks ice cold)

$34.00 at the Walnut Café (I bought James lunch)

$53.01 (gas in Erie Colorado)

$7.41 (snacks and Iced Tea in Erie)

$55.02 (gas in the middle of nowhere, Western Nebraska)

$49.00 (gas in Hastings, Nebraska)

$27.05 (2 quarts of 10w40 oil, a soda, and a case of Coors beer in Hastings Nebraska)

$8.43 (a cell phone car charger, bought in Grand Island to try to charge my phone in case I needed to call Flo, but since the cigarette lighter doesn’t work this was pretty much a waste.)

I spent a total of $248.86 yesterday, leaving me with a total of 196.01 to spend. I lucked out today because Flo took me out to Runza for lunch, and I filled up the tank last night right before I got to Grand Island, which means once I hit the road I shouldn’t need to make too many stops. I’m averaging about 14.25 miles per gallon, which while not great, isn’t terrible either.


Next stop Iowa! (Look out Crystal Korth, I’m coming for you!)

Over the weekend I’ll get some of the shots uploaded onto the blog, I forgot to bring my card reader with me. For now though, I’ll leave you with this cell phone shot of the state line.

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