Sunday, January 06, 2008

Fourth Day to Asheville - Saturday, December 29th - Over the Great Smoky Mountains

Sorry for posting this late. I did not have internet access on the final part of the trip, and was busy working on Elijah's place once we got to Asheville. We are home now, but here is the continuing story - in a couple posts

The Ramada Inn in Harrisonburg, VA has a breakfast as part of the deal. They also require that someone with a pet sign a paper saying that they will not leave the pet in the room alone. Bev and mom had some breakfast. I stayed with Crash the Hound in the room. They brought me some biscuits and gravy, even though I had hoped to go to the breakfast room myself, but I ate quickly and started the the old 740.

This morning "the beast" started up immediately. I have become pretty good at backing the Volvo up to the trailer hitch, and don't need someone to stand there and line me up. I had backed the ball under the trailer hitch the night before in the rain, and was able to simply drop the hitch down an the ball, hook up the lights, and make sure everything was ready to go.

We packed our few bags and Crash the Hound, and were headed for the Great Smoky Mountains.

The day before Highway 81 took us along the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the old Volvo 740 diesel beast took some of the hills easily at 60 MPH, and others dragged on long at 40-45 MPH. At one point I had to pass someone on a hill, because they were going so slow, and I remarked that this was probably the third vehicle I had passed in three days. Even the big rigs were passing me on the hills.

The day looked something like this: Drive for an hour. Pull over and add some water. Drive an hour. Get some gas, and check the coolant again. Drive an hour. Get some lunch. Check the coolant. Drive again. Always I watched the temperature as I drove up the hills.

I had previously been warned by Elijah not to take route 26 from the 81 down to Asheville, because it is a steep difficult climb into the mountains. Instead we opted to take a longer route. We would travel into Tennessee, and take the 40 east back into Asheville. According to a few friends who knew the area somewhat, and an online discussion about the routes in and out of Asheville, it appeared that this route would be winding, but less steep than others, and so we headed toward Tennessee, and the 40 east.

Upon entering Tennessee we came to the top of long hill, and the car was registering hot so we stopped at a rest stop at the top of the hill to check and fill the levels. I thought it was getting hotter than it should have and discovered that i forgot to replace the oil cap on the previous stop. Fortunately it was still sitting in the top of the engine, and I did not loose it on the drive.

I had been running the heater to keep the temperature down, and the running lights on the trailer, so I was not able to restart the engine, I had to get a jump. Across the highway was a guitar store shaped like a monster guitar. Any other time I would have had to visit the place.

It was late afternoon and we started what would be our last leg to Asheville - west on the 81 to 40 east and over the Great Smoky Mountains.

The car ran well all through the rest of the trip until we reach the windy section of the Great Smokies. The roads were steep, and had switchbacks almost like hair pin turns at times. This was the most difficult climb we had made on the whole journey, and it was getting late. If it got too dark I would have to stop, because we still could not turn on our headlights without draining our battery too low. So I had until about 5:30pm until it was too dark.

The hill got steeper, and the car was only able to pull the trailer at about 40 MPH. The big trucks behind me weren't doing any better it turned out. After a number of miles I pulled over at a rest stop to allow the car to cool down, and added some coolant. After unscrewing the cap slowly to allow the pressure to release, I waited a moment to add the coolant. Suddenly coolant came bubbling up into the overflow tank, and out over the top. I released why I had been loosing coolant along the trip. My thermostat had suddenly released and the water was flowing out all over. The cap had pressure release valves, and apparently thy had been letting the fluid and steam out when the thermostat released. Perhaps this had not been working properly the entire trip - then again perhaps I was just pulling too much weight for this poor little old 740 diesel wagon.

I now was getting too dark, and I did not have much distance to go, but it was still too far to Asheville to travel. I would need to use m y lights any moment. I got back on the road, and made it to the last exit to Waynesville, NC. We stopped at the Midway Motel. The name should have given me a clue about where we were, but I was too tired to think about it. I back the trailer into a slot next to the big rigs, and we got a room for the night, knowing we only had 20-30 miles left to get to Elijah's house in Asheville.

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