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Leonardtown, Maryland


Can't keep a Stovebolter still
The Corvette Adventure

Continued, part Nine

By Steve VandenBerg
Bolter # 6449
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

  Vacation, Family, Deals, Thoughts, Troubles
Planning to bring her home
Seeing the sites
Getting into it, finally!
Let me tell you about Parts Chicks
Talk of marriage
Ready to hit the road home

Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Part XIV
  How hard can it be ...
Doom, despair and agony on me
Good ol' bailing wire
Surrounded by help
Lord, just get me home, pahlease!
Interesting people and places
Home Sweet Home


Part Nine ~ Doom, despair and agony on me  

                         We got up the next morning (it is now Saturday) and I finished with the drive axle joints and bearings and had to bleed the brakes once again. I decided that if the rear axle knuckles were that dry, then the knuckles in the drive shaft might very well be dry, too. So, I pulled the drive shaft out. The drive shaft knuckles looked like they would have made it. But when I took the drive shaft out, I dropped the end and needle bearings flew all over the floor. It’s a good thing I’m getting good at installing those joints. I replaced them both and felt better about it afterwards.

       I called down to a shop and asked if they could align the front end on the car. Sure ... not until tomorrow morning at 9 am. Oh Crap! I mean Craps! Another night in Las Vegas. I thought Las Vegas was the town that never slept? I guess that only counts for gambling, drinking and prostitution.

       I wanted to look at the engine timing again because I still had that on my mind. It just didn’t feel right when I drove it. I read the manuals again and saw an asterisk near one of the specs. Now, if you remember, I set the timing at 8 degrees and RPM at 750. When I read the notation, it stated that the automatic transmission 350 cubic inch engine should be set to 4 degrees. I also found the original owner's manual and in it I found that the RPM should be set at 600 instead of 750. Made me feel better once I found the information. Ironically, the best information was in the oldest manuals, not the latest and greatest.

       One more night on the old board camper bed and I couldn’t wait to get the Corvette to the shop for alignment. I knew it was somewhat futile because all of the rubber bushings were more or less shot and the Corvette would have to be re-aligned after replacements. I wanted to get the Corvette home to rebuild it. I didn’t want to rebuild it and then drive it home.

       In the morning I rousted Craig and we went to the shop so I can get the Corvette and bring it down for the alignment. When I get there for my appointment, they tell me that they will not even work on it because it is older than 1985. I could have been half way home already if I would have left last night.

       I called Sears and they said they could do it. I bring it to Sears (my options are limited because it is Sunday and most shops are closed) and they can get it in right away. They look at it and tell me that it just isn’t worth going through any trouble because the bushings are worn too much. I ask if they can just get it so it doesn’t pull so hard to the left. No, they didn’t want to mess with it unless the bushings were replaced first.

       Well, I could have replaced the bushings but that was something I wanted to do when I got home. I asked them to look it over and to tell me if they thought I would have any trouble driving it to South Dakota. The Sears Quality Mechanic told me that he didn’t think it would be a problem at all. It all looked solid, but the bushings were pretty worn.

       Okay. I left and went back to the shop. I loaded up the Corvette and did a final check of the oils and such. Craig was off running errands and unavailable. I wanted to leave and have him ship some stuff home. I didn’t want all that stuff in the Corvette because of all the weight. I left him some cash and a note in his toolbox with instructions and took off. I had to get moving. It was about 11:30 am Sunday morning (in truth, I had lost all track of what day it was).

       I was traveling out of the city and listening and trying to feel anything that might not be just right. Man, it sure is getting hot out here. This is going to be a long trip. Good thing I got my bottles of water. Oil pressure is good. Amps are good. Water temp is good. I still had this vibration and I couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from. I didn’t feel good about it and decided to pull off the interstate at the Las Vegas Speedway exit.

       I turned off and thought I would pull into the gas station and restaurant. Just then I heard something snap and the Corvette pulled hard left. I knew that this was not good at all. I was able to maintain the car and get it into the restaurant parking lot. Boy, it sure felt hot. I’m glad I broke down so close to Las Vegas instead of farther out in that desert. But I was pi$$ed off.

If it weren't for bad luck

       I was hot, tired, sweaty, and I had one more change of clean clothes. My body ached from crawling around on the cement under the Corvette. Maybe I should call a transport and ship this pile home.

       I tried calling Craig. He just wasn’t available yet. I sat in the restaurant and had a Coke to sit and think about what I should do. I thought that if I could get a hold of Craig, he could rent a car dolly and we could get it back to the shop. That would be the cheapest way out of this mess. I ended up calling for a tow service. The Yellow Pages said $44 for the pickup, $4 per mile, the first five miles free. They said they would be there within the hour. The price was not as advertised though. Being it was Sunday, the rates went up to $65 for pickup and $5 per mile and the first five miles were free.

       So, here I sit and stew for the next hour and keep getting refills on my Coke. I made a few friends in the restaurant telling them of my plight. They shook their heads when I told them I was going to drive that Corvette to South Dakota after all of them years of sitting. One trucker said for a few hundred bucks we could get it on his flatbed trailer and haul it back. I just couldn’t bring myself to grips that this car couldn’t make it. Transporting it home would be failure in my eyes. I can do this.

       After and hour and a half, I called the tow company.

        “Where is the truck?”

       They apologized and stated that the truck would be there in 20 minutes. I wait 30 more minutes and called again. The driver said he had to refuel. He was five minutes away. I thought that I had better take a leak because of all the pop I had been drinking. After two and a half hours from my original call, the truck finally came. The driver’s apologies didn’t really mean a whole lot right then. I was hot, tired, pi$$ed off and burning up that they would keep me waiting more than twice as long as they had said. I held my tongue.

       My phone battery was almost dead and my minutes were almost up. I felt alone out there. Should I tow it back to Craig’s garage? No, I called Sears and told them I was coming back and I wanted them to start on it today. They said they would do their best. Craig finally called back.

       “Yeah, I’m at the Speedway broke down. The tow truck just arrived. Can you pick me up at Sears when I get there?”

       I learned over the years to be careful how you react and what you say when people are about to help you and charge you for their services. So, I decided that I am grateful that this tow truck driver was there. And he was helping me get out of this part of the desert and bring me back to an air conditioned part of the desert. I didn’t have to be pi$$ed off about the truck being late because it was there now and I couldn’t back up time.

       I made a lot of small talk and got the driver’s whole family history before we got back to Sears -- about his wife and kids and where he was from originally. I made the conversation all about him. He dropped the Corvette off at Sears and figured up the bill while I got the paperwork taken care of with the service manager. The bill figured up to $145, but he dropped it to $125 and apologized about being late. I bet if I had let the heat, body aches and the fact that he was so late get to me and vented the way I felt like doing, he wouldn’t have given me a break. Nice guy.

       I got the paper work done with the service manager and drove the Corvette slowly into a stall. Now I was still pretty pi$$ed off about this whole ordeal. When I got out of the Corvette, the original mechanic that looked at the front suspension came over and said, “You're back already?” My reply wasn’t the most gracious. I said, “It looks like your free advice about my car was worth just that. Nothing!”

       Needless to say, he never talked to me anymore. I went up front to talk with the service manager again. Craig showed up and was waiting for me. I asked to talk to the mechanic who would be working on the Corvette. The service manager called him up front and I started to talk to him. I think he was having a bad day, too because he stopped me and stated that he was pretty busy right then. I said, “I’ll be waiting up front. Let me know when you have a few minutes to spare to talk with me about my car.”

       I turned around and walked back up front to the waiting area. As burned up as I was, I knew that if I really lost my cool that it would not help me. I just told myself that this guy was going to help me. Don’t pi$$ him off. He didn’t do this to me.

Keep it in control

       Something else I learned about self-containment is that when you are waiting for someone, don’t stand in front of that person with your arms crossed and tap your foot, scowling and waiting impatiently. Go sit down and pick up a magazine and wait for them. The mood set when they are ready for you will be much better. In this case it was a Better Homes & Garden magazine.

       When the mechanic came back to get me, we walked over to the Corvette and he took a look. One of the bolts holding the left A frame suspension arm came out. He would tackle it in the morning.

       Craig and I took off after that. I just couldn’t think about imposing on Craig and Heidi again and take space on their torture rack foldout couch. So, I decided to get a cheap room, take a long hot bath, get a nice meal and a good night's sleep. I went to Arizona Charlie’s and they had a room for $30. The first thing I did was fill the tub up with hot water and jumped in. I realized I hadn’t had a shower since I left Aunt Louise’s house on Thursday. I had tried to wash up the best I could at the shop. I had been so tired that it didn’t really matter as long as I had a place to sleep.

       Craig had been giving me new shop t-shirts so I had clean ones to wear. The one I liked the best, I got greasy working on the Corvette. I wanted to wear that shirt to work. It had “N’Sane” on it. I thought some of the people I knew would agree after I told them of this trip.

       After I got cleaned up, I decided that I would check out a nice steak. When I saw the prices of the steaks in the ritzy restaurant, I decided that the buffet would do. I pigged out and went back to the room. After all of those days in Jo’s garage and time in the Corvette with no air and out in the middle of the desert, and then back under the Corvette in the shop, I had to turn the air conditioning off because it was too cold for me. I turned on the TV and lay back on the bed.

A hard day's night

       After all of that, I thought I would have just dozed off. I was actually kind of restless and had a hard time relaxing. I couldn’t get the Corvette off of my mind. Come to think of it, the only time that I was awakened to the reality of my work at home, my job, and my storage business, was Saturday when I had a message to call my lawyer on my cell phone. I had been under the Corvette all day and when I saw that I had a message, I listened to it. My lawyer said to call him ASAP. I was just totally pi$$ed off to hear from him at that point because I was on vacation and didn’t want to think about business.

       I had been having some trouble with a contractor so I figured I had some business to discuss. He even gave me his cell phone number to call. I figured it was pretty serious, so I called him. All he wanted was to invite me to his fireworks show on the 4th of July. To think I stewed for several hours before I called.

       I was in my room and I decided to call Uncle Carl. He had been my lifeline so to speak. Every time I wanted to get another opinion or just talk about the Corvette, Uncle Carl answered and talked as long as I wanted. We discussed the problem at hand with the suspension arm bolt and how it should be addressed and fixed. I thought about getting the Corvette and fixing it myself. My aching body told me that if this was the most major problem … I mean “issue” ... that I had, then I would let the shop take care of it. I needed a break. I still had a long trip ahead of me.

       I didn’t sleep too good that night, but I was rested. I got up at 7 am so I could get to Sears when they opened. If I had anything to say about it, I was going to coach at least. I had been thinking about it so much the night before that I had to be there before the mechanic started. I called a taxi and he took me to Sears.

       Boy, I wish that taxi driver would shut up! He just kept asking me questions and talking. I had the Corvette on my mind and wasn’t looking to be entertained by anybody at that time. It was morning and I hadn’t had any coffee yet.

       We got there and I paid the driver. I see the mechanic just stepping out of the large overhead door to have a smoke. He spots me right away and we both were in an obviously better mood this morning. We both ended up apologizing to each other for being grumpy the evening before. If I remember right, the mechanics name was Ken. Ken and I talked for a few minutes and I made it a point to talk about him and his family. Ken was going to work on my Corvette. I wanted Ken to give the Corvette the attention and be in a healthy mood. It seemed to work. We were on friendly terms throughout the morning while he worked on the Corvette.

       Ken got the top arm off and replaced the bushings. The threads of the bolt hole seemed to be in good shape (which surprised me) and elected to put it back together with Locktight. I asked that he check out the other side and when he did, he found that it had been loosening up also. Ken took the bolts out of the other side and used Locktight on it also. Ken checked some of the other components of the front suspension and then took it out for a test drive. When Ken came back in, I tried to give him a small tip. He said not to worry about it and I made him take it. Ken’s attitude seemed to reflect mine in a way that I could relate to when it came to working on cars. I liked that.

       I got out of Sears for $97. I was pleased with that. The Corvette’s steering wheel is a little to the right, but it doesn’t pull left any more and actually travels in a straight line if I were to let the steering wheel go. That feels so much better.

       I went back to the N’Sane shop and said my goodbyes to Craig and the staff. Craig, Thanks for all of your help. It was a comfort to know you were there to help.

       So, I take off again. Almost 24 hours from the last time I left Las Vegas. There was no reason not to feel better about the Corvette as time went on with all the service and attention it was getting. Some guy in Las Vegas stopped next to me at the stoplight and wanted to buy the Corvette. I didn’t even discuss a price. I wasn’t done with it yet. My goal was to get this pile home.

       Here I am driving this Corvette. I pass by the Las Vegas Speedway and am feeling better about the Corvette than I had since leaving California. All this trouble … I mean these “issues” ... and I had just made it about one third of the way so far. It couldn’t be any worse the rest of the way could it?

On to Part X

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