Does It Leak?

Once I finally had the new clutch assembly on the new engine, along with all the accessories from the old engine, it was time to drop that new to me engine in.We wired the generator and the starter. We put a new fan belt on. Dropped in that radiator. Connected all the hoses and lines. Connected everything to the carb. All systems go, it was time to start her up.

She started! And ran!

And there was small pop and all the sudden a big pool of coolant developed on the ground.

At first I thought we blew out one of our freeze plugs but that wasn’t it. There was a small drain hole at the front of the engine where there wasn’t one before. It was very strange. I managed to stop the giant leak with a spare screw I had laying around that happened to fit, it managed to keep the leak to a minimum until we could figure out what was going on.

After endless hours of searching on the internet about why this hole exists in the engine and where I can find a plug to close it I came up with nothing. I messaged a new Instagram friend, and fellow 1963 F100 owner, April, seeking advice for what this thing was. I saw that she had the same engine and transmission that I had on Betsy because of her awesome YouTube videos, which made me wonder if that drain hole existed on her engine and how it was plugged if it was there.

After sending her a million and one pictures, we finally came to the conclusion that was a drain hole that was supposed to be plugged with a tiny freeze or pressure plug that was 1/4 inch in diameter. The hole was not threaded so it wasn’t a regular threaded plug.

Now came the search for this illusive tiny freeze plug. I called several machine shops in town, none of them had anything that small. I scoured the internet looking to see if anyone even makes pressure plugs that small, and again I came up with nothing. I could not figure it out for the life of me.

Yet again, truck dad Evan came to the rescue. We decided to tap the hole and plug it with a screw and some RTV. After a quick trip to Home Deeps (pro tip: they have really cheap coolant and engine oil in their automotive section), we came out with everything we needed to preform the operation on Betsy’s new heart.

It only took a few minutes, but it seemed to work. We tapped the hole, slowly but surely, squirted some RTV in it and screwed in the right sized screw. I had to wait until the next day for the RTV to dry to add coolant back in and really test our fix.

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You can see that screw and RTV fix under the water pump there.

 

The next day I was a ball of nerves. I didn’t know how well our fix would hold and I was out of ideas about how to go about fixing this thing. Again I was pushed to my limits, as with every part of this project. Betsy sure needed to test what kind of person I was under pressure before she would let me drive her across the country.

This time, it quickly turned out I had nothing to worry about. Our hack fix worked like a charm and hasn’t given me any problems since.

Now that I could keep coolant in her, I planned to make some final adjustments to make. And that was a whole other adventure…

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One step forward, six steps back. 💥🔧

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Ode to a Walmart Parking Lot

The duality of life in America is perfectly exemplified by a Walmart parking lot.
A sight for sore eyes after driving all day, you cruise around to find the perfect spot to call home for the night.
Not too close, but not too far from the main entrance either.
Close enough to the truckers, but far enough so that the sound of their engines idling all night is just a soft background hum.
You claim your stake, settle down, and listen to the sounds around you.

The sounds of real life America.
Families going to shop for their groceries for the week.
Teenagers hanging out and causing trouble.
Some cars drive by with a sappy, mellow tune barely audible, and others make everything vibrate around them from their turned up bass.
Minivans, big lifted trucks, adventure rigs, RVs, beater sedans, daily drivers and everything else in between is in this lot.

Perhaps there exists no better representation of what America really is than a Walmart parking lot.
People from all walks of life, all different values, beliefs, religions, theories, economic backgrounds, families, languages, races, colors, lifestyles, genders, sexualities, identities, cultures, experiences, and infinite amount of differences are here.
They all are valid here, they are all provided the same thing.
Just a safe place to park, be it for an hour or for the night.

Yes, the experience is different for all.
Yes, sometimes it’s less safe than others,
Yes, there’s better places to park out there.
Yes, their business practices are less than admirable, to say the least.
Yes, people are constantly coming and going.
Yes, it’s loud.

But they are open to everyone.

Isn’t that what makes any country great?

Go sit in a Walmart parking lot and tell me what you see.

Wigwam to Walmart

After a fun night at the Wigwam Motel I was ready to roll once again. But first, tacos and beer at Romo’s Restaurant in Holbrook! I had a great lunch while using some free wifi, I finished off a blog post, and set off for Petrified Forrest National Park.

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She really could be a NPS truck. No one would even know.

I followed Route 66 to the North Entrance, but I would suggest from Holbrook heading toward the south entrance because it all the cool hikes and views of petrified wood were on the other side for the park. From the South Entrance you can drive up through the whole park and rejoin Route 66 by exiting at the North Entrance.

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Painted Desert

Petrified Forest National Park holds the only remnant of Route 66 on National Park land. An old 1932 Studebaker sits where the Mother Road once ran nearby. The line of telephone poles you see, traces the original route through the entire park.

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That’ll buff out.

Something about being in this spot gave me some really strong emotions. I walked around this Studie, strolled over to the telephone poles, lined them up in my view from either direction, and squinted. It was like the ghosts of everyone who’s ever traveled through that spot all hit me at once. Even before Route 66, the pioneers going West for the gold rush, and the cowboys and rancheros. Countless human beings have taken this trip. All of their hopes, all of the dreams, all of the expectations for what was out west just waiting for them. What did their lives look like when they were traveling? What happened to them? Did all their dreams come true? Did they find new dreams? Were they happy out west or did they regret ever making the daring passage? Did they make it to their planned final destination or did they let the journey take them for a ride?

There I was in the middle of my own pilgrimage on the route and the spirit of all those that came before me was there with me too. It was that feeling of anticipation before you make a big life changing decision. You’re excited but terrified all at the same time. You’re scared to start, but you know you must. It felt like that times a million. It felt like I was feeling that feeling for everyone that had or has yet to come through this point on the road or in their lives.

To say the least, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I can’t even write about it without getting weepy.

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What happened to kitschy post cards like this?

And just like that we had crossed our 2nd National Park off the list!

Now I was eager to make it to New Mexico before the end of the day. I had decided Gallup should be my goal for the night. Two National Parks and three states would be under my belt before I went to sleep that day.

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On the road, you never miss a sunset.

I rode a great stretch of dirt Route 66 just as the sun was setting and came up on a rest area in Lupton which is right on the state line of Arizona and New Mexico. I briefly considered setting up camp there for the night, it was pretty dark and quiet there, but I knew I just had to get into New Mexico before I could call it a day. So I pushed on to Gallup.

When I got into town, only a short drive away, I instantly regretted not staying in that lovely and quiet rest area. The only place I could find to safely park Betsy overnight was a Walmart parking lot. I parked Bets near some big ol’ semi’s and huddled up for the night, after eating some pretty bomb ramen. I soon learned that the big semi’s just idle their engines the entire night through. I mean, I guess I could say it was kind of like a fancy white noise machine that fancy people get because their fancy houses are so expensive and well insulated that they can’t hear anything except their own thoughts and the existential dread that comes along with that which keeps them from sleeping at night.

In the end, I knew this trip wouldn’t be complete without sleeping in at least one infamous Walmart parking lot…

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Home is where you park it.

Broken Bolts

After we took the old engine out and tucked it away in the depths of my garage, we put the “new” engine in the driveway. We had to take some of the parts from the old engine and put them on the “new” one so it would connect properly into Betsy. We took off the thermostat housing, the water pump, and the bracket for the generator, cleaned them and put them on the new engine.

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Cleaning is my favorite. Even if it doesn’t work, at least it looks good.

 

After that was done the next steps were to put on the flywheel and the new clutch assembly. We figured out that the flywheel from the “new” engine was 9.5 inches while the clutch kit that I got was for a 10 inch flywheel which is what was on the old engine. However, I only found this out after trying to put the new clutch kit on to the 9.5 inch flywheel, after taking it to get resurfaced.

After finally getting the right flywheel resurfaced, and watching several hours of YouTube videos, I figured out how to get the clutch assembly on there. I put blue Loctite on all the bolts, used the star pattern to tighten, centered the clutch with the alignment tool, and as I was torquing the last possible bolt to the proper amount, the half-a-century bolt broke on me.

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Same.

I had to take the whole clutch assembly off again to get that stupid bolt out of there. For the record, that bolt broke the Harbor Freight extraction kit bought to get it out. I promptly returned it, obviously. After drilling into it with everything we had and getting it our, we saw that we had hit the threads. I thought I had to find a machine shop that would fix it for me, but it turns out all they had to do was throw a Helicoil in there and call it a day.

However easy this may seem, that, it was not. After going through so many ups and downs with one project you begin to lose it. You lose your excitement, you lose your confidence, you lose your resolve to make anything happen at all. The smallest thing makes you want to throw in the towel and quit. This is the moment when you make a decision. This is the moment that really defines what you are made of. And however much you can imagine yourself in that situation, you definitely don’t know how you will act when you get there yourself. You can pretend that you’re the toughest mother effer out there, but until you’re faced with a constant stream of obstacles that beat you down to a pulp, you just don’t know.

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Also same.

To get through it all, I had to learn to see every failure as a positive. There is something about this project that I just can’t give up on. No matter if logically it all seems like everything is pointing towards me quitting, I just can’t stop. And so far, even in the worst of times, Betsy has only brought the best people into my life. That’s a lesson I will take to my grave.

Standing On A Corner

After being not driving for a couple days I was ready to hit the road pretty hard. But first I needed to pick up my new oil pressure light switch from NAPA.

I got up bright and early that morning and me and Bets headed over to get her all patched up. Got the part, whipped out my trust vise grips, lefty-loosy, righty-tighty, and she was as good as new! I didn’t even make a mess, a dirty old rag comes in very handy in parking lot repairs!

I decided to treat myself to a celebratory breakfast at Miz Zip’s Cafe to fuel up for the day’s drive ahead of me.

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Shortly after this photo was taken, everything you see was drenched in hot sauce.

And I was off to the races! Actually, next was Winona which was completely forgettable, ironically. I think I got gas there? Maybe?

I drove right past Twin Arrows and stopped at Two Guns. Now that’s how you name a town. There was some really cool stuff to explore around here. I parked Betsy and walked around for a bit to try and find the Apache Death Cave (which is my new band name, by the way) but I felt a bit uncomfortable leaving Betsy all alone at the end of an abandoned road.

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Betsy, the archeologist! All she needs is a hat and a whip!

We couldn’t drive any further because there was a bunch of nails in the road, and I wasn’t about to risk that. It looked like there were a bunch of dirt trails (with no nails on them) among the ruins so I’m already making plans in my mind to come back with a sweet 4×4 ride to crawl around and find some ghosts!

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Dat Arizona sky tho!

After Two Guns was the famed Meteor Crater. What can I saw it was a big ol’ hole in the ground! It was cool to see if you’ve never seen it before, but I probably won’t be stopping by again. It costs $18 to see the crater, but that includes a pretty good museum and a short movie, as well as an informational guided tour/hike around the rim (which I skipped).

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There, you’ve seen it.

Now, after the crater came the thing that I was most excited for the entire day. I was about to be… brace yourselves… standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. I know, I know. I flipped out.

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I’ve suggested they change the lyrics to “It’s a truck, my lord, a 63 Ford, slowing down to take a look at me”

Also turned out that me and Glenn Frey had matching boots. That was cool.

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I’m basically an Eagle at this point.

I must have hung out there for more than an hour just watching people come and go just to take pictures with this ridiculous land mark. It filled my heart with joy.

Oh and Betsy made a new Ford friend with that famous flatbed!

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Look at that big ol’ fridge!

Turns out, that corner isn’t the only cool thing in Winslow. I also stopped by the La Posada Hotel, which was a Harvey House originally built in 1928. If you’re ever in the area, definitely stop by this historic establishment. Not only is it incredibly interesting architecturally (it was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, such a badass babe she needs four names), it also serves as a gallery for the art of Tina Mion, who’s stunning work made me misty over and over again.

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Betsy really enjoyed the butterfly garden!

After Winslow, I quickly stopped by the Jackrabbit Trading Post which was actually a really great place, with a whole lot of original Route 66 feel to it! I ended up getting a Route 66 Cream Soda to help get me to Holbrook where we would be spending the night!

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Betsy makes Ford friends wherever she goes!

If you watched my Instagram story from that night, I think you knew I had a great time in there. Although it was fun and totally iconic Route 66 kitsch, I don’t know wether I’d recommend staying in one of these things. Although everyone was very nice and the stay was pleasant, the imagery of the wigwams is used here a bit problematically. The Native Americans in this part of the country didn’t use these teepees, and I really doubt any Native Americans were consulted in their design (yes, I know it was the 1950s, but it’s 2017 now and we can hold ourselves to a better standard). The fabulous Globetrotter Motel is just across the street, and is probably a lot less culturally cringe-y and comes with high recommendations from many people I’ve talked to on Route 66!

The thing is that Route 66 is kind of this mishmash of history, culture, and people from all different times, backgrounds, cultures, histories, ideals, thoughts, theories, you name it. Each one of those things belongs and deserves it’s place on the mother road. They can all co-exist together and when you experience them on this string of a road you travel, like a each bead on a hand crafted necklace, on you really can start to get a glimpse of the vastness of what America, as a society, is. I wish everyone gets a chance in their lifetimes to experience as many facets of this road as possible. Without all those facets co-existing together we wouldn’t have the beautiful country we do today, for better or for worse. You have to accept every part of it to enjoy the whole thing fully. Every. Single. Part.

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A Study In Surrealism

From Seligman lay ahead of me probably the toughest part of the drive climbing to approximately 7000 ft in elevation Flagstaff. The stretch alone form Ash Fork to Williams climbs more than 1600 ft, and we already know that Betsy is not a fan of hills. Yep, it sure was a good day to piss off a bunch of truckers on the I-40!

Somehow we made it to Williams! The gateway to The Grand Canyon! At this point my confidence was quite shaken. A feeling of gentle terror had set in when big rigs were passing me at 65 mph, while Betsy struggled at 30 mph in 2nd gear up the big climb. When I glided into town, I was seeking a sense of relief that never came. Betsy started sputtering a bit from a stop when I pressed on the throttle in first gear. I came to the conclusion that it was probably the carburetor running too rich since we were at a much higher altitude now. I must of stopped and parked her 3 different times in town to fiddle with the idle speed and the fuel mixture each time thinking I had fixed the issue. I did meet an wonderful woman who said she used to have a late 60s Ford and it was the most reliable vehicle she had ever had. Talking to her maybe gave me some minuscule amount of oomph back, or maybe I’m just as stubborn as the dumbest mule ever born, but I decided to fill up the tank at the last gas station in town and make the most thrilling drive I will probably ever make in my short futile existence.

I made it to The Grand Canyon.

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DAMN. Betsy is a babe.

I parked Bets, got out, took this picture, and proceeded to break down cry like a newborn baby on the side of the road.

The engine that got me there was sitting in my drive way just a few short months ago. When you set small goals for yourself, like baby steps, it really helps you focus and get to the finish line, where ever it maybe. But when you’re in it, you’re so focused and so worried about the little stuff you sometimes forget about what you’re all doing it for. I was so stressed and worried about Betsy the whole way up I pretty much forgot that I was going to the friggin’ Grand Canyon. I was focusing so hard on not stalling on some big hill and not rolling backward and not hitting a bunch of cars and not dying. But when I got parked and saw the picture I had taken of Betsy, I lost it. It was surreal. I was snapped back into reality, in to the present moment of where I was. It was like a beautiful slap in the face.

“Be present!” Betsy shouted at me. And I was.

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Moments like this one is what I’m doing it all for.

After having some tea and a snack to try and calm my nerves and excitement about my accomplishments for the day as well as trying to take it all in, I headed towards Flagstaff.

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Oh look at that! Another beautiful sunset!

A dear friend had serendipitously put my in touch with her friend, Tom, who has an incredible place just north of Flagstaff. It backs up onto National Forest Service land, which was the best of both worlds, like having wifi and running hot water but also with incredible views like this one:

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Ended up sleeping here for three whole nights!

In Flagstaff, I tracked down that oil pressure switch I need which wouldn’t come in until the next day, so I was stuck in this idilic landscape for a few days! What a bummer! Tom was an incredible host, we became instant friends. For my last night there we even had a bit of a guacamole and Black Russian party to send me off the right way!

Pro tip: if you ever get stuck anywhere, make sure you’re stuck with good people! Or just bring booze and avocados!

Baby’s First Breakdown

Sometimes you don’t know how or why something will affect you until you experience it. This has happened to me several times on this trip already.

Last Thursday I crossed into Arizona from California and in the middle of the bridge I saw the mile 0 mark and every emotion I’ve ever had and then some hit me all at once. I pulled off at the first exit and took this picture.

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Pretty sure I couldn’t even see what I was taking a picture of because I was ugly crying so hard at this point.

I didn’t expect for that to hit me as hard as it did, but there’s something about crossing into a new state in a vehicle that you didn’t know was ever going to run that really hits you. As big rigs were whizzing by I tried really hard to get a grip but then I realized that this might be the first time Betsy was ever in Arizona.

I’ve had this dream for so long, and I’ve pictured it, and planned it, and visualized it for the majority of this year. But I’m doing it now, I really am doing it. And it’s going even better and more magical than I could have ever planned for. It’s almost hard to believe it’s real because of how phenomenal it has already been.

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Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona int he middle of the Oatman Highway

From the California/Arizona border I took a stunning sunset drive on the Oatman Highway, which was an incredibly exhilarating experience. As soon as I was out of those mountains, I wanted to turn around and do it all over again. However, I had plans to spend the night in Kingman with my friend Shawna’s family, who just happened to live there. They welcomed me like I was one of their own children. They fed me dinner, gave me a bed to sleep in, and a bathroom to get clean in. It was an incredible way to spend my first night in a new state. Shawna’s mother, Isabell, not only made me an incredible breakfast in the morning, but also loaded me up with a whole bunch of road snacks to keep me going, many of which I’m still eating almost a week later!

In Kingman, I stopped by a dollar store and stocked up on some essentials (toothpaste and trash bags) and an AutoZone (which was the biggest AutoZone I had ever seen) to get some Lucas Oil Stabilizer, which came highly recommended by Dan from Blackbird Ranch. After the essentials were checked off, I headed back down towards the mother road to check out the Route 66 Museum and also a short side trip to a older part of Route 66 from the 1920s and 30s.

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Betsy is so photogenic

I pushed through Hackberry (where I had a lovely lunch of tuna, crackers, a cheese stick and Route 66 Black Cherry Soda), Valentine, and Crozier. I was sailing pretty smoothly until my oil pressure light suddenly turned on.

And here I was at the side of the road with my first real break down of the trip! I was so excited! I was finally a real adventurer, vagabond, Instagram person! I had been looking forward to this moment and it was glorious. I was miles away from the interstate, I was in the middle of Route 66, and the sun was setting in the most beautiful pink and purple colors. It was beyond perfect.

It wasn’t long before a local hero, David, spotted me in his super clean looking mustard yellow Chevy C10. He offered to help, and at the time I thought Bets had just lost some oil because she’s old and leaky and the oil level was pretty low when I checked it. I added some of the Lucas Oil Stabilizer (Dan, really knew what he was talking about, unsurprisingly), tightened up the oil pan bolts, and drove her down a couple miles but the light stayed on. That is when I really started to get worried. I called my truck dad, Evan, he wisely told me to check the wires for the oil pressure switch, maybe it was just an electrical issue. And that’s when I saw that Betsy was spewing oil from the switch itself real bad. Like Monty-Python-tis-but-a-flesh-wound bad.

Again, local hero David came to my rescue to check up on me, even thought I was already a couple miles down the road. He told me that he knows a guy and he happens to be only a few miles away in Truxton.

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That guy there. If you’re ever in the area, go visit him! Tell him Betsy and I sent you!

We roll up just as it gets dark and this guy is closing up shop. He takes one look a me and Betsy and he knows exactly what to do. He hands we a wrench with a socket and tells me to take that oil pressure switch out. Betsy pukes a bit of oil to mark her spot. He hands me another switch that would plug the hole so oil doesn’t leak out but it’s not going to be helpful if I have an actual oil pressure problem. He tells me to just drive it and when I get to Flagstaff to find the right part. And that was that.

The entire time I never felt scared. Just when I would start to get minutely worried, a wonderful human would pop up and have a solution to whatever I was dealing with. If I were to try and plan a Betsy breakdown on the road, I couldn’t have planned a better one. Getting on the ground, with oil dripping, while the sun is setting is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. The entire time I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be at every moment. That’s what I believe they call Route 66 magic.

Once Betsy was plugged up nice and good I drove through to Seligman where my friend Ian had magically arranged a great overnight parking situation for me behind the Delgadillos’ legendary Route 66 souvenir and barber shop. Angel Delgadillo is pretty much the reason people still know Route 66 even exists, so getting to stay behind it was an incredible and memorable treat. By the time I got to Seligman, I was wiped out. I made myself some ramen, scarfed it down, and passed out to the sounds of trains going by.

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The legendary establishment itself.

And that there was my first full day on the road completely on my own. There was no part of it that could be been better or more perfect and wonderful.