US Road Trip Epilog: 7th June 2005

That's enough hanging around Springfield - it's time to hit the road. First stop is Decatur to the east, where I have the mailbox address I've used for car registration and insurance purposes. There's nothing there for me but in the midday heat and roadworks the car is definitely less than happy, with the revs dropping away to the point where it feels like it's going to stall in traffic. I do my first check on the transmission fluid level then escape town for Highway 51 south. On the way out I see a few temperature readings outside banks. 94° F, and no wonder the car was suffering a bit. It's certainly a lot hotter than I was expecting.

On Highway 51 the car seems to be running well until we're approaching a town called Pana. The 'Amp' light (battery discharging) comes on and a minute later there's the unmistakable smell of burning rubber. I pull into the first gas station I see - thankfully not far - and the car stalls as I'm pulling into a parking place. Opening the hood reveals the problem as there's a lot of smoke and the smell of burning around where the belts join the alternator. My guess is that it's seized solid.

I ask inside the gas station but they're no help whatsoever so I set off on the foot. Around the corner I find a car dealership called Bob Ridings with a service section. Not only are they keen to assist - once we have a chat about what part of England I'm from and what I'm doing in Pana - but they want to save the money getting a tow and head off with some tools to remove the belts and get the car the block and a half to their workshop. The good news continues when they find a replacement alternator and belts locally.

Now what are the odds on that? Of all the places the alternator could choose to expire ("Yep, she's fried", they said when it was back in the shop) it chose to do so within easy distance of a place that not only were willing to fix it but could also get the parts to do so. I don't want to tempt fate, but I think someone was smiling down on me today. A few hours and $162 later we're back on Highway 51 and heading south once again. I'm amazed.

Oily bits
Oily bits. I know what some of them are. They'll be the ones that have been replaced, then.

South of Pana the car runs better and better as the temperature drops down to the 70's in the late afternoon. I'm still putting it into Neutral when waiting at lights (which brings the revs back up) and daren't use the aircon but overall it's a nice drive through the farmland of southern Illinois. I was expecting to be staying in Pana for at least a night, so every mile is a bonus. At the Quality Inn outside Carbondale I do another check of the transmission fluid level then change my room for one with a door that opens onto the car park.

Writing on the road
Writing on the road. Note the new licence plates on the car and the lack of any fluids on the ground under it.

On my way down Highway 51 and before reaching Pana I'd passed through a town called Assumption, which made me smile. Before I set off today I'd assumed that any problems with car would be with the transmission or the cooling system. Look how wrong you can be.

US Road Trip Epilog: 8th June 2005 >