US Road Trip Travelog: 30th March 2005

Larry calls in the morning and we're back on and on our way. Amazingly enough I manage to find my way out of San Diego and on to the Interstates up to Rancho Riviera without getting lost. Better still, the roads are free and clear.

The reason for the return is to try to sort out the suspension. When encountering a sharp dip in the road, such as a railroad crossing or one of the many on the Interstates, the back of the car tends to move around and the front goes all over the place. The problem is especially bad where the dip is at an odd angle, and more than once it's been a bit of a white-knuckle ride trying to keep the car heading straight with traffic on either side.

I thought that this was just the way a 60's American car handled but on my previous visit Larry diagnosed (just by leaning on the back of the car) a badly worn rear anti-sway bar and possibly the need for new front shocks. He reconditions the anti-sway bars himself, so I asked him to do one for me.

The old anti-sway bar is difficult to remove as the bushes have collapsed and fused to the bolt. A mixture of science and brute force, however, does the trick. With the new one on the car is transformed, as a quick test drive proves, and the tendency to wander over the road has gone. In fact, it handles pretty well given its size and weight. And the other good news is that with the back end sorted the front shocks, though not new, don't need replacing just yet. Another victory for Larry - first he made it go properly and now he's made it handle as it should. No wonder he's regarded as one of the Riviera gurus.

Replacing the anti-sway bar means driving the car over a pit to get underneath it. Whilst down there Larry has a look at the rest of the car and his impression is generally positive. There are a few things that will need doing but nothing urgent. When I was here last week he fixed a deteriorating fuel hose connection on top of the engine and there's another one underneath the car. So much for the Goodyear 'safety check' - the one on the top was attached to a fuel filter they'd actually replaced.

The I-15 through the Mojave
The I-15 through the Mojave. My new dead bug collection is coming along nicely.

From San Bernardino the route north and east is the I-15, which passes through Barstow and on up the mountains. It's not the most exciting drive in the world but there are no real alternatives to the Interstate.

Las Vegas
Las Vegas traffic.

The destination for tonight is Las Vegas. On the outskirts I stop to clean the windshield and get my bearings. I haven't booked anywhere but along the way I've picked-up quite a few guides from the various motel chains and there are lots of options.

The early-evening traffic is very congested and it's a relief to find my chosen motel. No free rooms. I phone a few others. All fully booked. Heading away from the centre, back to the crawl on the Interstate going north, and I find a grotty Comfort Inn in a rough part of town. He wants $160 for a room. I don't think so. In desperation I try a few of the casino hotels. No luck, and in each one there are other travelers calling around trying to find rooms.

You've got to know when to hold' em and know when to fold 'em, and Las Vegas is obviously a busted flush. Nothing for it then but to re-fuel the car and keep heading north on the I-15. As I don't gamble anyway (amazingly missing from my otherwise complete selection of vices) I'm not overly bothered.

What I don't want to do - and have managed to avoid so far - is to drive at night. Not just because I won't see the scenery but in case something goes wrong with the car. Moreover I used up my remaining 'pay as you go' cell phone minutes trying to find a room in Las Vegas, so I don't think I could call for assistance. No choice here, though, and after 350 or so miles already today we're off again.

90 miles up the I-15 and, after a few more efforts leaving the Interstate to find a room, I see a small motel with a 'Vacancy' sign. Only two rooms left at the Valley Inn Motel in Mesquite and it's a great relief to get one. It's now 8:30 p.m., nearly 12 hours since leaving San Diego, and after the driving and hours sitting in Las Vegas traffic anything will do. There's nowhere to eat nearby but the gas station over the road sells pretzels, beef jerky and beer. That'll do.

On the nightly news is a report that may explain the traffic. At a Las Vegas intersection a couple in a SUV seemed to get into a argument. The woman got out of the car and ran off. The man chased her, shot her, then turned the gun on himself. All in broad daylight and in front of the other drivers. Maybe I'm better off outside Las Vegas anyway.

US Road Trip Travelog: 31st March 2005 >