US Road Trip Travelog: 1st April 2005

Last night I sent out a help message to the Riviera people I've been in contact with along the way and now have a number of alternative plans in place in case the radiator leak gets worse. This is one helpful bunch of people, and it's very reassuring to have their assistance. The late night movie last night was 'Duel', which includes the sequence where Dennis Weaver tries to urge his overheating car up a hill as the rig closes in from behind. I hope that's not a bad omen.

The route today is to head a bit north of St. George then leave the I-15 (at long last) for Highway 9 east and then Highway 89 north.

Zion National Park
Zion National Park.

The scenery here is undeniably dramatic, and this is a lovely drive. After 40 miles I stop for some gas and the car is leaking a lot of coolant. Helpful comments from other motorists, such as "At least while she's leaking you know there's still some in there", don't really help much. A few miles later I pull over to let the car cool down and to have a think.

Riviera leaking coolant
Riviera leaking coolant. If you're going to break down it's nice to do so with a view behind.

This is much more than a small radiator leak - when the car cools down I pour in some more and it's dripping straight out near the front of the engine. Why I ever trusted the idiots at the Goodyear place I'll never know - they obviously never got the car hot enough to show the real problem. Actually the real idiot is probably me, for taking it there in the first place. One of these days I'll learn my lesson.

After a bit of thought I decide to head back the 40 miles to St. George. I've just driven the roads and know where the towns are whereas if I push on it'll be into the unknown. I buy a whole load of water and start back.

After about 15 miles we need to stop again. I have a mantra in my head - "Hot car, cool head" - and so just try to be patient whilst it cools down before adding more water. Patience isn't something I do well, so this involves a lot of pacing around. I do remember to phone for a motel room for the next few nights, though. After another 8 miles we have to stop again, and so on all the way back with ever-decreasing distances. The traffic in St. George doesn't help and we pull up outside the Super 8 motel in a cloud of steam.

Time to do something sensible and find a radiator specialist. This is, of course, what I should've done yesterday. A bit of phoning around locates Thompson's Radiators a few miles out of town. Once more unto the breach ...

After a mile the car is suffering and we pull over again. As well as the overheating, the engine fan is spraying water all around under the hood and some is getting on the power steering belts, causing them to slip. This happened on the way back into St. George as well, and it's no fun trying to manhandle this car around without power steering. A last refill and we make it to Thompson's Radiators.

Ray - I presume he's the Mr Thompson of the company name - immediately diagnoses that the water pump is the source of the problem. He's one of those people who inspires trust by his calm approach, which is a good thing because I'm about due to overheat myself. He calls around for a new water pump and then explains that only once this is installed can he pressure-test the rest of the system to see what else may be wrong. Ray makes me laugh when he refers to the Riviera as 'the antique'. I hate to tell you this, Ray, but you're no spring chicken yourself.

I leave the car with Ray and start the long walk back down into St. George. I probably could get a taxi but after a day like today I think the walk will do me good. Cold beer at the end of it as well, please.

US Road Trip Travelog: 2nd April 2005 >