US Road Trip Travelog: 6th April 2005

In the morning I load up the car, start it up, put it into Drive and ... nothing happens. We have no transmission. Luckily I haven't yet checked-out of my room so go in there to call Roger at Coleman Taylor in Nashville (my Verizon cell phone has no service here) who rebuilt the Dynaflow. Roger suggests I check the fluid in the transmission whilst he searches around for a nearby place that will honour the warranty.

Good thinking Roger - you can tell I've no experience with automatic gearboxes - as there's no fluid in it whatsoever. This is not a good sign. Luckily there's an auto shop a few blocks down who not only have transmission fluid but also lend me a funnel to get it in there. Once filled-up we have transmission again. Roger has given me a few alternatives for places within reach that can fix it, so with a few more quarts (a US quart is about a litre) of fluid in the trunk, just in case, we set off.

With all that I forgot to re-fuel the car in McCook. With the tank nearly empty the only gas station in a small town on Highway 34 sells a low octane 'super unleaded', which is 10% ethanol. That doesn't sound good but we have no choice here so a tankful goes in.

Once off Highway 34 and onto Highway 4 it's obvious that the car isn't very happy. The annoying part is that it could be one of many things:

Riviera on Highway 4
Riviera on Highway 4. Somewhere here is probably still the passenger-side rear hubcap, which went missing around this point.

After checking the transmission fluid level again (with the engine running, as recommended), about 40 miles west of Beatrice the car comes to a juddering halt. No cell phone coverage here, but a guy in a pickup stops to see if I need any help. I think I'll wait for the car to cool down a bit before sending up the distress flares, so I tell him we're ok. You could get to like Nebraska people - the motel staff we're also really helpful this morning when I explained the car problem, and let me keep the room and use the phone as long as I wanted.

After half an hour or so the car has cooled and I can have a look. Plenty of water, oil and transmission fluid so I wonder about that gas. In the trunk I've a bottle of octane booster that Larry gave me back in California. I'd actually tried to give it back to him, explaining that I'd never need it, but couldn't find it at the time amongst the plastic bags full of laundry in the trunk. The whole bottle goes in the tank - well, it can't do any harm - and we head off again.

To say that the 40 miles into Beatrice were nervous ones would be an understatement. I've got the heater on full blast to try to help the engine, as I have had most of the day, so they're not overly comfortable miles either. It's a great relief just to get there.

Once in Beatrice the first stop is Superior Transmissions, a company name given me by Roger this morning. Once up on the ramp the leak is obvious. The transmission has metal pipes that runs into and out of the bottom of the radiator for cooling. When the radiator was removed in St. George these bottom pipes were cut and replaced with rubber ones (I wasn't overly happy with this at the time, but it was too late by then). One of the rubber pipes is leaking a steady drip of transmission fluid, and most of it is going all over the underside of the car.

Even though it's very late in the afternoon, Superior Transmissions put the car up on a ramp and replace the rubber pipes with metal connectors. Some people just respond to the whole road trip idea and want to help you on your way and the guys here are certainly in that category.

Just north of town is a Victorian Inn offering rooms for $32 a night including internet access. There's nothing remotely Victorian about it but that sounds like a good deal and, after a quick chat with Sean Cahill (he of the Riviera Owners Association - more tomorrow), that's where I'll be. The room is huge, including a recliner armchair in front of the TV, clean and the internet access works. Excellent. To be honest it's a relief to be anywhere that isn't the side of the road tonight.

US Road Trip Travelog: 7th April 2005 >