Monday, March 25, 2013

Stuck in Flagstaff

Sedona, Az
A lot of friends have expressed how awesome the trails of Sedona are and Vanessa and I were excited to finally be on our way to experience them for ourselves.  But as luck would have it, the Summit Seeker started have problems about 5 miles from town.  Climbing up the hill the check engine light started flashing and we lost power and immediately dropped down to about 20mph.  This was also accompanied with misfiring and I released we had problems with our ignition coil once again.  I found a little side road to pull off onto and parked to cool the engine down in hopes of being able to continue onto town under our own power.  After a short while I started the engine back up but the problem was still present.  Power be damned, we're going to limp into town regardless how slow we have to go.

We parked at the library in hopes of getting some wifi but as we have found out before, the free wifi found at most libraries completely suck and so we limped down the road to a place called Famous Pizza that offered free wifi where we could park for the night and enjoy some pizza and beer and then surf the net all night.  The pizza wasn't so good but the beer selection made it worthwhile.  In the morning we drove over to a lovely coffee place called Java Love (excellent coffee!) where we called Good Sam for a tow truck.  Before starting our journey I had purchased a Good Sam membership, including roadside assistance, just in case.  The problem with Good Sam is that they will tow you for free to the nearest shop of their choosing.  If you need to go someplace different, you will have to pay for the tow yourself.  Earlier I had called the Scottsdale VW shop to see if they would cover the work and the said I'd have to go to the Flagstaff dealer, about 25 miles away, where they would assess it and see if the work and any parts replacement would be covered.  Of course Good Sam wanted to tow me to the auto shop around the corner where none of the work or parts would be covered.  This meant we would have to pay for the tow truck ourselves.

Seeing the Summit Seeker being hooked up to a tow truck was an interesting experience and not in a pleasant way.  Vanessa and I, according to law, had to sit up front with the driver but the dog and cat had to stay in back.
The ride from Sedona to Flagstaff was not what I had in mind when we first set out as I had hoped to run along the Red Rocks and stop at Slide Rock State Park to wash up.  I chatted up the driver to talk about the area around us while Vanessa slept.  Some day we will definitely have to spend some time in the area in more favorable conditions.  I'm almost tempted to backtrack on our journey but we must keep pressing onward if we wish to make it to Zion in time to do some training runs before the big race.

Missing out on Sedona - 

Flagstaff, AZ
We made it to the Findlay VW Dealership too late to get any work done but in the early afternoon the following day we were handing the keys back with an explanation that a couple spark plug wires were not properly attached thus causing our problems.  Damn those Scottsdale VW people!  Vanessa, Ginger, and myself piled into the RV and left for the local brewery.  About 5 miles later the check engine light started flashing once again and we pulled into a hotel parking lot and requested a tow back to the Findlay dealership.
Later on at the shop, it was determined that we either had back plug cables or a faulty ignition coil, neither of which were immediately available with the earliest arrival being Tuesday.  We asked if we hang out on their lot until Tuesday and now here we still sit.  But at least we have spotty wifi.  And there is a Safeway as well as a few other places to spend money about a half mile away.  

Meet Humphrey's Peak.  At 12,637', it towers over Flagstaff and is the tallest peak in Arizona.  It is also the reason we wanted to visit this city.  Last year Vanessa and I attempted to summit this beast but the winds were too strong and cold forcing us to turn around just a few hundred feet from the top.  If we can ever get the Summit Seeker running properly again, we wish to attempt the summit once more.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Journey Begins

This blog is being reactivated and converted into what I hope to be an accounting of the Summit Seeker’s journeys now that we have officially left San Diego behind and have taken to the nomadic lifestyle fulltime.
Apologies for the lengthy post below as I try to catch up on things

Phoenix Arizona

What was originally intended to be a stop lasting just a couple of days, Phoenix turned into our home for about two weeks. The Summit Seeker was in need of some scheduled maintenance, having rolled over 70,000 miles, and I decided to get her the suggested 80,000 mile tuneup since we’d be putting some serious miles on her.  And so we found a Volkswagen dealership in Scottsdale that could handle a rig her size and that is when the fun began.  It seems that replacing new spark plugs revealed an alignment issue with the coils creating an erroneous spark.  Of course a new coil assembly, costing about $500 should take care of it, or we can live with an intermittent misfire.  We opted to shell out the money.  Also, the rear brakes only had a few thousand miles left on them so what the hell, throw in some new brakes as well.  And of course the battery failed its charge test so we opted for a new battery while we were at it.
About 30 miles from the dealership, the Summit Seeker shut down.  Just stalled as if it had run out of gas.  I was able to restart only to have it stall out again, and again.  WTF?!  We made it to the trailhead we were heading towards and called the dealership.  They needed me to bring it back where they would run diagnostics.  Great, a 30 mile drive with an RV that may or may not stall out at any given moment.  Yet somehow we managed it, having to pull over 3 times to restart the vehicle and another time stuck at a stoplight for about 10 minutes before the engine would turn over.  The only saving grace was that the roads weren’t terribly busy and so we only pissed off about 10 drivers in total.
I should add another note here.  The night before, I had stayed up drinking with Chris Rios and he somehow convinced us that we should drive the Summit Seeker down to the Copper Canyons with them.  They were spending the day packing and wrapping up some last minute things while we were stuck in an RV with a stalling issue and still haven’t checked out the route or done any kind of prep for the long trek.
Back at the dealership.  After having a mechanic drive the rig around for awhile they got her to stall.  But diagnosing the root cause was a little tricky since all tests came back fine.  I assured them that this was a recent development and that the culprit had to be related to something they had done.  Evening came with no result.  Not wanting to spend money on a hotel, we asked them to park the RV where we had access to it and we’d spend the night on their lot and have them continue their troubleshooting in the morning. 
The next morning arrived.  This was the day we were supposed to start our trip towards the Copper Canyons.  The Millers had to leave and we were hoping we’d be able to fix our rig and catch up to them when they stopped for the night.  Wasn’t going to happen since the mechanic didn’t find the faulty component until early afternoon and we got the vehicle back just before sundown.  The Millers were already in Mexico!  It seems the coil they installed was faulty and was causing an intermittent short when it reached temperature.  Thanks guys!  But at least we had our home back.
Staying in Phoenix is not so bad.  The trail system is amazing and there are plenty of hills and mountains to keep one entertained.  And so we decided to hang around for another week since Mike Miller was holding a fatass type of running event the following weekend in honor of his upcoming birthday and we wanted to run the 15k option.  It also gave me a chance to ensure the Summit Seeker was fine and healthy enough to continue on our journey.  It seemed to me as if the radiator fan came on and stayed on much more frequently than I remembered but it’s something I never really paid attention to and just stashed the info in the back of my head.
The Old Man race was a lot of fun and I strongly recommend it to anyone that can make it next year.  Although the weather was cold at the start, the gradual ups and downs warmed you up and kept you comfortable as long as you kept moving.  We originally planned on doing two loops of the 15k course but one was enough and we headed over to the Millers for the post race party and to cheer all the 51k runners that finished behind us.

Climbed to the thumb from both sides of the mountain

Pine Arizona

There were more good times to be had during our stay, such as meeting Jenn Penner, a Facebook acquaintance of mine for many years, and running Tom’s Thumb with Rachel Spatz, as well as hanging out at the amazing health club that she gave us passes to.  But time was ticking and our journey had to continue.  Next stop – Pine Arizona. 
Pine is less than 2 hours northeast of Phoenix but is a very different climate.  Elevation of about 5,500’ and lots of pine trees rather than the plentiful Cholla and Saguara cactus that we encountered everywhere in the Phoenix area.  However, you have to do some climbing in order to get up there and poor little Summit Seeker overheated on the drive up.  See, I knew that radiator fan being on more than I remembered was a problem!  Of course now we are in the middle of nowhere and can’t do much about it except pull over, wait until everything cools down, and then continue the journey.  And no driving with the AC on.
Late 2012 we volunteered to help out at the Mogollon 100 race, which takes place in Pine and fell in love with the area. And what’s not to love about it?  A small town with lots of mom & pop type stores and restaurants.  Trails everywhere that will leave you breathless from their beauty as well as their ruggedness and steepness.  Creeks and streams aplenty to jump and cool off in.  Nights that are so dark you can’t see 5 feet in front of you yet skies so brilliantly lit up by the stars. 

Home for the next week

We’ve been here for four days and the trails are kicking our ass, what with the elevation, ruggedness and steepness.  Seriously, can a trail contain any more rocks than what these have?  The plan is to stick around until mid next week sometime and continue tackling these trails as part of our training for the upcoming Zion 100 race and then it’s on towards Sedona for more trails.  We’ve also located 3 sources of free wifi down the road as well as a few faucets where we can refill our water jugs.  There is also a small mechanic’s shop at the local gas station (gas is approx .20c cheaper than Phoenix here!) that I will visit in a few days to see if they can help with the overheating issue.  Otherwise, we’ll just have to live with the overheating issue until we reach Flagstaff near the end of this month.

Happy Trails!