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New York and Homeward Bound

From John Moody: (once in) "New York State, it's all downhill to Maryland now. I looked at a map" ;-)


Day #27

Thursday 10  August

Start time:  10:18 am                 Mileage: 88,070           Place:  Columbus, OH – Joanne’s Place

Stop time:  6:15pm                   Mileage:  88,5111        Place:  Webster, NY – Althea & Clark’s Place

Today’s Mileage: 441                 Total:   8,902

Average mpg:  20 - 21


The morning is gray and overcast, but I head out to assess things from my “un-mechanical” perspective.  Seems the left side of the idler pulley is intermittently hitting the nut on the end of the bolt on the back of the pulley arm behind the spring. Not an easy spot to get to.  I clean the metal shavings from the area so I can assess better later.  Everything else looks ok.  I call Bill and we go through the steps again.  We decide to leave it alone as my dealing with adjusting a regular pulley might be less than optimal. So we head out with “watchful waiting” as they say.  We have now replaced the fan belt so many times that my initial apprehensions have dissolved into viewing this as more of a nuisance. (The spring loaded idler has been very successful at keep the belt on hot...only one "hot throw" and that was on an accidental overrev. As long as the belt is behaving nicely on the road, then throwing cold in a parking lot is little more than a nuisance. Reverting to a stock pulley (and having to tell Marianne how to adjust the guard and tension carries more risk of a hot throw requiring roadside replacement. We will be working with the manufacturer of this part to determine what the root cause is.)

(UPDATE: 17 August: Postmortem on the idler.

Lon Wall (Corvair Underground) and I had earlier discussed the possibilities on the idler, coming up with the potential solution that it was extending too far and running out of tension (possibly due to the belt stretching, etc) which was a problem with the very early production units. True to his reputation, Lon was very concerned and wanted me to send it in for examination and rebuild/replacement whatever the problem turned out to be. You simply can't ask more of a vendor than to come up with a awesome product for a car that's been out of production for 35 years and stand behind it without question! We are very lucky in the Corvair world to have the best vendors in the business!

Anyway, on close examination, the pulley was _compressing_ too far and making contact with the front mounting bolt/nut. That's what was eating up the pulley... and of course if it made solid contact it would stop the pulley cold, throwing the belt. My theory is that only on starting was the pressure on the pulley great enough to pull it this far forward. I also see a shiny spot on the brass bushing, but I can't see how that would be making contact. Everything was adequately lubed, etc. I've reverted to a stock idler while we sort this out for the long term.)

 There is one major disappoint.  Katherine and I will not be going to the Ohio State Fair with Joanne.

 Wish we had known a bit earlier to make adjustments in the travel schedule. Maybe next year.  Anyway, we are looking forward to the Steuben County Fair in Bath, NY    

Interstate driving is uneventful except for lots of construction, changing speed limits, and beautiful scenery changes as we move from the flats of Ohio to the rolling lush hills of New York.  We pass by signs for Niagara Falls, tempted to stop by, but decide not.

We spend a great evening with my friends, Althea and Clark Bryan (Navy NC Nurse Corps and MSC Medical Service Coprs), who retired and now live in Webster, NY.  We were stationed together at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. The three of us know many of the same Navy folks so it was fun “swapping stories.”  Katherine and their daughter, Sarah, are both interested in archeology – more specifically Egyptology – so they hit it off and were not seen the rest of the visit – except to eat! 



Day #28

Friday 11  August

Start time:   10:45am                 Mileage: 88,511           Place:  Webster, NY – Althea & Clark’s Place

Stop time:   2:20pm                  Mileage:  88,619          Place:  Bluff Point, NY Wigwam Campground on Keuka Lake

Today’s Mileage: 108               Total:   9,010

Average mpg:  19

After picture-time in the morning, we tried to set off. However, the fan belt was not cooperating. After several tries – a couple with us starting and watching the fan belt in action – we finally headed off.   

Stopped at a local Lowes to get perennials, a small hand trowel, and some gloves – garden and auto type – we head out.  The auto gloves are for me as the engine is hot and dirty and my hands (never manicured away) are starting to get even more dings and dirt than even I can handle. (Guess Marianne forgot that there is a pair of a gloves in her tool kit/ emergency kit)

We make error in executing the directions. Seems NY has 590 Interstate and 590 Local. Both are on the same sign. You can go north on both and then split off onto one or the other; however, going south – well, you can’t get there from here, as they say. So we toured the city of Rochester going west and east.  Quite lovely. I have always liked Rochester and had I not joined the Navy to see the “world,” I likely would have ended up here. (But then she would not likely be driving a VW with a Corvair engine...)

Along the way we sight a “pack” of classic cars – many of which I cannot identify – at a garage in Hall, NY.  We recognize one – a Belair station wagon - that looked real good!  We stop at the Bully Hill Winery – a favorite of mine – mainly to get the special grape juice that they bottle in a capped wine bottle with a nifty label – Cylinder Head Grape Juice.  But, OH NO!  They don’t have any. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) stopped their production last year – the filtering process they used is no longer acceptable (even though it's perfectly fine for wine!) , so they had to stop until they get their new process "approved."  I am not even going to comment on this.  We buy a few bottles of the Buffalo Head label for Bill. (This is a winery with a sense of humor... from their humorous labels to the tasting room they make you chant "Napa is for auto parts, Bully Hill is for wine!"... and the most expensive thing they offer is about $14 a bottle... they make a nice selection of "sweet" wines (and grape juice!), but their drier varieties are not quite up to CA standards.)

Katherine is wine-ing as she and her friends enjoy the grape juice and save the labels.

We check into the Wigwam Campground on Bluff Point of Keuka Lake – it is great.   Keuka Lake is my favorite lake and I went to college – Keuka College – here.  Many fond memories.

We head to the cemetery in North Cameron where my mother, Mary Miraldi,  is buried and plant the flowers.   Our family owns land here, so I hope get some information about building a place.  The air clear, the skies perfect blue, and there is always a breeze. Good country living!

Stopping along the way, we visit friends we grew up with, David Masti, son of  Eleanor Masti, my mother’s best friend. They are buried next to each other in the hillside cemetery. Katherine gets to drive a “gator” up though acres and acres of land.  She is thrilled.

(Two strange coincidences... while they are at Bully Hill I am wearing my Bully Hill Watkins Glen 150 racing shirt... and while Katherine is playing offroad in a Gator, her grandfather is doing the same thing down in North Carolina with my Dad and his Gator on their land down there...)

We leave to make our way back to the campground stopping at the local restaurant – the Chat-a-While – in Bath , NY for the Friday night fish fry (well, actually, I had mine broiled).  No web site. No surprise!

By the time we get “home” it is dark, but the lights on the lake are beautiful.  A good night!


From John Moody: 

Day #29

Saturday 12  August

Start time:   9:36am                   Mileage: 88,619           Place:   Bluff Point, NY Wigwam Campground on Keuka Lake

Stop time:   8:30pm                  Mileage:  88,808           Place:  Bluff Point, NY Wigwam  Campground on Keuka Lake

Today’s Mileage: 189               Total:   9,199

Average mpg:  18 

The plan to head out early to “The Windmill” was thwarted by two things:  the fan belt fiasco and the pop-top holder problem.  The former was an easy fix; the later took some time. 

I was carrying two brand-new  black rubber pop-top holders with me as the ones currently in the Whale were starting to show potential wear.  Luckily, the last time I was looking for parts in the single-seat compartment that holds only two things –  P &P - the portable potty and extra parts – I moved them to the top – not sure why, just did.  Of course, the new and old are not an identical swap out. Rather than remove the entire bracket from the top itself – which I probably could not have removed as it looks like it is there to stay – I removed the cotter pin, the washer, and bolt assembly, and planned to replace the black rubber piece with its new bolt, washer, and cotter pin.

Not so fast, busterette!  They don’t match up, so I just swap out the black rubber piece and use the old bolt and washer using wire for the cotter pin as the old one broke on the way out.  I find I cannot get the bolt through the new rubber so I lubricate it.  With what?  Well, did not have any WD-40 (like Larry uses) or any liquid soap (like my Dad uses), so I used some “hotel” shampoo and the bolt slide right in.

We find The Windmill on top of the highest ridge to the east of Keuka Lake – the view is breathtaking.  Initially, there is not much of a crowd at this outdoor market, but within a couple hours the place is hopping.  Buggy rides, accordion music, crafts, food, Amish baked goods and furniture, home-grown fruits and vegetables. 

We luck into finding Julia, David’s wife there, and walk around for a bit.  We run into Lynn Haftl, my mother’s friend of many years, and surprised her.  We head to her place later that afternoon after a fun day at The Windfall. Although we are getting a little cramped in the Whale, we manage to stuff in a few more items – gifts, baked goods, earrings, a towel, and  a canvas bag.  So glad we packed light!

Another challenge in the parking lot – it is a dirt patch with lots of holes and rocks that I carefully avoided – at The Windmill.  The idiot buzzer is going off and the fan belt is ON!  So, we ….. call Bill.   After checking all the alternator wiring (did you know that red wire morphs into blue wire and then morphs again in to while wire all in one line??), Bill has me check the voltmeter gauge while the ignition is just “on” and then when started.  The voltmeter changed from red to green area (guess you’d have to see this), and then with revving was fine and no buzzer. Bill thinks it may be a diode.  We check it twice and things seem fine.

(I'm unsure if they have a real problem or the idle was just low and the alternator didn't engage enough to extinguish the alternator light and turn off the buzzer. It never occurred to me that they would not have reved the engine a little bit before calling me... and I was a little concerned because Marianne had said that she had found some insulation rubbed off my wiring loom earlier... so I was concerned that maybe the wiring was grounding out... a potentially very big problem that could easily wipe the alternator. But no problems were found before I had her restart and test... so given the possibilities, I'd say it was time well spent. 

Coincidentally, while Marianne is calling me asking what to do next, I'm driving along in our Suburban in downtown Boone, NC with Buzz and my parents. Apparently feeling the sympathetic pains through the cell phone, the Suburban simply dies while driving along... first time it's ever done that. On the side of the road it tries to restart, finally stumbles to life, and makes it into a parking space before dying again. While everyone is inside shopping I start to troubleshoot... and quickly realize there is NO power (I initially thought I'd blown a fuse...) leading me to leave the fuse box and move to more basic things. I found the positive battery cable loose (why in the world did GM go to these crappy side terminal batteries?)... a quick tighten and everything was back to normal...)

It strikes me odd that every time – except once – that we are working on the engine; no one stops to ask if they can help.   Most walk by, but some stop and stare, Not sure whether they are string at me or the engine!  Guess the engine.  You just can't find good help... courtesy of Nick, our Corvair buddy in South Africa:


The only exception was the VW guy back in California who stopped his travels and asked if we needed help and offered tools and advice.  When I go by a stopped vehicle, I look to see if they need help – even if it just to make a phone call or lend some tools.  Are folks un-helpful? Don’t want to get involved?  Think we must know what we are going as we have our tools and mat out, and our head in stuck in the engine compartment?  Don’t want to mess with a “women mechanic?”  Or just have no skill to help?  Just wonder.  (Probably no one has the skills any longer to offer any help beyond changing tire...) Not that we needed help – we have been quite capable, especially with having Bill within phone’s reach.

We head to Lynn’s and spend a time on the back deck just enjoying the view and the conversation. Katherine gets to drive another 4-wheeled ATV through acres of trails.  She is loving it!  We stop by Tom’s to admire his nifty “cabin” with its  great views and Frankie’s to admire his house use he is building that has awesome 360 degree views.  Both have built their place from scratch by themselves. Both have my admiration.   From there we call it an early night, drive back up the lakeside (only backing up 13 cars behind us as we enjoy the views) (that's okay... most folks likely thought it was a normal VW going as fast as it could!),  and then settle into the Whale to read and  work on the laptop.


Day #30

Sunday 13  August

Start time:   2:33pm                  Mileage: 88,808           Place:  Bluff Point, NY Wigwam Campground on Keuka Lake

Stop time:  10:46 pm                Mileage:  88,914          Place:  Bluff Point, NY Wigwam Campground on Keuka Lake

Today’s Mileage:  106  Total:   9,305

Average mpg:  19

Today was a lazy day of summer!  We slept late – only to be awakened by a lively game of horse shoes right next to us - read books, worked on laptop (again), and have breakfast at our picnic bench.  Katherine complained about dirt falling on her during her morning shower?!  Seems the bathhouse roof has a “bit” of extra roofing materiel in the form of moss and pieces fall through the skylight (read this as crack) in the roof.  My explanation that she at least got the dirt off in the shower did not appease her.  Camping is just tough all the way around.

We head to our friends – David and Julia – and we go out in the ‘gator and the 4wheeler.  Katherine drives the 4 wheeler and I ride with David; a death grip on the side handle as we go though the hilly land we own.  That was quite an experience – perhaps driving is less scary! We are trying to get an idea of where to build a small place there.  We have dinner and find that another friend – Keith Barrett (former Navy Seabee) and David’s brother, Donnie – join us.  Quite a reunion.

Near Hammondsport, there is an “airport/airstrip.”  Katherine does not believe me that airplanes actually land there.  She is looking for the concrete or asphalt runway.  I point out the windsock, the cleared path of grass between the fields of fresh-mown hay, and the driveway to a house.  I also point out the conveniently located cemetery at the end of the “airstrip.”  Wonder which came first.  Later that night, I joked about the “runway lights” being on – and sure, enough, there were about a half-dozen small blue runway lights at the cemetery end of the runway! 

Katherine’s navigation skills are … well, aren’t.  (genetic? ;-) ) I asked her to find an alternate route without steep hills by going north along the bluff itself.  She finds me more steep hills instead, telling me needs a topographical map so she can avoid the hills!  Luckily, we make it back to the campground for our last camping night. 

The sky is dark and clear with a millions of stars out, so we take a walk to admire the beauty.


Day #31

Monday 14 August

Start time:   9:46am                   Mileage: 88,914           Place:  Bluff Point, NY Wigwam Campground on Keuka Lake

Stop time:   7:00pm                  Mileage:  89,088          Place:  Merritt Hill Bed & Breakfast, Bluff Point, Keuka Lake

Today’s Mileage:  174  Total:  9,479  

Average mpg:  NA – no fill up


Today becomes another relaxed day.  We find that we have been driving and moving so fast that slowing down is not easy, but welcome.  It is giving us time to catch our breath before we get home and get back into the fray of work and school. Katherine is a senior – yikes! The Whale turns 89,000 in downtown Penn Yan, NY.

It was a jubilant start – the fan belt stayed on with initial start!  Yippeee!  After a quick stop at the local Dunkin Donuts – a first in months – we spend part of the day finding out about building permits, electrical supply, and pre-manufactured houses.  With the business work done, we  spend part of the day walking around the little town of Hammondsport, NY,  exploring the stores, and having lunch in the Crooked Lake restaurant – a restored building now an ice cream parlor.

Katherine sights another Mercury Capri similar to hers and notes that the Capri sightings total four.

After checking into the Merritt Hill Manor Bed & Breakfast – a treat for the last two nights – we head to Lynn’s for a wonderful dinner with her family.  Katherine gets more “wheeling” time. This country living is just way too good!   

It starts to rain as we leave so we drive the 50-some miles in rain and dusk – such fun.  Katherine “navigates” us in circles looking for a more direct route.  Map-ology is not her strong suit and Ms. GPS is not better at times – she has different names for the actual streets!

The Merritt Hill B&B is wonderful.  Our hosts, Mark and Sue, make us right at home. The lake view from our room is stunning and I can’t wait for the sunshine to come in the windows in the morning!  Little things mean a lot. 


Day #32

Tuesday 15 August

Start time:   11:18am                 Mileage:  89,088          Place:  Merritt Hill Bed & Breakfast, Bluff Point, Keuka Lake

Stop time:   6:00pm                   Mileage: 89,176            Place:  Merritt Hill Bed & Breakfast, Bluff Point, Keuka Lake

Today’s Mileage: 118               Total:   9,567

Average mpg:  19


Waking up to the sunshine streaming in and the lake view out the window while lying in bed is my idea of a great start to a day.  I go out to sit in the Adirondack chairs on the front lawn and enjoy the early morning before breakfast.  Soon, students from an art class  show up to paint lake scenes from the front lawn.  Turns out I know one of them – Dusty Rhodes – also a  Keuka graduate.  Small world.

We have a great homemade breakfast and spend quite a while talking with our host, Sue. This is Katherine's first experience with a B&B so she is not so sure about things. Sue makes her right at home and gives us a place to find the winery-style grape juice that was on Friday’s “quest.”


So the quest for the “holy grail” of winery-style grape juice that Katherine was denied earlier continues.  Another pleasant surprise when the fan belt stays on with starting! Two days in a row!  We may have to get more than grape juice! 

While driving to Seneca Lake to the Fulkerson Winery we spot a red Allante – late model – near a farm.  Twenty miles later we find that they have grape juice that must be refrigerated; how (in)convenient. We buy one bottle to drink with lunch.  While looking over the “other” liquids we find two whose labels are interesting so we buy them. Have no idea what they taste like, but the names and labels were cool.  They are gifts for family so the names have to remain a secret.

Watkins Glen is on Seneca Lake so we go to the state park to hike up the glen – 1.5 miles and 823 steps.  Gorgeous views, but my legs will feel those views tomorrow!

Of course, we stop at the start-finish line of the 1948 Watkins Glen race and take some real satisfaction that the first winner of the race drove an Alpha Romeo!

We catch a quick bite at the local Seneca Farms that is known locally for its ice cream – triple chocolate is yummy. Heading back, I spent time reading while lounging in the chairs out front while Katherine emails pictures to Bill.  Then we watch “The Phantom pf the Opera” that we bought in Oklahoma and have not had time to watch.  Just love the music.

This is our last night on-the-road and we will be heading back home tomorrow morning. Almost sad that our trip is ending, but I am already thinking about another one. Katherine, however, is not.


Day #33

Wednesday 16 August

Start time:  10:25 am        Mileage:  89,176          Place:  Merritt Hill Manor Bed & Breakfast, Bluff Point, Keuka Lake

Stop time:   4:55pm          Mileage: 89,497           Place:  HOME, Urbana Maryland

Today’s Mileage: 321              

Total:   9,888    (Start – 79,609; finish 89,497)

Average mpg:  19  - 20

The final day of this incredible and unusual journey.  I stay up late and do not sleep well. Up early to watch the sunrise at about 6:18am.  It was beautiful for a chilly morning.

We have sumptuous breakfast with five other ladies staying at the B&B – one of whom is a B&B owner herself.  They ask many questions about our trip. One of the ladies has driven VWs starting with a ‘67 and currently has  VW Jetta.

I wear my “van go” T-shirt for good luck on the trip home.  It worked!  The Whale starts for the THIRD day in a row without burping the fan belt. Life is good!   We head down the bluff and for route 15 SOUTH – a very familiar route - through Pennsylvania. Where we share the road with the Amish horse and buggies.   At 4:11pm we hit the Maryland state line. Katherine is ecstatic. 

A few miles from home I note that it is about time to “gas up” again.  I can’t think about one more gas stop, so I continue home with about ¼ left. As we pull into our one-lane, dead end road, a  brown VW goes by honking and waving. Seems like a perfect ending for our trip!

I call Bill, who is on travel, and our family to let them know we are home safe and sound. The first question I get from both Bill and my brother, Vinny, is “What was the total mileage.?”  “Hold on, I need to do the calculation. (pause) It is 9,888.”  To which they both exclaim; “Why don’t you go for a spin to make it an even 10,000?”

You have no idea how tempted I was!



After the Whale, what?


It is now fourteen days since the return from our “journey.”  I am back at work and Katherine started her senior year of high school, but I would rather be out there “on the road.”


After folks comment on what a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience this was and how they wished they could take a similar trip with their children, they usually ask two questions:


            “What (in the world) prompted you to do this?”


            “How did you and your daughter survive together? (I could never make it with mine)”


To the first question, Katherine would answer: “She had a temporary lapse in sanity.”


I would prefer not to think of it as a temporary lapse, but a planned, deliberate lapse. I have always enjoyed traveling. My mother always wanted to travel through the United States, and  though she did some traveling, I know it was not as much as she would have liked.   A non-smoker, she died almost 17 years ago from an unusual form of lung cancer that spread quickly. 


I decided that I would “make time” for a trip with my daughter as we never know when our “day” might come.  What started out as a simple, “Let’s just jump in my convertible and go,” quickly turned into a conundrum of time, logistics, and vehicle considerations.  Undaunted and always up for a challenge, I wanted to be as self-sufficient as we could in terms of the vehicle, lodging, and eating.  Katherine was not as sure about this.


There were a lot of lessons here for Katherine though I don’t think she realizes most of them now, but hopefully she will in the future.   And, there were lessons learned for me.  My “lapse in sanity” has helped me be more “sane.”


To the second question, Katherine would roll her eyes, but then agree that we did more than “survive.”


We have an unusual mother-daughter relationship by today’s standards – my relationship with my mother was equally unusual even by “yesteryear’s”  norms.  I wish all moms and daughters the same.  We talked about a lot of silly things, we laughed to the point of tears, we sang songs (although she always seemed to turn on the CD player when I started to sing!), and we “solved the world’s problems.”  In addition, Katherine  finished her required summer reading (for a test on Wuthering Heights and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest on the first day of school)  and I had plenty of time to reflect. 


There were only two moments where I “lost it.”  One was the toll booth “incident” – which seemed absolutely terrible at the time and I was  yelling “STOP” (and other words) -  that occurred the first (and only) time Katherine drove.  Anyone watching that incident would  have thought I was a loon. Now, I cannot stop laughing when retelling the story.   The other “moment” concerned “mapology” -  Katherine’s map reading skills (or lack of them) - that had us taking “interesting” routes while driving at night, in the rain, tired, or looking for our place for the night.


Would I do it again?  Absolutely. Katherine would  too – though in a different vehicle!  ("One with air conditioning!") The good people we met, the beautiful landscape and countryside, and thrill of  living in a free country are unmatched.  It was a “journey of a lifetime.”