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Old 05-31-09, 03:48 PM   #1
cranky old dude
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OT: Adventure with my big bike hauler

My 1994 Conversion Van serves as our Comfy Highway Vehicle for long road trips, Child & Stuff Hauler from home to college and back, and most recently as recumbent owners it has become our main vehicle for bicycle transport. This Van was custom built by a local shop that specializes in handicap accessible vehicle builds. It has two permanently mounted Captains chairs up front and two more Captains chairs mid-ship that are removable. I’ve also got a three person sofa-bed on a six inch slider that mounts in the rear or mid-ship. It’s a very versatile, very low mileage, and surprisingly high maintenance vehicle. I could go into a very long list of repairs that this Van has undergone in it 56,000 miles of use, but I won’t.

My story is about the cost of this beast over the past three weeks. Shortly after we returned from our little get-away in Holland Michigan, I brought the Van in for an oil and filter change and ended up putting on a $600 exhaust system. No complaints here as the original system lasted 15 years, which is virtually unheard of here in the rust belt. I had that uneasy peace where you know you’re O.K. now but something is looming in the not-too-distant future. It never seems to fail that if I put needed and normal maintenance work into a vehicle, a nasty, unexpected and unjustified repair is just around the corner.

Here it comes. This past Friday the bride and I were driving the 480 mile round trip to Albany NY to visit one of our daughters. It was her birthday and we were bring her lots more of her stuff. The Van has a full gauge package and as luck would have it, the amp meter was acting up…the needle actually bounced when I hit bumps in the road! Finally it indicated that I was no longer charging the battery sufficiently. It was now 3:45pm and I was on the NYS Thruway, a toll road. I now had to; get off the toll road, find a repair shop and think about finding lodging and possibly a rental car and was facing the possibility of not being home in time to go to work Monday morning. Oh dear!

Now the fairy tale ending….Approx. one mile farther I saw the exit for Amsterdam NY.
I made a bee line for the exit ramp and by sheer luck we happened upon a repair shop that was still in business, and open. The mechanic quickly determined that my three year old alternator was shot. Wooden Shoe know it. Jeepers, it only had 20,000 miles on it! It was only putting out barely enough to keep the truck running, any accessories would finish off the battery. No kidding! He was willing to do the repair but had no way to get the parts at 4:00 on Friday afternoon. We are looking at Monday, however he knows of a Monro Muffler across town and they’re open until 7:00pm. I pulled into the muffler shop at 4:15pm and the angels there, after some discussion, managed to have me back on the road at 6:15pm. It only cost us $600, groan.

I didn’t know what but I knew something was coming along, and as I expected it was expensive. Lucky for us though, what could have become a majorly expensive delay of days turned out to be a short side adventure of just a couple of hours. I think I’ll steer clear of cities with Dutch names also, just in case there’s some connection.

Last edited by cranky old dude; 06-01-09 at 08:01 AM. Reason: typo, more typos
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Old 05-31-09, 04:34 PM   #2
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Sounds to me like you're a cup half-full kind of guy. A $600.00 repair on the road is never good but, as you pointed out, it could have been a whole lot worse.

My last such similar incident occured while driving back from last summer's Wisconsin vacation. While filling the car with gas I put the keys on the dash and de-trashed the interior. I wasn't aware that, in that configuration, my car will lock itself. Oh no! What am I going to do on a Saturday afternoon? Where's the nearest Honda dealer? No problem. The local police dispatched an officer who had the necessary tools to unlock my car without causing any damage. I was back on the road in about 20 minutes. 20 minutes! Wouldn't even take a "tip".
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Old 05-31-09, 06:03 PM   #3
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I dunno, seems like the Dutch-named places are your saviors, not your nemeses.
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Old 05-31-09, 06:10 PM   #4
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Crankster - sorry you had a bad experience. As you said - you are lucky Amsterdam had anything open - for anyone not familiar - it's another New England dead mill town. Absolutely beautiful country, but the economy past them by decades ago. The recession that has plagued the nation for the last 6 months is nothing compared to what that town has been through. I ride through it from time to time - it's on one of my self supported metric century routes.

When visiting your daughter and want to know some good routes to ride just let me know.
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Old 06-01-09, 04:28 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
Crankster - sorry you had a bad experience. As you said - you are lucky Amsterdam had anything open - for anyone not familiar - it's another New England dead mill town. Absolutely beautiful country, but the economy past them by decades ago. The recession that has plagued the nation for the last 6 months is nothing compared to what that town has been through. I ride through it from time to time - it's on one of my self supported metric century routes.

When visiting your daughter and want to know some good routes to ride just let me know.
Just imagine how exciting it was to be new comers cruising East along East Main St. past Lark, Swan & Eagle with a dying vehicle. My poor wife was terrified. The mechanic we stopped at on East Main near Eagle was as nice as could be and very helpful, as was the manager at the Muffler Shop. What should have been a very unpleasant experience turned into a short adventure, though I was a bit nervous between the time my Alternator **** the bed and I pulled into the Muffler Shop.
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