Almost two weeks since my arrival at LAX, and I still have no definite plan - not even a rough plan - where the trip may take me.
Amtrak took me to Denver, where the van was waiting. Always a great trip. Pity the in-betweens had to be such a nightmare. However, this was mostly forgotten by the time I arrived in Denver. Trains are such a wonderful way to meet other travellers.
After a night at a great hostel, I took a bus to Longmont, and a taxi out to where my Ford was parked. (Imagine my surprise when it was the same taxi driver who picked me up after I parked it there, last September. Though I did not recognise him, he remembered me.)
It was good to see it again, despite the fact that there was not even a click when I turned the key. Expected!
During my preparation for this trip I had renewed my AAA membership, knowing I would need it on my arrival. I had also, with a little help from my friend, managed to get a sim card and phone number to use upon arrival. These things make life so much easier... so much easier to solve initial issues.
That first day I could not have coped without my phone and AAA. While waiting for the man to come and start my engine, Eric came by and offered a jump start. But alas, without success. AAA was more successful. Once it was running I followed the AAA car to the Autozone, where a new battery was on the menu.
I had asked the AAA man about my tyres, and he suggested I go see the people at Tyres Plus. They checked the pressure for me, which was all I asked for, but then pointed out to me the cracks in the side walls of my rear tyres. These were on the vehicle when I bought it, and without a date on the tyres, no one knew how old they were. For safety's sake, two new tyres were on the menu.
Unplanned extra expense.
It was by now evening rush hour and I had left my luggage at the hostel when I left at 8am. It had not been my plan to drive from downtown Denver along I-70 to Flying J in Aurora at rush hour. (In reality, my road part of the trip had started a couple of days earlier when the train did not run from Emeryville to Reno, and we went by bus. A very pleasant and scenic trip. Much enjoyed.)
The first destination was to be Joplin MO, where the van had already been booked in for a check-up. A two day drive. I-70 and I-135 to Wichita and 400 straight across the rest of KS, into Joplin. It is a good drive, other than the (what seemed to be gale force) wind along I-70. I thought I would be blown off the road. [That evening I met a couple in Grandma Max's restaurant at Pilot in Salinas, who had come from Vail on a motor bike. He too was saying how sore he was from keeping the thing upright and on the road.]
The Ford mechanic gave my Ford a clean bill of health. I was also keen to see how Joplin was coming on with the reconstruction. Another tour or two showed the schools are now well on the way, as is the hospital, and new houses are sprouting up all over the place. The path of the tornado is still quite evident, mostly by the lack of mature trees. The area looks so open and bare, compared with the rest of the town. There are still some places vacant, and the remnants of where once a building stood, still waiting for attention.
With the van now running well, and my scenic tour of the latest happenings in Joplin behind us, we set out to do something about my terrible driver's seat. I just could no longer drive with that seat. Suggestions came from all sides.... Ford, the auto upholsterer, and the many wrecker's places we visited. The news was not good. Scarce as hen's teeth! One place even told us that his computer program showed that there were not any available within heaven knows, how many miles.
Till finally we arrived at one yard where the gentleman was more knowledgable, and not tied to a computer program. He knew of, and had seen those vans at a salvage yard (way out of town), where they were waiting to be crushed. Made a phone call on our behalf, and sent us on our way. The van initially referred to was not suitable, but way back in the yard, by the crusher, there were some more and we were free to go and check them. (The long walk nearly knocked me out.)
There, right by the crusher, were four vans... one the same model and year as mine. It had both original front seats in 'reasonable' condition. Certainly nothing an auto upholsterer can't fix. The driver's seat was next to perfect. The passenger seat in a more sorry state. And we got both for peanuts - comparitavely speaking.
The passenger seat is now at the upholsterers. The driver's seat in the van. It will be upholstered on my next pass through. We were assured that it can be done in a day.
What a difference a good seat makes!