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There and Back Again by Ben "Have Land Rover, will travel" Smith

Tom Tollefson, Dixon Kenner, and Ben SmithSome might call it an adventure of sorts. Truth is, it was just another road trip. No major breakdowns, a few minor niggles and a petrol engine with an insatiable thirst for gasoline. My SIII 88 logged cross-the-US legs #7 and #8. For me it was #12 and #13. So not much was new.

A number of you commented on the state of my Rover at the Birthday Party, so I thought I'd address those comments first. For the brave and curious ones that peaked underneath , yes, the frame is not stock. The dreaded Previous owner (actually the one before that) was a welder and decided to re-enforce the frame. So most of the frame has been encased with a second layer of steel. That PO also removed the rear crossmember and replaced it with the steel diamond plate bumper that you saw. In addition he cut off the rear spring mounts and installed springs from a Suburban (which I promptly fixed when I snapped the main leaves on those springs). When the frame dies, I will put a new, proper one underneath. "Your outrigger by your fuel tank is about to fall off." Actually no it isn't. That PO welded a second outrigger on up-side-down in place of the stock front fuel tank hanger. I actually think this is the one good thing he did because it provides more protection than the stock hanger.

I started my trip on Sunday, 18 June at about noon. Time passed quickly and I soon found myself driving in ~100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. The temp gauge started to climb away from the N, but didn't reach the redline so I watched it, and continued on. Somewhere Idaho, some 700 to 800 miles later, I was beginning to climb in altitude as I approached the Idaho/Montana boarder. My Rover started to stumble a bit and loose power. Knowing that this is symptomatic of the points going (which seems to always happen on a cross country run for me and I didn't get around to changing them before I left), I pulled over at a rest area and swapped the points. Of course this being the mid-afternoon, Nature decided that changing points was too easy, and rained on me. I pulled out and all was ok for a few miles, then the stumbling and power loss was back. Since I knew the timing and points were ok, I started to experiment. Putting the choke to about 1/2 made the stumbling go away. As time went by I found myself adding more and more choke to maintain 60 mph. I decided to attempt to make the next ~180 miles to Roy Caldwell's place where I would at least have shelter while I searched for the problem. By pulling the choke I was in fact richening the mixture and somehow the gas mileage increased! With the Rover running worse and worse, I pulled into Roy's that evening. I was about 1000 miles from home.

Roy and I pulled the Rochester carb that I had slapped on just before leaving (I think my Weber single barely runs on the lean side and I haven't gotten around to rejetting it yet). The only problems that we found were that the float levels were out of adjustment (possible limiting fuel intake) and there was some dirt in the main jet (which may have been picked up from the work bench). After that, the Rover was back to normal.

I set out the next morning, Tuesday the 20th, for Ottawa with the case of beer that Roy donated. Somewhere in North Dakota (oh maybe 5 or 600 miles from Roy's) the Rover suddenly died. I pulled to the side. It would start, but as soon as I let go of the key, it died again. If I left the key in start it would run until I let go of the key. (Of course it took me a while to discover this--after I had checked most else) The problem? The lead from the start switch to the coil had oxidized and severed. An easy short term fix with a crimping tool and I was on the road.

Near Minneapolis I discovered that a front tyre was on it's last legs. To be fair, I had put over 50,000 miles on the tyre and the PO had put and unknown additional amount on it. The steel belt wasn't quite showing, so I decided that it would make it to the Birthday Party. Which it did. There were no other adventures, and I pulled into Silver lake 5 days and 3268 indicated miles after starting.

You all know about the birthday party. I had a great time and there are non-zero odds that I'll be back next year.

Next was a quick trip down to NJ (about 530 miles), a week with the folks, then the drive to Maine for Miles Murphy's Down-East VII at Owl's Head (430 miles). Now that I was about as far away from home that I could get while still staying the lower 48 states, you might think that I'd take it easy on my Rover, right? Not me. For Saturday the East Coast Rover Co. had put together an off road course that was more difficult than intended. Dixon jumped in my Rover and we set off to try the course first. I managed to get stuck (frame hung on stumps) a couple of times and I put a large dent in the tranny crossmember when I discovered a rock that not only was invisible beforehand, but which suddenly stopped my Rover from a 3mph crawl.

After the Airshow on Sunday I was back on the road (430 miles back to New Jersey). I spent the 3rd getting newer tyres (which Charlie Haigh of Rovers North kindly donated) mounted and being nice to the Rover (changing the oil, refilling gear oil, greasing universals...). While I was loading to go on the morning of the 4th, Dad came by and asked if there was anything he could do. "Find me a gas cap." (I had left mine in Freeport, Maine) He came back a few minutes later with a plastic container of putty that just fit (without the extender spout in place) and was massive enough not to bounce out (and luckily for me the plastic was not soluble in gas). He asked, "Anything else?" "Find something to be a pour spout for my Red Jerry." (which is a one of those miserable US spec ones that has a wide mouth and requires a spout to be screwed in (which invariably over time breaks and the last one was left somewhere in Canada)). About an hour later he comes back looking quite pleased with himself. The old trap from the kitchen sink is a tapered pipe thread that just fit, giving me a 45 degree angle and a straight section of pipe (the inside of which Dad cleaned up) that would fit down the Rovers gas intake.

The trip west was mostly uneventful. I saw a bunch of newer Rovers in Colorado and a few of them deigned to wave back. The only significant event was a thunderstorm in Missouri. I could see the storm coming, but thought the highway would duck between rainclouds. It didn't. The day went from sunny to pouring rain with less than 100 foot visibility, an inch of water on the highway, and 40+ mph winds almost immediately. Of course I had the doortop off... At least the wind was from the passenger side of the Rover (which had the door top in) and I passed through the storm in a few minutes. 2723 indicated miles and a little over 75 hours after leaving New Jersey, I arrived in Ridgecrest, California.

All in all, the Rover indicated 7504 miles on the trip (I know that for large portions of the trip is was under-reading by about 10%). Not too bad for a 1972 Land Rover whose odometer claims 73,828 miles right now. I don't know, but I suspect the true number is at least 173,828 and probably 273,828. Then again, this is a Land Rover, who knows if that is the original odometer.

My Rover has had about 3 weeks to rest. On Friday I'm driving about 500 miles up to Paradise, California for another Rover meet and 500 miles back on Monday. Many more miles of off road adventure to log...

Copyright Dixon Kenner, 1995-2009. Last modified April 30, 2005.
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