Route 66: Kingman, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ

Route 66: Kingman, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ

September 8, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Miles driven: ~200
Engines exploded: 1

Today was interesting. I’ll begin at the end, because that’s how all stories are told, right? No? Well, too bad. Around 1pm I was driving on I-40, as Route 66 in Arizona jumps on and off the Interstate for a good portion of the state. I was about 40 miles past Flagstaff and I hear this clinking sound. I had my music on, so I didn’t even notice it at first, but I did think the van felt a little sluggish getting up to speed. Once I noticed the noise, I paused my music and listened to try to figure out what it was. You see, the van is kinda beat up from when I got it, so there’s some metal around the driver’s wheel well that I thought may be rubbing on the tire or something. It’s done it before and I just hammered it back in place, so that was my first thought as to what was happening. Then I thought, “I hope that’s not a piston misfiring or something”, at which point my engine light started blinking, a loud noise happened, and smoke was everywhere. Luckily I was able to steer the van off the road and it promptly died.

Now, I may have said a couple words of profanity immediately after I got off the road. I got out of the van, opened the hood to a waft of smoke and oil smell, and then looked underneath to see oil spilling everywhere, including a massive trail of oil behind the van where I got off the road. Upon a closer inspection, I saw what appeared to be a complete piston rod sitting on the cross-member and a massive hole blown through the oil pan.

I’m not sure exactly how a piston rod exploded through the motor or what caused it, but I can only imagine the amount of damage that it caused and know that the motor is essentially non-repairable. I have to imagine that the camshaft and/or crankshaft are destroyed and the cylinder that piston rod shot out of probably has gouges torn into the sides. The cost of a new (or used) motor and to pay for someone to install it would be more than the cost of a cheap used car, and probably more than what I paid for the van to begin with, so I decided to abandon it and take whatever little cash a junkyard would give me for it. During the hour I waited for the tow truck to arrive, I started ripping out what I could.

I talked to the junkyard people to make sure they didn’t start “picking” through the van as I went to the nearest rental car place and got a vehicle to come back and load up as much as I could. Anything that was attached to the van I chalked up as a loss and basically grabbed all my personal stuff, which is worth quite a lot. I had almost my entire tool collection in the van (about $2k worth), all my backpacking/camping equipment ($4-5k), my camera gear ($4k), and my laptop ($2k), among other things. I was gonna rip out what I could from the electrical system, but the rental car I got was pretty packed from everything else and it would have been a lot of work to take the electrical system apart, as I built the bed around the bulk components.

Surprisingly, I found the van exploding to be more funny than upsetting. Yes, it sucks I just spent a lot to fix the cooling system, but that’s part of what makes it so funny. If it exploded three or four days ago, I would have saved a lot of money, but of course it had to wait until today to do it. On top of that, just three months ago I bought brand new tires and had the radiator and transmission flushed. Oh, and I got an oil change five days ago. I mean, come on, how funny is that? I have to laugh; there’s just not much else to do about it.

On another plus side, if I build another van, I know what I used and didn’t use in this one that would just be a waste to do again. For example, I pretty much never used the stove, the fridge, the microwave, or the water heater. I enjoyed having running water, electricity, and a large bed. I loved the “cabin” feel inside the van, but I realize that it made the van weight a lot. In fact, the van weighed in at 7,800 lbs on the junkyard scale, and the base weight is only 4,816, so all the stuff I added weighed a ton and a half! Even though I loved the “cabin”, I wouldn’t do it again; that way it would weigh a lot less. Regardless of what I decide to do next, the van was a fun project and I enjoyed building it and learning from it.

Ok, now that the end is covered, lets go back to the beginning, before things went bad. My first stop was at the Hackberry General Store not too far North (66 East) of Kingman. It’s a pretty cool store with a lot of old Route 66 collectibles, old fuel pumps, and old cars on display. I was looking at some Route 66 photos yesterday that were taken in Arizona and wondering where they were taken at specifically, and today I immediately realized it was the Hackberry General Store. Definitely a place worth stopping at.

I kept driving until I saw the Grand Canyon Caverns and the giant metal dinosaurs out front that were one of the things featured on my Arizona Route 66 map. I’m glad I stopped. Other than the metal dinosaurs, they have a bunch of old cars on display and a lot of it is modeled after Radiator Springs from the movie Cars. Coolest thing there is definitely Herbie, the #53 Bug. Makes me wanna watch some of the old Herbie movies.

One of the last things I got to see today was the Twin Arrows Trading Post. It’s no longer functioning and there isn’t even an area you can “legally” stop to see it and get pictures. Something like this is too awesome to not get pictures, so I parked anyway (directly in front of a No Parking sign) and did my best to hurry. I won’t tell if you won’t.

Not too long after that is when I started hearing the clinking sound and the van engine exploded.

All things considered, today was still a pretty good day. Sure, the van exploded, but I got to see some cool stuff. I was hoping to make it to New Mexico today, but oh well. A huge chunk of Route 66 is on I-40 for a lot of Arizona, so I don’t think it’ll take that long to get there. I only rented a car for the next seven days, so I may have to be picky about where I stop and how often if I want to make it to Wisconsin within that timeframe. I already have a feeling I’m gonna extend the rental by a couple days.

For sure I wanna stop at the WigWam Motel in Holbrook, AZ; Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX; the midpoint sign in Adrian, TX; the Route 66 Museum in Tulsa, OK; the Golden Driller of Tulsa; the Blue Whale of Catoosa, OK; Pops in Arcadia, OK (largest soda selection anywhere); Springfield, MO to see someone awesome; St. Louis, MO for the Arch; the Gemini Giant Muffler Man in Wilmington, IL; and Tall Paul, the Muffler man in Atlanta, IL. Other than that, I’m just gonna stop when I can.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *