Here is Eric’s account of our trip heading South…Enjoy!
It is now Saturday and we have left our house, packed up all that we have left, and are a week into our boat trip. We have yet to actually move the boat. At this point my hands are sore and I don’t see them getting better any time soon.
The trip had a bold start. My 1975 Bronco has had low oil pressure issues for the last few months. I first saw low oil pressure and thought it was the old gauge, or sending unit, but after changing the sending unit and checking the gauge it looked like it really had low oil pressure. I found that the fuel pump was flooding the oil with fuel, easy fix, but the damage was done. The week before we left I changed out the oil pump, main, and connecting rod bearings in hope to get back my oil pressure. It was a fools errand though, the new bearings would be sacrificial without a full engine rebuild. However, the bronco only had to make the 750 miles to my folks house in the panhandle of Florida.
So we loaded up all that we could fit into a 42 year old Bronco and our Toyota minivan. The poor minivan had so much stuff in it that I had to add more air to the tires to make them round again. We started to drive off to our first of many gas stops. The Bronco gets about 11 miles per gallon and only has a 12 gallon tank, so we were going to stop for fuel every two hours. With all my repairs the Bronco started with an oil pressure of 45 psi, good, but when the engine warmed up, it dropped to 20ish psi. So I drove nervously down the highway at 2800 rpm with just under 20 psi. I was looking at my gauges every few seconds and it took me a little while to realize that I was driving without any mirrors of any kind. You see I never finished the paint job on the bronco, so the side doors didn’t have mirrors and because the truck was so full of stuff I couldn’t see out the back either. I tried to stick my head out to change lanes as much as possible, but since the the Bronco has 5 pt harnesses I didn’t get that far out. Most of my lane changes were on faith and my driving was like Mr. Magoo. However, we were barreling down the freeway at about 65 mph, and my speedometer was reading closer to 14 (yes, another probelm). It’s surprising it moved it’s lazy ass at all.
We made the first gas stop without incident. This was the longest continuous driving trip the Bronco had made in over 10 years. I fueled up, and checked the oil. Just as I expected and feared, the oil was getting darker and started to have a silverish hue to it. The silver was no doubt from the new bearings. The question was would they last. I was running Amsoil 20w-50 wt oil, and the super oil would hopefully hold off a catastrophic failure. So with the strength of a prayer I jumped back into the Bronco and started her up…or tried to. The starter motor wouldn’t engage. I jumped out a little disappointed and unearthed a steel bar & beat on the starter trying to loosen up the bendex. No luck. I then had my wife try to start the Bronco while I hit the starter motor and that got it engaged. So we drove off to the next fuel stop, two more hours of unknown klinks and bangs, the whine of 33” super swampers, constantly sweating over the gauges, and no radio because it wasn’t loud enough to hear.
The next gas stop was not so lucky, the starter never engaged, however my wife was sport enough to help me push start the Bronco in her flip flops. I make it a rule to try to have manual transmissions for the push start capability. And that’s how we finished out the first day, a lunch stop and two more fuel stops, and push starts each time. I tried to find either flat or down hill slopes to fuel from. Only once did I fuel up and the down hill ended in a curb followed by a drop off. I just had to get into the Bronco fast, and pop the clutch before the drop off. I was able to get it started just as the wheels started to go over the curb. The entire trip each gas stop showed a little more silver in the oil and a little more chance of a catastrophic failure. We finally made it to the hotel while the oil pressure gauge was dancing on my last nerve at 17 psi at 2800 rpm and 0 psi at anything less then 1500 rpm. But we did make it to the hotel were there was a pool, and a bed. We had been sleeping on air mattresses for the last 6 weeks.
The next day I woke up knowing that I had to change out the starter. I think if I asked Kelly for another push start she would shoot me with one of my own guns. Luckily changing the starter on the Bronco is a 10 min job, so I took the minivan to Autozone to get a new starter with another lifetime warrantee. For some reason they couldn’t find my old starter lifetime warrantee in the system. I’ve seen this before, but for $50 I didn’t care. Then I thought about the oil, it turns out they didn’t carry the straight 50 weight oil, but O’Reilly’s does, so I did an oil and filter change in their parking lot. Additionally I found that my power steering was leaking, that was new, but par for the course, so load up on some power steering fluid and we’ll deal with that later.
We set off on the final drive to park the Bronco, a mere 350 miles down the road. The 50 weight oil only helped marginally getting me about 2 additional psi, not enough to be comforting. However unlike the day before the starter worked, and that was good. All was well on the highway, but then I had to follow the wife for the last 40 miles or so on the roads of southern Alabama and northern Florida because she had the directions. This was the most nerve racking part of the trip. Kelly thought she was helping me by going the speed limit, 45-50, she thought going slower would be good for the Bronco. However, going slower meant lower rpms, which means lower oil pressure, which means higher chance of KABOOM. So I would ride up on her bumper and wave at her to go faster and she ignored me. (In my defense, I couldn’t see him through my rearview mirror because of all the crap in the minivan. But I digress…) By the grace of God we made it to my folk’s house, I’m really not sure how.
The third day of travel would get us down to the boat. The Bronco was parked but that left us with some additional items that would need to be transported to the boat and the fact that we would have to fit all four of us into the minivan. I had anticipated this problem and brought a large canvas bag that I could lash to the roof of the minivan. We moved all our clothes into the roof bag and some other items that wouldn’t be hurt if we ran into a little rain. And run into rain we did. As things would have it there was a tropical storm passing through the east cost of Florida while we were driving. So yes, there was some rain.
We’ve been working our butts off on the boat since we arrived. It’s exhausting, but rewarding. We’ll catch you up on our first few weeks in FL next time.