Wednesday, August 15, 2007

San Francisco 15 Aug 2007

 Last night I lay in bed and listened to the fog horns in San Francisco Harbour, bringing back memories of the year we had previously spent here. It was thirteen year ago almost to the day we left San Francisco aboard a United States C5 Galaxy with the 1919 Vickers Vimy tucked into the cargo hold and the Vimy entourage on the upper deck bound for England. Again we were sleeping at Peter and Tessa's house, but now with the addition of three gorgeous children.


Yesterday we stopped off at John Lanoue's (builder of the Vimy) hangar at Novato airfield where he helped Lang fix the broken starter cable on the Bambino. For the last few days we had been push starting the car.


From there we drove into San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge and had our first glimpse at the Pacific Ocean that we had left behind 77 days ago, and 20,000 kms back at Vladivostok. We really feel as if we are now over a major hurdle and even though we still have 5,000 kms still to go we feel we are on the final stage of our trip.


To get here to San Francisco we travelled from South Dakota into Wyoming  crossing the Powder River Pass in the Big Horn Mountains at 9,666ft. The poor Bambino struggled at these altitudes with drastically reduced power, but the scenery was spectacular.


We continued west going through Yellowstone National Park, somewhere I had always wanted to visit. While we were driving through the park we saw a herd of buffalo at close quarters also a coyote, and numerous varieties of birdlife. We drove around Lake Yellowstone and out the southern entrance then through the Grand Teton National Park with it's awesome mountain peaks still with glaciers visible.


We stayed overnight in Idaho Falls in Idaho, famous for their potatoes as their number-plates extol. Here Lang discovered a problem with the alternator, which he thinks is the bearings. Being the weekend no workshops were open, so we crossed our fingers and continued westward. Fortunately we have got this far without it causing any further trouble and over the next few days we have a Fiat expert going to go over the car for us. Also we will have the ding on the side repaired.


From Idaho we went across the hot, dry and very barren landscape of  Nevada. The monotony only relieved by crass casino settlements forming artificial oasis along Route 80. We overnighted in Battle Mountain not quite by choice. Here we filled with fuel and as we were going to leave and do another hours drive the car stopped dead and no persuasion would get it started again. I booked into a conveniently placed motel and we pushed the car back to their parking area and Lang fiddled until dark to no avail.  He sent out e-mails with the symptoms to our fiat experts, and Dave in California, Torsten in Hamburg and Damen in Melbourne all came back with lots of possibilities but each ended his email with the same question - have you checked what went in at your last fuel stop?  Petrol engines don't run too well on diesel!


None the less it was a sense of relief, after a restless night, that it was not a major problem, and we did not need to arrange trucking for the car. After draining the tank we filled up with the good stuff and managed 750km to San Francisco Bay area. It was a pity to find that after 5,000km of great roads the I-80 freeway from Reno to Sacramento over the Donner Pass had a surface as rough as the worst Russian efforts. Maybe all those California taxes should be directed a little more to road maintenance.


We intend to enjoy a few lay days here in San Francisco and catch up with many of our friends in the area.