Nice Day for a Walk September 14, 2000
Thursday September 14, 2000 10:42:17 pm

I thought I might have to work late tonight so I drove the scout today.

I usually don't for a number of reasons. The first is the fact that the number of miles I can squeeze out of a gallon of gas coupled with the ever-soaring price of those gallons of gas simply make it economically unviable to drive it every day. Another is that the tires on the scout really need to be replaced- bordering on unsafe.

Today I became explicitly aware of another reason I don't drive the scout every day. I have never taken the time or money to actually have a good close look at the reality of the condition of all its systems and components.

The fuel guage has never worked properly. When it's full it reads a little under 1/2 and when it's empty it reads, well, empty. The question I am still thrashing out is how empty is empty?

I have run out of gas in the scout in the past and I know how it acts when the tank is serving up the last of it's reserves. Fortunately, I had a 2 gallon can of gas in it when that happened.

Well, that happened again today.

I had just left the office on my way to Hunan Kitchen for some takeaway chicken fried rice and crab rangoon. I had barely made it a block when the scout started chuffing and stuttering. I knew what was going on. The needle was clearly buried in "no-go land".

Fortunately, I once again had a 2 gallon can of gas with me. I was about 75% full. I poured it in, got my lunch, and estimated that it should get me home. I had $3 left, though, in case I needed to get more gas.

As it turned out, my estimation was incorrect. Yup, I ran out of gas a second time. This time I still had that gas can with me, but it was empty. Just as I passed over the crest in the center of the bridge over the Mississippi river I cross every day, the engine died. I let it coast about 200 yards figuring every inch it rolled was one I wouldn't have to walk.

When all of it's kinetic energy was finally dissipated by the rolling friction of the large but bald 33x12 inch tires, I was about 3/4 of a mile from the gas station I would have stopped at if I had made it.

So, I got out that same old can and lit out on foot. I had only walked a couple hundred feet when a dude in a pickup truck stopped and gave me a ride. I got the full spectrum exposure to the walk back, though, and was carrying the full gas can which was just heavy enough to make me tired of carrying it.

When I got back to the scout after about a 15 minute walk, I poured all the gas in the tank just like I had done earlier in the day and hit the ignition.

I must have drained the tank further the second time, because when I turned the key the first time, the engine almost caught on the gas in the carburetor, but didn't- and wouldn't. I cranked and cranked until the battery died. I cursed the spray can of starting fluid that was in the other car.

I still had another chance, though, I thought. In addition to just a few more drops of gas I could pour down the throat of the carb, I also had my jumpstart pack. It's something I bought a while back that has proven to be worth every cent of the $80 I spent for it many times over. Basically, it is a battery with jumper cables coming off it packaged in a tough yellow plastic housing complete with handy carrying handle and plug-in wall adapter for recharging it.

I figured I'd just pour a few drops of gas down the carb to get it primed, slap that charger on there, and be only about 20 minutes late getting home.

But when I opened the trunk I saw smoke coming off the battery. Actally, from the negative battery terminal. I suppose the terminal on the end of the negative cable must have gotten a crack in it somehow and when that happened the current cranking the engine over was flowing through only half of the terminal which had overheated, melted and broken clean apart.

"FINE," I said to myself (I said some other things too, but we won't go into that), "I'll stuff this black cable back here behind the power steering pump so it won't get caught in anything and cause problems, I'll trickle this gas into the carb, hook the charger on the engine block for a ground, start it up and finally drive home."

The problem was that the charger needed to be What? Recharged! It probly could have started most cars two or three times, but it didn't have the chutzpah to crank the scout.

So, I once again lit out on foot, this time in search of a payphone. I had 45¢ and was a long distance call from home. "Well," I said to myself, "that 1-800-call-att guy is totally offensive, but I'll give his product a try nonetheless."

That was fine, except I couldn't remember my phone number. Stupid, eh? Well it's the second time in two days I've gone to call home and couldn't remember my own number. How feeble. Anyway, I made a collect call to Aunt to get MY number, then made another collect call to Ruth and told her to bring my tools and come get me at the gas station.

She picked me up and took me to the scout from which I harvested the battery and we headed for the parts store. The list for acquisition was two new battery terminals, (the red one looked OK, but for $2.50 why not do both?) and possibly (but hopefully not) a new battery. I would have the battery tested by which process the battery would also be charged.

The battery tester took about 20 minutes to charge the battery and tell me it was bad. So the $5 exploded into $70. "$70?" you ask, "isn't that kinda steep?" "Yup," I answer "not only does it have to be side-post, but that engine my charger couldn't turn needs plenty of cranking amps so I bought the most expensive battery I have bought in my life." And although I was less than thrilled about it, the scout had to have a battery.

By this time, it was night and dark, but I had the foresight to tell Ruth to bring a flashlight with her when she first picked me up and I installed the new battery terminal and battery by it's weak-but-sufficient light.

I hit the ignition again and got the same results I got before. ARghh! This time, though, I had that blasted can of starting fluid- it was in the trunk of the ciera. It only took 2 or 3 good soakings to get the old scout going again and Ruth followed me home.

I was pretty tired by the time we got home at 5 to 9 pm, but we had gotten home just in time to watch the Dick van Dyke Show on TVLand so I was satisfied. The scout was home, with a new battery, and I was relaxing with a large, cold beverage in front of a good, ol' TV favorite.

Things turned out OK after all.

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