THE PEUGEOT REVIVAL TOUR DAILY DIARYDay One
The day was right for travelling. Dry roads, light traffic and slight clouds made for quick coverage of the miles. The first part of our route carried us through Iowa, land of miles and miles of miles and miles. My co-pilot Wyatt, worn out from a night of revelry with his old Tops in Blues buddies, quickly nodded off and I was left to pilot us through the rolling green hills of North-Western Iowa.
Iowa soon gave way to South Dakota, land of the 10,000 Wall Drug signs. The miles came and went as did Souix Falls. Didn't get to see much of Gateway 2000 HQ except for the really large cow-spotted factory outlet store. Ooo! Ahhh!
We waved a fond goodbye to I-29 and a welcome hello to I-90. More miles and miles followed. Wyatt woke up soon after and we prepared for our first driver change as the gas needle dipped below a quarter tank.
And then tragedy struck! The Contour shuddered and stumbled. The speedometer dropped to zero yet the tach jumped 1000rpm. Something was definately amiss.
Thankfully a Conaco was at the next exit and we limped in. After parking the injured Ford we refueled ourselves then gave it the once over. No blown fuses, the transmission fluid was okay. Hmmm...
Well to make a long story short, the Contour blew an electronic transmission sensor which pretty much made the entire computer system blind to anything the transmission was doing. So our first day of this road trip has ended in Mitchell, SD with the wounded Contour out of action until Tuesday.
The only good thing that has come out of this is that we found a really great steak place...Chef Louies. This place is fantastic! The service is first rate, the prices are reasonable and the Angus certified steak is superb! The only problem is, this is probably the best place within walking distance of our over priced Comfort Inn so its all downhill from here.
So that does it for the first report. Stay tuned for the second installment of The Peugeot Revival Tour - Detour in Mitchell!
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Not much to tell for the second day of this tour-on-hold. We woke about 0830 and hit the free continental breakfast. What can I say, this was the finest bowl of Cheerios and cup of juice I have ever had. I am so glad the hotel establishments of the '90s have moved away from full service restaurants to the more satisfying selections of two cereals, weak coffee and day old pastries.
The rest of the day was spent enjoying the Mitchell paper, swimming in indoor heated pool/sauna/gym facility and watching that numbnut Jeff Gordon win another race.
Tomorrow begins my fight with Ford to get reimbursed for lodging expenses. Although I am not a seasoned Vegas book maker, I can predict that my odds of actually getting Ford to spring for this stay are about as good as Tyson getting back into pro-boxing. But I have one thing going for me and it's that we are in a serious situation here. I mean, we tried everything we could to continue the trip while the car got repaired. Rental car? Enterprise is closed until Monday and no-one else has pickup service. Besides, the closest agency is an hour away in Souix Falls.
We also tried to scavenge the part from another Contour on the dealers lot. No go there - they didn't have any V-6 Contours. And the dealer in Souix Falls didn't have the part either.
And even if we had the money to get a flight out, well, the last flight out of here was last fall. About the only way we were getting out of here was by renting a freakin' U-Haul!
So there was pretty much no way we were leaving this town (kind of like one of those bad CBS Movie of the Week plots). We are stranded and Ford is going to foot the bill. But being a stock holder, I was thinking of their welfare when I checked in - I took the military discount!
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And things are just as bad as I thought they would be. I called Ford's Customer Assistance Center and got the cold shoulder so bad I damn near came away with frost bite. This is how it went. I spoke with Cheryl Douglas who took all my necessary info and put me on hold. When she came back, she told me that my warranty didn't cover hotel costs or anything else beyond the basics and that I was basically SOL. This was definately unacceptable so I told her this. To whit she began the "well that's just too bad 'cause we ain't helpin'" song-and-dance. Not only did I not get any help from here, she adamantly refused to let me speak to anyone else there. "Uh...everyone here will tell you the same thing." That's the answer I got several times. Great! Does that really fall into the customer assistance category?
I then asked for some Ford office that I could write or call to that would allow me to file a complaint. Sorry, there was no place like that. All of the information she had taken from me was going to be filed and that was it. Super! Not only could she not help me, she was going to bury my complaint under all the other complaints from rubes like me who thought they might actually get some kind of after-the-sale help from Ford.
I thanked her sort of politely and advised her that I would be calling the Better Business Bureau which I did as soon as I got off the phone with Ford. I explained to Lou at the Detroit area BBB my situation and he diligently took down all the info, then told me that he'd have a complaint package in the mail. So this one is on hold until...
On the lighter side of Mitchell, Larry at the Ford dealer says my part was ordered and should be in tomorrow morning. Hmmm...with my luck, it'll miss the truck and I'll be here until Friday waiting for the damn thing. I really wish I had my omnipotent 8-ball right now.
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Okay, I successfully jinxed myself with that last line yesterday. Not only did the part miss the first Fed-Ex truck, but it missed a second one also. Where is it? Only the part knows because Fed-Ex sure doesn't. The folks at Rozum Ford have been trying to track it down with no luck.
In the credit where credit is due department, Larry Vogt, the assisant service manager, has done a fine job keeping on top of this. He's done everything in his power to get us back on the road. Unforunately the cruel, mangled hands of Lady Fate have played every card against him and us. To see if we can speed up this non-moving process, he was able to locate a dealer in Indiana that had the part and is shipping it by overnight air freight. Will it get here in time? Will we have to extend the tour into next week? Only tomorrow knows.
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The Twilight Zone. That's where I am. I'm in one of the episodes where the guy just can't seem to get anywhere no matter where he goes or what he tries. That is the only explanation for the things that have been happening.
We arose around 0900 this morning with the hope that at least one of the sensors would be in by this afternoon. We hurried through our morning routine of eating the free continental breakfast and checking out, then waited for the pick-up from the Ford dealer.
Just after noon, bad news smacked us upside the head. The part that was supposed to be coming from Indiana last night got shipped via the USPS but the ever reliable Post Office had no clue as to where it was at. So now we had two parts that just seemed to vanish into thin air and Larry was scrambling to find out what to do next.
There was a ray of hope shining through the layer of fecal matter that has covered the last few days. Larry spoke with the district service rep who agreed to pay for up to $150 worth of my hotel costs. This was agreed to before it was learned that the second part was missing. Now, if we can only get a bit more $$$ I'll be happy with that.
With two parts missing and no other way to get out of town, I decided to try something else. A little bargaining so to speak. You see, there's this really nice T-Bird V-8 sitting in the showroom that has been marked down to near $15,000. So I sat own with a sales man and hashed out a deal that would allow me to trade my car for the T-Bird and keep my payments about the same. Works for me. I submitted the paper work to the bank but it will be tomorrow afternoon before I get an answer back.
In the meantime, it was learned that the part from Indiana was supposedly on the ground in Souix Falls. The service department was confirming that fact when we left for the day. It was 4:45 and the service department closes at 5pm. It was too late for them to do anything even if they did get the part from Souix Falls. So we took our free rental car (another bit of good news courtesy of Larry) and checked back into the the AmericInn.
To occupy our time, we decided to visit one of the two attractions that Mitchell has to offer. One of these is the Corn Palace, a building made of corn. We steered well clear of this hayseed tourist attraction. Instead we went to a small auto restoration business just behind our motel called Telstar Motors. This guy has the ultimate collection of late '60's Mustangs on the planet. Every year Shelby, an original AC Cobra, a Hertz "Rent-a-Racer" 'Stang and even a basic 289 fastback.
So that brings us up to date. Tomorrow, three things can happen - 1) The part will come in and we will leave with my car; 2) We will leave in a new T-Bird; or 3) the part won't come in, my loan will be turned down and I will end up staying here for the rest of my life.
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We're finally on the road again. Larry called around 10:30 and said the car was ready. So I cancelled the T-Bird deal, signed the warranty repair papers and off we went. Wyatt took first shift and we headed west.
Nothing major occurred except for Wyatts unexplained brainlock which caused him to change lanes suddenly and darn near run off the road. Although he has no recollection of the event, he says it's probably just another in a series of cerebal flatulations.
The first driver change came just west of Rapids City, SD. A side note here: Wyatt recommends the 100% pure Buffalo beef burger at the Conoco Truck Stop.
After what seemed like endless miles, we finally exited South Dakota. There was much rejoicing. We finally felt like we were making progress. Wyoming came and went as did the first part of Montana. After driving at a somewhat "reasonable and prudent speed" through the twistys of I-90, we stopped for the second driver change in Hardin. Nothing of note to report here.
Wyatt again took the controls and piloted us through to Billings and on westward. These miles passed uneventfully and the end of day six loomed.
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Day Seven began just west of Butte, Montana in the Flying J Truck stop. Both of us were beat and dreading the coming drive through the Rockies. The main concern of mine was falling asleep at the wheel, running off the road and giving new meaning to the Coors tag-line "Tap the Rockies."
Fortunately, I somehow managed to stay awake. Too bad this stretch of road was done at night because there are some wonderfully curvy sections that just scream to be driven hard. But at night, I-90 is one scary road. It's a good thing Wyatt was asleep because I am sure he would have wanted off that ride real quick.
We made it to Ritzville, Washington before doing our next tank-up/driver change. Wyatt took the controls around 4am and I jumped in the back for some shut-eye. When I woke up an hour later, we had covered most of the distance down SR395 to Pasco, WA. I looked aound, made sure Wyatt knew where he was going then went back to sleep.
An hour later, I woke up and asked where we were. The reply, heading west on I-82. Whoops! Needed to be heading east. Mr Magellen had negelected to check the map when he exited Pasco to see which way to go to get to Oregon. So we burnt up two hours running up and down I-82. No big ting, bruddah. We just had to drive faster later.
Okay, stupidest law I have ever run into is in Oregon. Seems it is against state law to pump your own gas at the gas station. Instead, you have to let Sparky the Wonder Monkey do it for you at $1.53/gallon. Okay, could the politician that is related to an oil company exec please raise his hand?
We made it into Springfield about 2pm Pacific time. After a brief respite and a quick Mountain Dew, we began preparations for working on the car. Mainly getting the title transferred and picking up some gen-yoo-wine Peugeot parts. Then it was back to the Draggoo homestead for phase one of the Peugeot Revival.
As bad as everything went in the first 5 days of this trip, lady luck cut us some slack and things began going smoothly. After changing into our safety orange Team Peugeot jumpsuits, we changed the plugs, installed the Sears Die-Hard battery and replaced the PCV filter in short order. After almost two hours of work, we were ready to crank it up. One turn of the key illicited a short sputter then silence. A second turn and the motor coughed, sputtered and ran for about three seconds before dying. We waited a moment then tried a third time. With barely a turn, the 2.0-litre four banger belched to life and settled into a rough but steady idle. There was hope yet! With such success, we have finally decided to get some real sleep.
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After last nights round of good fortune, we were prepared for the worst. But again fortune favored us fools. The car started and ran just fine with one turn of the key. She was almost ready for the trip to the Sears Autocenter for her first tune-up in over two years.
After putting a little air in the tires and checking all the necessary connections, we backed the wagon out and headed for Gateway Mall (no, it is not painted in black and white spots!). Things got a little touchy as the temperature climbed above the halfway mark but we made it to Sears with no damage done.
There the 505 underwent some major work. The oil was changed, radiator hoses were installed, the radiator was flushed and filled, all tires were balanced, the front-end aligned, the chassis was lubed and the fuel injection system cleaned.
After three hours there, we headed over to Target where we picked up some new wiper blades, then over to the local Texaco for some real gas (once again pumped by some kid who had no idea how to pronounce the car's name).
After all this, we headed back to Wyatt's home where we installed a new cooling system thermostat and replaced the non-working (and almost completely corroded) fuel level sending unit. I must say that Wyatt did a fine job of installing this new sending unit given the fact that the Haynes manual covers only English cars, the new unit was from a 1984 sedan and the car we were working on was a 1985 wagon. If that wasn't enough, all three cars use a different type of sending unit! But he did it and without much cussing!
With those last items done, the car is ready for the road and we are ready for some serious rest.
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After a stout breakfast of French Toast and coffee courtesy of Mr. Draggoo, we headed out for home (kind of appropriate that we had French toast before setting off in a French car). However, we didn't get far before the first alarm sounded. Wyatt was driving through Springfield when the oil level warning light began flashing. We immediately stopped to investigate this but found no problems. After about 10 minutes, Wyatt restarted the car and the warning was gone. So off we went.
We followed Highway 126 east to Hwy 20 which took us through some scenic country. We crossed the lush forested mountains of the Cascades first then descended into the high plains of Eastern Oregon which look very similar to the plains of South Dakota. This was the best part of the trip visually with some views that were absolutely beautiful to behold.
By early afternoon we were in Idaho and heading east on I-84. The miles passed quickly but you couldn't tell it. The scenary hardly changed and the only way we knew we were getting anywhere was by the changing of the roadsigns.
Early evening found us crossing into Utah. It took us another several hours to get to our stopping point here on the southeastern side of Ogden.
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After about 7 hours sleep, we hit the road again. About an hour later we passed into Wyoming. Except for some brief mountains and large foothills, the scenery would remain the same for the rest of the trip, unbroken plains covered in grass with the occasional tree.
Early on I felt something was amiss. Wyatts car had been trailing a bit of white smoke and sounding louder than usual. Upon our first stop, I inspected the car but could find nothing wrong. When we started back out, I thought I heard a slight miss in the engine but this disappeared. Yet the loud sound of the motor persisted. This gave us both a bad feeling.
The miles in Wyoming passed and nothing happened. We even managed to get both cars up to 110mph on a couple of stretches (going downhill of course). Plus the white smoke was gone now so all looked well.
We put in for gas west of Laramie, WY. The loud sound of the motor was back and the engines idle was quite rough. So I took a closer look. After some investigating, we discovered that the boys at Sears had put way too much oil in the car, by about 2 quarts. Luckily the Texaco we were at had a service bay and we quickly drained some of that crude out. As for the loud engine sound, we surmised that there was a hole in the exhaust somewhere near, if not in, the catalytic converter. As this was no major problem, we hit the road again.
More miles passed and by late afternoon we were back in Nebraska, land of corn and not much else. Our first fuel stop here gave us a chance to look at the exhaust system one more time. This time we found the problem. Yesterday, while still in Idaho, Wyatt hit a very large piece of semi-truck tire. We believe this was the cause of the broken flange on the piece of the exhaust pipe that attaches to the rear of the catalytic converter. We also think it loosened the bolts holding the brackets that hold the pipe onto the catalytic converter causing them to vibrate out which in turn allowed the pipe to back it's way off the converter. So the mystery of the loud noise was solved. No big ting, bruddah. We pushed on.
Nightfall came. The moon rise over the flat lands of Nebraska was really cool to watch. Clouds rolled in on us just west of Lincoln and, after dodging several storms for the past 9 days, we had to finish our trip in the rain.
We arrived home about 2am, Tuesday, 19 Aug 97. After 10 days, nearly 4,000 miles and a 5 day delay, the mission was accomplished. It was fun while it lasted but it is good to be back home, even if home is in Nebraska.
Thank you and goodnight...
Well, after many letters to Ford, a claim with the Michigan BBB and a couple of trips to HP Smith Ford here in Omaha, I was finally able to get my reimbursal check for the entire amount I spent on hotels in beautiful Mitchell.
However I am still left wondering why the $283 came out of the budget of the regional service office instead of Ford directly? Why was the Customer Assistance person (one Fred "No Help Here" Crook) telling me Ford wouldn't pay me the money while the regional service rep was able to get me a check? Gotta' love big business in this country!