Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vehicle prep

I leave next week. I'm very excited. I like telling people about it and seeing them get excited too. Especially eople who could care less about the manned space program.  At my motorcycle club (MC) meeting last night, I told the club what I was doing.  Other than a bunch of 'gay' jokes because of a poorly worded description of something, this group of rough and tumble bikers were a little bit captivated, and curious too.  Mostly I think they were happy for a brother to be doing something he really wants to do. Of course, the ribbing was good of the good natured sort, not mean spirited.  These men are my brothers, my family. I do love finding other people who can admit to being a bit of a space geek, like me. I found a few in my club, cool!

I'm under prepared for this trip, I know that. It's an aspect of this trip that I'm enjoying (and dreading). The spontaneity of it is what makes it fun.  I like the fact that I leave in just a few days, and I still don't even know for sure what states I'll be driving through.  I like keeping the plot simple:  Me and my car are in Madison.  The space shuttle is going (kow) to launch very early in the morning on Superbowl Sunday.  All I need to do, is to negate that difference. The shuttle is not coming to Madison, so the only option is for me to go there. Other than that, I just have rough ideas, that's what's making it fun. We'll see how it goes, I guess.

I'm finding that going on a 3000 mile road trip in the middle of winter, having never done it before, requires some vehicle prep.  The newest member of my vehicle stable (in addition to my Giant bicycle, and My highly modified Harley Davidson  2005 FLSTSCI motorcycle) is a 2008 BMW 135i.  I'm almost ashamed of how much I love that car. I never thought I would find a car that gives me the same feeling I get from riding a motorcycle. This one is as close as possible, and it's very close.   I'm not so fond of the class stigma those kidney grills put onto me, from both directions. I kind of wish it wasn't as recognizable as a; fancy, la-tee-da, yuppie, rich people kind of car. That's not why I got it, but if that comes with it, oh well. Oh ya, it's a convertible too!  It just seems like the next natural step, after my last German car.  My last car was a Volkswagen Jetta (turbo 1.8).  I really liked that car. It was the car I bought after spending significant time working overseas, where all I drove were small cars.  Back then, I found myself back in Bakersfield California, (where I lived for 7 years) driving around in my giant Dodge Ram that I had leased . Back when I leased it (huge mistake), I actually needed a truck for transporting the occasional jet engine tooling, or parts,  but when my job role switched from field service to installation and start-up, I had no need for it.  I stuck out the lease and then, upon advice from a very smart guy, downsized to the Jetta.  The little car with the zip, thanks to it's turbo, was great, I miss it.  Even my sister in law liked driving it.  She got to drive it because  my brother let me store the car with them, in Chicago, after I sold my house in California, but hadn't gotten a new home yet, because I was working in Europe, and living out of hotels there.  It was useful and sporty. Fun to drive, and dependable. With the exception of the clutch once getting damaged, because I drove through a giant puddle and immediately parked it, it never gave me a single problem.  I've got nothing against big vehicles because of their environmental impact. I don't know why some people think that.  In fact I feel a little bit of pity for those nuts who demonize SUVs and big trucks.  They're obviously people in search of an 'enemy', not my kind of people, that's for sure.   Anyway, I needed to get my BMW prepped for the road trip. This being a modern car, oil changes are not done on a standard schedule, the on board computer monitors the stuff and tells you when to bring the car in for service.  According to my car, it's not yet ready for an oil change (it'll be it's first one).  This, possibly the most important, issue has been neglected by me so far. I sent one message to my local dealership asking about getting the oil change done a little early (on their dime, as the car came with no cost maintenance for 4 years), but it went mostly unanswered.  For some reason I'm hesitant to ask them.  They are great, but I still have that strange feeling of not belonging to the elite BMW family around that place, and I think that's a good thing. What was it W.C. Fields said....? Oh well, I guess I'll just have to settle for people thinking of me as the biker with the hot BMW.  I get it from both sides. Not that it's true, but sometimes I get the feeling that my biker, and even work, friends think I'm 'putting on airs' because of the car, and that the folks at BMW think I don't quite fit into their demographics. It's true, I don't fit into boxes very well. I'm me, and I'm unique!   I don't much care though, because I love that car!  I do care what other people think, people that say they don't are liars or sociopaths. But I only care to a point.  Now that I wrote this I think I'll go to the dealership this weekend (If I can make time), and see what I can get done.  After all the car still has the same oil some German in Leipzig, Germany put into it in June of 2008, when it was built there.  That was well over ten thousand miles ago.  I don't think it's unreasonable to want it changed before a 3000+ mile road trip. Right? But I guess changing it isn't really the issue, money is the other. I could pay to have it changed, many people do, but I don't want to.  I want to get them to do the FREE service early. That might take some talking. I'll keep you updated

Anyway, the oil change is the last of my vehicle prep. Another hurdle I had to overcome was the wheels and tires.  The original tires are long gone. I chewed them up in WAY too few miles. I couldn't help it. I did a couple autocrosses and generally drove the car hard. I was not gentle with the factory runflats. I knew that those tires would not be going back onto the car next spring. In fact, back around Thanksgiving '09, the day before I dropped the car off at Terry's car care to have my new winter tires (Blizzak LM-25s from the installed,  I went out into the UW's (the University of Wisconsin, where the power plant I work at is located)  lot 60 and demolished the little remaining tread by doing some very childish, yet amazingly fun stuff (burnouts, donuts, drifting, etc...).  They put my new winter tires onto the same wheels that came with the car.  When I bought the car I knew I would need two sets of tires. A summer set, and a winter set. So, I bought a second set of wheels along with the car.  As of yesterday those wheels are now mounted with my new summer tires (Yokohama S drive) and  waiting at Terry's for me to have them swapped out, just before I leave. In order to accomplish that I had to move my schedule for buying new summer tires up by a few months. I wasn't going to get them until spring.  The only possible hold up was that when I dropped off the boxes with my new wheels, at Terry's, I decided I wanted to take a look at them and opened a box. Uh oh! the wheels in the box were not the ones I ordered. I ordered the type 182s in black. The wheels in the box were type 216s in silver (I found out later thanks to In the end, after much thought. I decided I liked the ones they gave me, better than the ones I ordered. Fate, I guess. Whew.... ok, nuff said about tires and wheels, other than I hope switching to summer tires for this road trip doesn't end up being a mistake.  I'd hate to slide off a road or something just because I wanted to save my precious winter tread.

As far as other prep to the car, it mostly involved getting my electronics up to date.  After getting more tickets than I care to think about in the last year, in my new hot rod, I bought a radar detector. It's the escort 9500ix. It's a good one with GPS and lots of bells and whistles. It's easy to configure using a computer. It's update-able via the Internet, and I've got it all up to date now. I also got the cable to hard wire power to it from my car, so I don't have to use the stretchy cord to the cigarette lighter.  Unfortunately, I won't have enough time to install that before I go (I think).  I also updated the maps on my GPS. It's the Garmin zumo 450. It's made for motorcycles (which I got more than  my fair share of grief for having it, as a former head Road Captain for my MC. One guy even started calling me "GPS" until I set him straight.), but other than being a bit clunky (it's made for being outside) it'll work just fine in the car.  I have some new RAM mount stuff on order that will let me stick it to my windshield and use it. I'm hoping to make some time to create a route for my drive through the Great Smokey Mountains and the Tail of the Dragon.   Like the 9500ix, I also have a power cable coming so I can hard wire it to the car, someday.  I also have some performance stuff on it's way for the car. I'm hoping (and planning for Tuesday night) to install it before I leave.  That is the Dual cone intake from  Burger Motorsports.  My car is slightly modified already. I have their JuiceBox3 (pinout version) installed in my little kroutmobile. How could I not get that thing. It gives you gobs more horsepower for just a few hundred bucks (thank God I have a good job (kow)). I had to do it, how else would have I been able to shred those tires.  Well, apparently the mod bug is taking hold in me, because now I  bought that intake. I also bought a chip burner from them. This tool allows me to keep the JB3 up to date with the most current maps and upgrades.  That already arrived, and I've already burned the chip that comes with it with the latest version (1.41beta) of Terry's (as in Terry Burger of Burger motorsports) product. All I'll have to do now, is when I'm under the hood anyway to install the DCI,  is to dig my way into the ECU, pop open the JB3, and stick in the new chip. Easy breezy lemon squeezy.  I have to say thank you to Terry, at Burger MS, he went out of his way to get send me the DCI. I got an email saying that they were currently out of stock, and that they were waiting on some to show up. I told him about my upcoming road trip, and he made an extra effort to get them sent out to me as soon as they had them. I should have the parts on Monday. Thanks Terry.   Next step in my mod journey (but not for quite a while) will be new downpipes that let the turbos breathe a little easier.  Yes I said turboS, as in plural.  My bimmer has two of em.....damn I love that car. One of the best things about it now, is that I own it outright. I just (yesterday) refinanced my mortgage and added the car into it. It's all mine. I hate debt. Now if I could just get the snobs and elitists at BMWCCA to allow open (convertible) cars to participate in their driver events, I may get a little closer to happiness. Especially since this year's Oktoberfest   is at Road America, very near me,  this August.

Alright. I guess that pretty much covers  (maybe a little too much) my vehicle preparations for this trip. My main concern is if having summer tires is the right choice. I guess we'll all find out together. Just a little quicker for me.


At January 31, 2010 at 4:59 PM , Anonymous dragonlms said...

Prepping the car is as much of an adventure as the adventure itself. And it sounds like you're having a heck of a good time doing it!

I envy you this adventure. Not so much that you are going to a warmer climate. Not so much that you are going to see a shuttle launch. Not so much that you will be on vacation from work for over a week. I envy you because you have the adventure-ism to just go without the trip being all planned out. Now that's a true adventure! Someday I'll have the adventure-ism to do that. Thing is, I would want someone to go with me and experience it with me. So maybe not quite as adventurous as doing a trip like that alone. But still, a big step for a planner like me.

It's cool that you're taking the trip in a vehicle you love. Makes the whole thing even more fun, seeing as you'll be in that vehicle a heck of a lot of hours. Will there be any stretches where speed limits won't be an issue and you can just let er rip?


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