Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Check engine? Check life!

The month of February proved even more depressing than January for anyone who enjoys the sun as much as I do. Who would give up living in Sydney, Australia, for this kind of weather – something former colleagues now living in Sydney remind me, frequently. Oh well, when summer rolls around I will likely have forgotten just how cold Colorado can become. Colorful Colorado? More like Chilly Colorado!

The picture above I used recently in a post to Facebook – but it’s worth duplicating here. I’m not a reliable fan of Facebook and don’t turn to the site as often as I should, even as I see email notifications in my inbox encouraging me to take time to check what others have said. As a full-time writer, being paid for my opinions and commentaries, I feel it’s almost a betrayal of my clients’ trust to simply put down my thoughts in a medium such as Facebook, and do so for free!

However, it was quite a different experience earlier in the month. As mentioned in my previous post, Margo and I made the trip back to California visiting clients in both, Southern and Northern California, while finding time to catch up with good friends Brian and Jan in Simi Valley as well as long time extended family members Larry and Kathleen in Incline Village, Lake Tahoe, Nevada. And an onerous trip it proved to be.

Anyone living near the mountains can attest to just how fickle the weather can be this time of year and while we planned our trip to include a quick dash through the Rockies before turning south through Las Vegas, mother nature stepped in and dumped snow heavily along the arterial highway we were planning to use on a way home, I70 West! So, we left a day earlier and headed to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Flagstaff, Arizona, adding another 500 miles to our original route.

While we have been kicking around which vehicle to take, we were fortunate indeed to have chosen the Jeep SRT. Not the ideal vehicle for heavy snow, or indeed rain, which we encountered as we exited Arizona, but with a lot more ground clearance than anything else in the garage, it more than stood up to the challenges. There was an issue with tire tread depth but with our track experience, we like to dirve them till we chord them!

The return trip proved to be an even lengthier adventure and we have built the weekend in as a buffer. Our plans had called for us returning Friday night but the lights on Villa Lyon weren’t turned on until late Sunday evening – it cost us two extra days, and we never saw Salt Lake City! No, this time is a slip and a slide down the eastern flanks of the Sierras as we dropped down from Incline Village into Carson City before hooking up with Nevada Highway 93 and a tricky run into Las Vegas. Finally!

With the weather forecasts all calling for snow, no matter which route we took, caution prevailed and we spent a leisurely Friday in Vegas enjoying, once again, a great steak dinner at Mastro’s. Having missed visiting Vegas on the way to California, it was a chance to enjoy a little better weather before heading home. The only price we paid for this adventure was in tire wear – with the soft, summertime only, Pirelli P-Zero’s installed we were down to the tread bars before departure, such that today, as we point the Jeep out of the estate, here in Niwot, we can boast of having a great pair of slicks all round – a state that will not last much longer as I troll the internet for a good set of Pirelli all-season tires.

This week, the Corvette Z06 heads out of here on a trailer as our good friend, Curt of Corvette Spa, takes it back to his heated garage in Wyoming to prep for our first track outing, likely to be late April as of right now. We just cannot see March offering up any suitable dates, and with the weather conditions the way they are right now, that could be a blessing. Not that we plan on doing much to the Z06 right now, other than making sure it will be safe to take on track, but we do have an issue with the clutch and now an emissions (pollution control) component is causing the dreaded “Check Engine” light to come on.

In the coming weeks it will not be just the Z06 that we have to take care of, but the RV as well. I tried firing up the diesel, but on came that pesky “Check Engine” light again, and when I tried giving the big diesel a few extra revs, on came the much brighter red “Stop Engine” light – an indicator light I didn’t even know we had on the coach. Turned out I needed to top up the coolant and once done, it all fired up and while it was running I elected to take my daughter, Lisa, with me on a 50 mile ride around the neighborhood to see if anything fell off or shook lose.

An RV is truly two assemblies. There’s the home, naturally, and then there’s the chassis and drive train underpinning it all. It takes two different proprietors to maintain the coach, so first it will be to Freightliner to make sure everything is up to snuff before then taking it back to the Tiffin dealership to “summerize” and make it travel-worthy again. Yes, there’s quite a program already coming together for the warmer weather we are so eagerly anticipating.

We will be doing track events; in Southern California with NASA SoCal at Willow Springs followed by another in Northern California at Sonoma with NASA NoCal. We will also squeeze in a weekend with NASA Rocky Mountains at High Plains Raceway, a track at which we will also do just a couple of open lapping days to keep our hand in and to make sure we have our heads on right for the more important “social outings” where we promote Pyalla Technologies.

This year, we are taking advantage of the Jeep SRT purchased in quite another way, as with the purchase of any new SRT (Jeep or otherwise) we get a free track day anywhere in the US as long as there’s an opening, and this year we will be taking in all the excitement that the famous Road Atlanta circuit can throw at us – something that may prove to be a highlight for the year. The coach will be home and office for almost all of these trips and I see Atlanta on our schedule more than once, so the RV is definitely going to make it to the east coast in 2014.

Watching Check Engine lights come on as they have this past month was also a reminder for Margo and me to check where we are headed, and this year there’s a sense that it will be a year of substantial change. In the latest birthday card, “I think this is the year of big change,” Margo wrote and then added, “I am sure it will be a happy one”! Check Engine – of late it has many more implications than simply requesting someone to look under the hood.

Our lovely home, Villa Lyon, is up for sale and we hope it sells before the end of summer. After writing the post last month on the cars then here too there will likely be changes with one, perhaps two, vehicles likely to find new homes as well before summer turns to fall. As for the motorcycles? Should the home sell and the cars find new homes, there’s a certain three-wheeled CanAm Spyder that looks like it will find its way into our lives.

We have a new grandchild so that will keep us close by and yet, we both hear the city calling. While it’s way too early to begin dreaming about what’s next again, should we sell Villa Lyon, then it’s a much smaller dwelling downtown Denver that will likely become our new home – living in the suburbs is definitely coming to an end for us. Our own internal engines that have driven us for nearly two decades compel us to make changes and the more we look at our own Check Engine lights, the more we look forward to a change of oil, freer brakes, and a lot more time with a lot less mileage!

Travel has been our passion for so long. Entertaining, too, a huge part of our lives and cultivating friends on every continent has been a delight. The theater and art has made an impact and those who have spent time in our home would notice the influence in how we have decorated our living space. However, gone pretty much forever is our love for flying and the joy we once experienced preparing for an overseas trips – the industry has pretty much pulled any “romance of travel” from such pursuits.

Margo and I are looking forward to more time enjoying America and of spending time over wine and BBQs with good friends. And yes, driving as hard as we can on circuits everywhere – I can’t wait to get the Z06 back with the Check Engine light no longer flashing – so perhaps the change will not be as radical as some might anticipate. The sky is getting blue and the temperatures are climbing past the 50s – not long now and it will be a whole new year and I am more than certain it will be a happy one after all!