The Red Devil and The Battle of Whiteface Mountain

We left from Findlay hoping for a relaxing and low key week of snow skiing at Lake Placid. Per the GPS, aka our brain, we were well ahead of schedule until we entered the eastern Cleveland snow belt. My red TDI Jetta, aka the Red Devil, did not meet winter traction expectations. Even with my driving prowess, the heavy snowfall required us to slow down and very quickly the GPS started tormenting us with a later projected arrival time.

Then the Red Devil decided to develop serious transmission issues. The Red Devil is a 5-speed manual and I lost the ability to shift. We were forced to pull over. We talked nice to the Red Devil and were able to get her moving again. We pulled off in Erie Pennsylvania in the middle of a whiteout and investigated further. I put Doug behind the wheel since he is an excellent driver with legendary skill at escaping from fiascoes. Houdini would be proud.

Luckily he got her moving again up a vicious snow-covered hill without the aid of 1st gear. Thankfully diesel cars have a ton of torque. We continued on to Buffalo for lunch at Famous Dave’s BBQ and I fired up my computer and started reading the VW forums. We stopped at Wal-Mart to purchase additional clothing and the auto parts guy was completely clueless. We barely got the car going again and called my friend Jason. He is a premier Ford engineer and he happened to have a master mechanic with him. We interrupted their 10.5-hour gambling seminar in Vegas and they had a good laugh at our expense.

They weren’t sure we would make it and thought the only way we could keep moving was power shifting. Doug picked up quite a knack for power shifting and I told him our shift count was limited to the number of digits I have. We were still ~400 miles from our destination. Stopping to pay our toll at the Syracuse toll booth disabled us completely and we thought it was game over. However, like rebooting a windows computer we got the Jetta going again. We started in 2nd and changed gears into 3rd and 4th. We made it to Watertown NY with only 4th gear. We finally stopped to top off the fuel at Jet Gas (the only store with diesel). Unfortunately, Marathon doesn’t sell fuel in NY State. This vintage station had a tidy little bathroom with a depression era light switch. More fun starting off and soon we escaped town.

Doug commented it was smooth sailing. Heavy snowfall soon developed and the road was completely covered and visibility was limited. It is much more difficult to drive in heavy snow especially on twisty Adirondack Mountain roads. Luckily we caught up to a snow plow truck and followed it for many miles.
Not too long after the snow plow turned off, we were pulled over for having no tail lights and the officer was polite but firm in his resolve for us to remedy this problem. We had him call a tow truck and we waited and waited and waited. Doug had time to take two separate pit stops. I requested that the tow truck be a flatbed but we got an ordinary wrecker with a good old boy driver. He towed us to a repair shop that just happened to be open at 9:00pm on a Saturday evening and was less than a mile down the road.

He got the tail lights working by jiggling them and we were on the road again about 1.5 hours away from Lake Placid. Snow was even heavier and Doug imagined where the road was. We barely limped into Lake Placid, but we made it!

The world cup was in Lake Placid. As a consequence, it appeared that no hotels available, but with a high-speed cellular internet connection we found a room at the Econo Lodge. However, I discovered I lost my only credit card and this complicated making the reservation. Six drunken guys propelled the Red Devil down a hill to get her started in Lake Placid and after a little navigation difficulty, we found the Econo Lodge.

They didn’t think we had a reservation at the front desk and their computer was down. They found a room and we went there ready to crash. However, the room was still un-clean from the last patrons. Fortunately, they had one more room for us to try and it was perfect! One Woodford Reserve (courtesy of the Intercontinental) and Coke for each of us and we were ready for bed.

The sun came up the next day and it was a beautiful day. I called Famous Dave’s BBQ and they had my credit card. It is always good to leave waiters generous tips in case you leave your card behind. Russ and crew were behind us and picked up the card for me. I worked out a couple possible options for repairing the Red Devil. The VW / Audi dealer option required a ferry boat ride into Vermont. Doug and I have problems with ferry boats, but that is a story for another time. It was several days before any repair shop could evaluate the Red Devil.

We started the Jetta in 2nd for the trip to the condo. I had to help push the Jetta up a hill due to traction problems. Since we couldn’t use the clutch anymore I had to jump into the moving Red Devil. Luckily, we made it to the condo we were staying at for the rest of the week. Our condo wasn’t available so we walked downhill to the convenient Lake Placid Pub & Brewery. Doug and I tried their beer sampler and my favorite was the Ubu ale. Of course, I had to have a full pint of the Ubu ale while I enjoyed a hearty shepherd’s pie.

The condo people called and our unit was ready. It was a large and impressive condo with a 42″ LCD TV, sauna, and tall fireplace. Doug and I chilled out until Rusty and crew joined us later that night. Apparently, they took a scenic path. We still had time to play some rock band. I was the weakest link and really didn’t have the hang of it.

We skied at Lake Placid the following day. I added some drama by misplacing the lift ticket receipt but I eventually found it in my ski jacket. I warmed up on the green and blue runs off the new Face Lift. Rusty, Doug, and I took the gondola to the lesser summit and I enjoyed some very long blue runs. Later, we went to the greater summit. The view was amazing from the summits. I skied without falling which was amazing given the way the trip was going. The Red Devil was towed while we were on slopes. I hoped that she would be fixed for the return trip. For dinner, we ate at Pete’s Steakhouse and the food was okay.

Tuesday, we took the Lake Placid Olympic Tour with Mr. Rogers. He was a walking encyclopedia of winter Olympic history. It was a great tour topped with a stop at the rink where the “Miracle on Ice” took place. Touring the Olympic venues provided a fun recovery day. Doug and I were pleased with the good, plentiful, and reasonably priced food at Wise Guys. I persuaded Doug to do a little wine tasting and for $3 we tasted eight wines and had a souvenir glass to take home. The next stop was the Steak and Seafood micro-brewery. Their beer sampler included eight four-ounce samplings featuring two seasonal specials. I really liked their Abbey Ale and Barley Wine (11% alcohol beer). I even talked to their brewmaster who was a cool cat.

Wednesday, we skied again (for $35 by providing a Coke can). The runs were covered in fresh powder from steady flurries all night. No injuries were logged. Thursday, Doug and I took a bobsled ride and it was quite a rush. (It is definitely an experience to put on the list of 100 things to do before you die.) We traveled down the bottom half of the Olympic track and reached 50+ MPH. We also visited the ski jump complex. Friday, we skied for $30 since it was Whiteface’s 50th anniversary. I ventured down some black diamonds and only fell once.

We also picked up the still broken Jetta since the parts to fix it weren’t readily available. While returning to Lake Placid a small town had a fire that closed their downtown and forced us up a very steep hill. Of course, Doug was forced to stop at the top and I stopped Rusty’s Jeep four car lengths back. Every time Doug tried to take off he slipped backward. He cleverly used the Emergency brake to hold his position while the spinning tires melted the ice and eventually provided enough traction to proceed. Later, we stopped back at the Steak and Seafood brewery and the brewmaster gave Rusty his Barley Wine recipe. Rusty promised some of his future batches.

We left Saturday for home and hoped to reach Batavia where I had a Holiday Inn booking. We took a different route with less stop and go. The scenery was even better. Unfortunately, we decided to get cocky and take a shortcut. The shortcut shaved mileage but cost us lots of stops and go traffic without a working clutch. It would definitely have been better to stay on the interstate. We barely made it to the Holiday Inn and the starter pulled us out of the toll booth and across the street to the Holiday Inn.

The following day we completed the trip home. Doug did all the driving home and he deserves a big thank you.

What does it take to power my Jeep?

I don’t know much about how engines work so I decided to read an Engine Builder’s Handbook. I have been learning a great deal, especially about the inputs necessary to make an engine run efficiently. For example: “The best air/fuel ratio is called stoichiometric, which translates to 14.7 pounds of air for every one pound of fuel… If you consider that air weighs about 5 one-thousandths of a pound for each gallon at standard temperature and pressure and gasoline weighs about 6 pounds per gallon, 1200 gallons of air must flow into an engine for every gallon of gasoline. Hmmm…

My Jeep has a 20.2-gallon fuel tank, consequently, I need ~24,240 gallons of air to flow thru my engine per tank of fuel. (Assuming my Jeep is stoichiometric.) That’s a large volume of air. What does it take to make a gallon of gas? 98 tons (~196,000lbs) of prehistoric, buried plant material. Therefore, each fill up of gas in my Cherokee requires ~3,959,200 lbs of prehistoric, buried plant material. My Cherokee has the aerodynamics of a brick, so I frequently go thru ~24,240 gallons of air and ~3,959,200 lbs of prehistoric, buried plant material. To reassure myself that my Jeep isn’t wasteful, but rather a temperate machine, I just think of the excessive depletion of natural resources due to an Escalade.