At Least It Wasn’t Detroit, and the Art of the Impromptu Road Trip

big-john-steak-onion

I enjoy the rare and tasty privilege of an impromptu road trip, but I’ve not gotten to take one on my own terms for a long time.  This was not a trip I took on my own terms.  I can’t think of anyone who says to him or herself, “Gee, I’d like to go up to Lansing, MI for shits and grins.”  It’s not abysmal as Detroit or Cleveland, but it’s not what I would call a tourist destination either.  There’s enough ghettos in Columbus without having to drive 270 miles one way to visit another one.  Even so, I can look a little bit on the bright side. There is one memorable thing about the mid-Michigan area I like well enough that I’d love to see it come to central Ohio.

Normally I enjoy trying mom & pop local places when I travel, as I’m pretty open minded about food, but Steve-o can be very hard to please and quite difficult about food. Even so, he grew a pair on the way back and took my suggestion to try a local sub chain called Big John’s. The steak, cheese and mushroom (#4) sub is to die for.  If you go, be sure to try the red sauce.  Even Steve-o enjoyed his sandwich- and it’s rare to get a good food review from a guy who is very fussy about food and will seldom eat at any restaurant other than Taco Bell.

mmm steakNow THIS is a sandwich!

As I said earlier, awesome steak subs aside, I would still have to have a compelling reason to go anywhere in Michigan.  Michigan is NOT a vacation destination, IMO, except for the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, and even then one should remember you have to go through Detroit to get to Dearborn, and you should also remember that anywhere in that area apart from being directly on the museum grounds is highly, highly unsafe.   You couldn’t pay me enough money to be anywhere near Detroit at night, even though an Ohio CCW is also valid in Michigan.  I only have five rounds.

I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but should I ever have to end up in Lansing again for any reason, I will be sure to remember Big John’s.  I will try to forget that Dad and Steve-o and Spencer ended up staying in yet another roach motel, and that half of the city looks like a war zone.  Perhaps I didn’t see the right part of the city.  I know there are neighborhoods right here in Columbus that look almost as bad.  If all I saw in Columbus was the near east side I’d think it was a hole too.

shooting capital of central ohioPlenty of law enforcement are always down in this hizzy!

Saturday night I get a very late call (10:30 PM, and yes, that’s late for me to be getting phone calls) and wouldn’t  have bothered to answer it except for it was Steve-o and he knows better than to wake me up at night unless either a.) someone’s on the way to the ER, b.) someone’s dead, or c.) he has a catastrophic need that if unaddressed will lead to a. or b.

Now I know why I was so wigged out about Dad taking either one of their aged and increasingly unreliable vans to NC last summer, and I’d managed to talk him into letting me drive them down there.

The oil pressure sending unit failed on the van.  GM vehicles are rather notorious for this- especially the 3.4 V6, and any vehicle with 200K (especially an aging GM van) on it is pretty much on borrowed time to begin with.  That van is at the point where I would be surprised if it didn’t have a catastrophic failure on any road trip of more than 20 miles or so.

When an OPS fails, it’s almost always the high pressure unit, which on a 3.4 is only accessible with the vehicle on a rack, and then only after the starter’s been removed.  Pretty.  The sensor itself comes apart, and then suddenly the vehicle’s spewing oil all over the engine compartment- at 60 PSI.  Worse yet, there’s no way to know when one of these is going to fail.  Age can be a factor, but even so, I’ve seen these rude dudes fail on vehicles with less than 100 miles on them.

sensor

Two very bad things can happen if one continues to drive a vehicle with a failed OPS.  One of course, is that Al Gore and the greenies aren’t going to be happy with you, because you’re blowing motor oil all over God’s creation, including your engine compartment, windshield, mirrors, back glass  and all over the ten cars behind you.  The other is that if the oil pressure drops too low (and it inevitably will, since you’re blowing oil out the side of the engine) the lifters will fail to be lubricated and the valves will start seizing up which can lead to the cylinder head warping and/or head gasket failure.  That’s bad, but if the oil completely runs out, the crankshaft will no longer be lubricated, which will cause the crank to overheat and seize, potentially blowing a connecting rod through the engine block, which means there is no fixing that- save for replacing the entire engine assembly.

Cliff’s notes version for the non-motorhead:  If you smell oil or see it spattering on your windshield, shut it off. NOW.  Call AAA.  You are very likely screwed.  Especially if you didn’t shut it off right away.

Fortunately the boys knew exactly what was happening.  They knew that if they ran it out of oil they were done.  Even more fortunately, it happened about a mile from the hotel where they were staying.

The only thing about the hotel was it wasn’t terribly sanitary.  Poor Spencer had brought his swim trunks, but the pool wasn’t clean enough for him.  Spencer is not prissy, so I am assuming this pool was pretty gross.

dirty-pool-where-i-foundAn indoor pool is a beautiful thing- if it’s clean.

They had a place to stay the night, but the shower was filthy, the bed sheets looked as if they might have been changed sometime when Jimmy Carter was president, and someone had used the roof outside the window as a party patio.  The window screen was broken and there were several empty liquor bottles standing on the roof when they got there.

Even better, for Dad, they found a Firestone across from the hotel who managed to work them in to get the sensor changed out so he could get to the swap meet they were going to, and so they could get back home.  I took Steve-o back home early so I would be sure he would be back in time to go to work.  The van managed to make it back with Dad and Spencer, although they’ve got some serious powerwashing to do.

Maybe the next time I go on a road trip I’ll get to go somewhere fun, but for going somewhere not particularly fun, it wasn’t a bad trip.  It got me out of the house and to somewhere different, and that’s saying something.

2 thoughts on “At Least It Wasn’t Detroit, and the Art of the Impromptu Road Trip

  1. That’s the spirit. I like to go to different places, even if they’re kinda lame. Lansing, Mich, sounds very lame, but still, I’d go. And I’ve been to the Ford Museum in Dearborn, but that was many moons ago.

    • I did notice some interesting art-deco architecture downtown that would have been cool if it weren’t run down and surrounded by what appears to be war zones.

      The problem is from what I could see, the last time this town would have been a decent place to live might have been in the 1920’s. Maybe we were just in the “ghetto” section and the rest of it isn’t as bad, (if all one saw of Columbus were Little Mogadishu- I work right in the middle of that- and the near east side of Columbus you’d think Columbus was a hole too,) but most of what I saw of Lansing was pretty depressing.

      Except of course, for the Big John’s sub. That would almost make living in a place like Lansing tolerable. Almost. Except that it is also too far north for human habitation.

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