This GT was a piece of cake compared to the ones past. Our mileage there, around the area, and back was a grand total of 409.7 miles. The most time consuming part of this year's event was the preparation. A lot was needed, since Steven hadn't been paying too much attention to the overall MGA maintenance schedule. Bad boy.
So Diane spent the winter and spring months looking for new restaurants and sites to visit in the area since we have made many trips here over the years. We had visited the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium (a must), the Field of Dreams (a must), Galena (a must), and, of course, Dubuque.
Over the past couple of years, PRNCZ had been a source of concern: overheating; engine ping when there should have been none; hard starting; uneven idling; etc. The problem was that all of the issues were intermittent and, at times, could be attributed to hot weather, since a large majority of the driving was on ninety-plus degree days. But towards the end of last year, Steven began to suspect there was a common underlying cause to all of this mischief. This year Steven resolved to solve the mystery. He began by dedicating three hours each week to the project and having a specific goal for each day. The first day was to get the car out of storage and get it home.
The next time, Steven removed the valve cover and the spark plugs. He performed a visual inspection of the top end and piston tops to see if there was some clue for the ailment. Not seeing anything specific, he next performed a compression test on each cylinder. Three cylinders were exactly the same, and the fourth was only 2% out: no problem there.
A couple of days later, Steven was in the garage again, and his goal was to assess those things that make sparks happen. He removed the distributor cap and wires. He wiped down the wires and checked for cracks and electrical continuity. As a matter of course, he took a small wire brush and cleaned the business end of each wire. Then he turned his attention to the distributor cap. Each terminal showed some minor wear and some discoloration from antifreeze that had leaked onto the distributor from the heater control valve that failed on our return trip from GT-42. He cleaned the terminals. There wasn't any excessive wear, but he made a note that the cap would need to be replaced in a couple of years. The rotor was another story though. That looked pretty funky and after a good cleaning, its appearance didn't improve much. There was severe scoring on the brass end: it definitely needed replacing.
The next time in the garage, Steven spent more time with the distributor. Using the maintenance manual's suggested procedure for testing the advance weights, he wasn't convinced that they were operating properly, so he resolved to do one of his least favorite tasks: pulling the distributor from the engine and benching it.
Steven indexed anything needing to be returned to its working position to minimize the amount of work needed to do to get the engine functioning again. Then out it came and onto the bench. A visual inspection revealed that the aforementioned antifreeze had made its way past the baseplate: that needed to be removed. It wasn't a trivial task since it hadn't been touched since he installed a Pertonix unit about ten years ago. But, he did get it off, and the weights had not been affected. They just needed a bit of TLC. He removed the vacuum advance unit from the distributor and rigged up a hand vacuum pump to watch what happened when vacuum was applied.
After futzing with it for about fifteen minutes, he came to the conclusion that it was only working about 40% of the time. Sometimes, the vacuum would hold, but more often than not, it wouldn't. Aha, problem solved. A call to Scarborough Faire, and a new unit and some additional parts were ordered.
A week later with new parts in hand, Steven reassembled the distributor and inserted it back in the block, aligning all the index stuff along the way. Once secured, the distributor cap and wires were placed. A walk around to the driver's side, a bit of choke and a tug on the starter, and she fired!
Next was to check the carbs. Steven decided to pull the tops and thoroughly clean them along with the throttle plates and anything else one could hit with a can of carb cleaner. Right off the bat, he noticed that the choke on the front carb was engaged when it shouldn't have been. There was a bit of sticking, but it turned out that the adjustment for the choke linkage was way-off. In addition, Steven also the checked the carb jets. While the top of the front jet was even with the plateau of the carb body, the rear jet was six flats above the carb body: now there's a conundrum. "What in the hell causes that?", he mused. Steven was not about to bench that carb to figure it out. He just made a note in his book for the next time they had to come out. When it came time to readjust the mixtures, he just compensated appropriately.
With everything back together, he went on several extended runs in the hottest weather we had to date. Performance was much, much better. The pinging was almost totally gone, except under the most extreme loads. The idling smoothed out, and it would now idle at 700 rpm without hesitation. Gas vaporization was almost gone, except when the outside temps hovered in the high 90s; but then it was only a nuisance, not the bucking and snorting of the past.
So I guess the moral of the story is keep on top of the maintenance and don't always assume that things should never fail, like vacuum advance units!
So now it's the day before we're scheduled to leave. Time to check the wardrobes and suitcases; time to check the maps (aka GPS), water bottles, sunscreen, sunglasses, cameras; check the oil; get gas; and, finally, check that new alarm Steven installed to ensure the headlights are turned off. Oops, no headlights. Now what?
Check this, check that, check the other, check this again, check that again, check the other again. Headlights still won't light. Hmmmm. Wonder if the horn works? Hit the horn button: Peep!, and, voila, the headlights now work. What's that all about? Who cares? Tme to leave.
The Drive Out
OK. It's 7:45AM, July 9, 2019. The sun is shining brightly, and the temp is 75 degrees. Zero the odometer, and let's get "...on the road again."
We stop at our favorite breakfast restaurant for a bite and then head west on IL Route 176 until it intersects with US Route 20: the U.S. Grant Memorial Highway. We are headed towards Galena, IL just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, IA, our final destination for the GT.
Galena is a beautiful town with oodles of history, especially surrounding Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant whom the citizens gifted with an Italianate home when he returned victorious. He was also our 18th President, serving from 1869 to 1877. Galena was also the home to nine Civil War generals
By the way, Galena is named for the lead ore (Lead Sulfide) which was mined in the area. The historic downtown area, though now enjoyed by many for its quirky shops and good restaurants, is full of historical details best enjoyed on a trolley car tour.
A Bit of Antiquing
After a few hours on the road we're in Elizabeth, IL, a small village of about 800, maybe 20 minutes from Galena, and home to Elizabeth's Grand Antiques. We'd been here about five years ago and hoped that it was still operational. Many of our favorite antique shops and malls are going by the wayside as people use Ebay more, and the art of antiquing is becoming an antique (read: old) hobby which the current generation is not embracing. Too bad: there's so much history in these establishments.
Steven is in heaven: there are seven accordions for him to inspect. (PRNCZ is way too little to add an accordion to its baggage.) Diane hears him trying them all. Knowing he'll be disappointed that he can't bring another one home on this trip, she spots an album of zither music with accordion accompaniment - and all for $2.00 - it looks brand new with its original cellophane wrapping. Did anyone ever play it? Probably not, much to our relief and amusement. And it's a good souvenir of this trip. Diane's souvenir is a model, action toy, red VW Beetle and looks just like the one Steven recently gifted her for her birthday.
Soon we're back on Route 20, looking for the McDonald's on the other side of Galena for quick refreshment and then across the street to top off the gas tank. It's getting hazy and looking like rain. Best to move on.
At 2PM we pull into Dubuque and spend the next hour figuring out the Hotel Julien layout and parking. We're on the fourth floor, but it takes two sets of elevators, after finding a luggage cart. We get unpacked, cleaned up and head down to the Riverboat Lounge lobby bar for a cocktail and to greet anyone else who has arrived a day early.
We're not disappointed. There are our good MG buddies Mike and Jennifer Ash, Wayne and Dee Johnson, Dave and Rita Houser, Roger and Janet Bailey, and Cecelia Bruce. Bruce and Robin Nichols, our usual travel companions, are taking a more southernly route so Robin can visit the American Pickers and Antique Archeology store in Le Claire, IA. We'll see them Thursday for dinner. Lots of catching up…
Dubuque is located on the Mississippi River where the states of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin meet. Crossing the Mississippi from Illinois on the Julien Dubuque Bridge, we see the National Mississippi River Museum and the Hotel Julien almost right next door.
Dubuque was founded in 1788 by the French fur trader, Julien Dubuque, whose statue is near the back door to the Hotel. The Hotel was built in 1839 but updated several times since then, retaining its early splendor. Its claim to fame seems to be its former visitors: Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Al Capone. Al Capone's suite is supposedly on the second floor. We never found it.
Diane had made dinner reservations at Timmerman's Supper Club in East Dubuque. Since there were menacing clouds, and we didn't want to put the top up on the MGA, Diane checked with the front desk regarding shuttle service. The shuttle is strictly local and won't go to East Dubuque (2.3 miles away), so we decide to dodge the raindrops. As we approach the road to the restaurant, a huge neon sign on the bluff greets us. Up, up, up the hill, and we're soon there with a gorgeous view of the river valley. Supper Clubs, rather unique to this part of the country, are a favorite genre of Diane's. She loves the idea of savoring a well-crafted, generous cocktail, enjoying a delicious meal with dessert, and especially enjoying the view and mood of the restaurant. Just lacking a dance floor and dance band. Rather romantic....
Back to the Hotel, rain has passed us by, and we're in the parking lot amidst MG chatter for a few hours.
Wednesday, July 10, is the official start of the GT with registration scheduled for noon. We get up early as usual and set off on foot to find Dottie's Restaurant for breakfast. Cute little restaurant with a daily breakfast special with the local workers and retirees. We fit right in. Nourished, we decide to walk around Dubuque to look for those antiques stores Diane found on the Internet and to ride the Fenelon 4th Street Elevator. The Elevator is just two blocks up 4th street from the restaurant so that's where we start. Uphill; better do it first while it's still coolish and we have energy.
The Elevator is described as "the world's steepest, shortest scenic railway, 296 feet in length, elevating passengers 189 feet from Fourth Street to Fenelon Place." Round trip is $3.00 per person. Hop on. Quick trip to the top to enjoy a "magnificent view of the business district, the Mississippi River and three states." Beautiful. Time to go down. By now it's getting hot, but we trudge from one address to the next, and none of the antique stores exist anymore. Aren't websites great? Especially when they aren't updated. Grrrr.
On the walk back to the hotel we enjoy the interesting murals painted on many of the buildings downtown as part of an arts festival. Back at the hotel we register for the GT, visit the vendors (again), visit the boutique in the lobby (again; love it), visit with whomever is in the lobby (there is no hospitality room so the lobby and parking lot suffice), then adjourn to our room to freshen up for the Welcome & First Timers Reception. Very nice appetizers and a cash bar. We learn about the plans for the week, greet the first timers (the ones with red name-tags), and then join Mike and Jennifer for dinner at the hotel restaurant. Good food, good drinks, good conversation with good MG buddies. Jennifer, I'm working on that list of books….
Thursday we decide to drive out to the Field of Dreams. We were there probably twenty years ago and even watched the movie again before this trip. It hasn't changed except that the house has been renovated and now has tours: we pass. But there is a man in an old baseball uniform walking around, engaging the tourists in conversation. We're no exception. Steven gets the MGA, and Diane gets a few photos of the three of them. On August 9, 2019 there was an article in the Chicago Tribune announcing that Major League Baseball is building a temporary ballpark at the Field of Dreams. The Chicago White Sox and NY Yankees will play a game there on August 13, 2020 at 6PM. Cool. Wonder what those tickets will cost! We may pass on that, too.
If you build it …
A person– outstanding in her field
Chatting with Sox player
View from Center Field
We decide to take the Great River Road back to the Hotel. We enjoy several scenic overlooks, replete with vultures, not the expected bald eagles. Once back, we park PRNCZ and go in search of lunch. We find it across the street from the Hotel at the Barrel House. Again, really good food and refreshments! Diane was especially enamored with the coaster: "Here's to...a long life and a merry one, a quick death and an easy one, a pretty girl and an honest one, a stiff drink and another one!" Agreed!
We go back to the Hotel to wait for Bruce and Robin to arrive. Well, there are issues with maps, traffic, directions, traffic, etc., but they arrive safely at 5:30. We quickly get them checked in, change clothes and head to Galena for dinner at Fritz & Frites, a charming German and French restaurant that Diane found. What a delightful place. Small menu, but excellent food and service, very accommodating. We have fun sharing our travel stories and frustrations - the wine helped! As did the humongous piece of German chocolate cake that Steven shared with all of us. It must have been a foot high. But was it ever delicious.
Friday morning begins with the NAMGAR Staff and Board breakfast. We are invited as Steven is a past Chairman and past Editor, and Diane is past Events Coordinator (now called Vice Chairman) and past Copy Editor. Thank you for recognizing us.
Gathering around the Devin
We attend two technical sessions, one on the History of MG by Piers Hubbard of the M.G. Car Club in England and one on the Story of the Devin (a special body roadster) by Mark Brandow. We thoroughly enjoy both presentations. After being involved with MGAs for almost 45 years, it's sometimes hard to get excited about a tech session since we've done most of them already.
It must be time for a beverage - off we go to the lobby bar. We soon meet up with Bill and Trudy Gallihugh to go to the BBQ at the Stone Cliff Winery where racer David Hobbs gives a talk on his days racing British cars.
In preparation for tomorrow morning's car show we give PRNCZ a bath in the Hotel parking lot, tuck her in, and go upstairs and tuck ourselves in, too. But first, an ice cream cone from the shop across the street and more chatter in the lobby.
Saturday starts out sunny and warm. We walk over to Dottie's Restaurant for breakfast. Then we drive over to the field for the car show, stopping for a photo before parking in the Premier lineup (one more year in Premier for PRNCZ). There are no trees except on the berm adjacent to the river where there are swarms of May flies - ugly creatures, so we nix that idea and head over to the Museum to check out the gift shop. Then back to the field to look at more cars and complete the ballot. Soon it's too hot for Diane so she finds shade under one of the tents (actually near the ballot box). While there she chats with Scott Dougherty, one of organizers. He's very complimentary of the Events Guideline which Diane authored probably fifteen years ago. It's surely seen some revisions and additions, but she is very pleased with his comments.
|This way please||Sir Lucas Oversees|
A Metro stops by
|As does a 1930s Willys||A mid-show respite|
The weather is quickly beginning to threaten so we decide to leave at 1PM to find some lunch which we again enjoy at the Barrel House. Then back to the lobby to hang out with the Michigan Rowdies.
After a quick shower and change of clothes, we meet Bruce and Robin for drinks at the pre-banquet hospitality party. Then on to the banquet and awards program. The NAMGAR Board did something a little different this year. They interspersed the awards agenda with the meal instead of waiting for everyone to finish eating. It served to keep the evening moving along, though once car show awards were being distributed, there was not much time saved. It just takes forever, regardless what you do.
The best part of the evening is the presentation of next year's GT site by the host club, the MGCC Rocky Mountain Centre. They do a stupendous job highlighting Colorado Springs with a beautiful video. Everyone is pumped and ready to head west. We speak with Lora Swenson, Jim Goodwin and Alan Magnuson of the host club and offered our assistance. Lora is very complimentary of the Events Guideline. Again, Diane is so pleased.
So, Jun 1–5, 2020 can't get here too soon. No, Steven, PRNCZ is NOT going to the top of Pike's Peak. We've been there and done that! She won't miss it, believe me, especially after the drive through Yosemite to Solvang, CA and GT-42.
The Drive Home
We're in no hurry to get home, so we walk over to Sunrise Restaurant for breakfast before saying our good byes back at the Hotel. We leave at 9:30 and are home by 1:00 no worse for wear, though Steven has a list of projects to prepare PRNCZ in case we drive out west for GT-45. First: install the new headlights.