August 24, 2017
We took the parts car up to Oregon to see the solar eclipse. We would've taken the Locost, but it was a three-day trip and the Locost doesn't carry anything. We thought it would be nice to have at least a change of clothes. Fortunately, the parts caró being a coupe and a hatchback at tható carries a ton, and driving it is sort of like driving the Locost, except for the lack of wind. And power. And a few other things. But all things considered we had a nice trip. There's a lot to see in Oregon, especially if you like nature, and it's never crowded, except during a solar eclipse.
We started out by driving 300 miles to Lake Shasta in northern California. The big lake, named after a popular local soft drink, or maybe it was the other way around, is pretty remote from the over-populated areas of the state, with several lakes in between to catch the boaters. So traffic on the Interstate was not heavy. We stayed overnight at the foot of the snow-capped, 14,000-foot Mount Shasta, named for the lake or possibly the other way around, and then left early the next morning for Madras, Oregon, right on the predicted track of the eclipse.
The parts car performed beautifully the whole way up, using surprisingly little oil and staying cool under a baking 95-degree afternoon through California's Central Valley. Even better, because the parts car is a coupe and not a roadster, we were in the shade the whole time. Oddly, during the trip our list of must-fix items on the car seemed to shrink, or at least re-prioritize, as we learned to adapt to the erratic idle, loose steering rack, and weak shocks. Our new top priority now is the right turn signal, followed by the gear shift lever, which we found out is way too long.
We expected lots of monster traffic jams, but the highways were remarkably clear. We sailed up US 97 through Oregon averaging speeds that we won't mention here because the fifth amendment to the U.S. constitution says we don't have to. We reached Madras four hours before the gates to the eclipse event opened, so with time to kill we drove around town. We didn't find a lot of activity but we saw tents everywhere. Apparently in Oregon you can rent out your front lawn as a campground. Every park, playground, or patch of green grass had settlers on it.
Eventually the gates to the eclipse event opened, and we were soon directed to our 10x20 foot parking spot, where we dragged everything out of the parts car and set up camp, which wasn't much but included a nice tarp and a small umbrella for shade. We then spent the rest of the day watching airplanes. The eclipse event site was right next to the Madras airport, and as you might expect with the pending eclipse, hundreds of small planes were landing. Not all at once, as there are likely rules against that, but often enough that the pattern was full all day and well into the evening.
In addition to watching planes, we spent a lot of time dissuading strangers from asking too many questions about the parts car. Our little parking lot held around 3000 people, and few if any of them had ever seen an M.G. before. Fortunately it was only a small crowd. Across the road was the much bigger Solartown USA, which had tens of thousands of eclipse fans, along with food vendors, shower facilities, ATMs, and Wi-Fi. Not enough Wi-Fi to reach across the road, however. Not that our little site was totally Spartan. We had portable toilets and floodlights.
The parts car worked well as a camper, although it didn't have to do much in that regard other than carry things. If we had the kind of foresight that we failed to exhibit during construction of the Locost, we likely could've rigged an awning or even tent that would've fastened to the open hatchback, affording some measure of privacy as well as protection from the elements. Fortunately, it turned out there weren't any elements, and we slept well under the stars, warm in our sleeping bag and quiet enough with earplugs so long as no one's car alarm was going off.
Early the next morning we were woken by yet another car alarm, and after climbing out of our sleeping bag we fixed a hearty breakfast of blueberry snack bars and Starbucks canned espresso shots. In what seemed like no time, someone was announcing the eclipse had started, and sure enough we could see a small notch in the top of the sun through our cool solar shield cardboard sunglasses. Soon after that the light started to dim, and everyone got out their cameras and telescopes, and then, thirty miles to the west, Oregon's snow-capped 10,000-foot Mt. Jefferson suddenly disappeared in darkness.
A minute later the eclipse went off without a hitch, as you probably know, and we won't even attempt to describe the experience except to say that it's indescribable. You had to be there. We got a picture of the eclipse with the parts car in the foreground, although for some reason the camera decided to focus on the parts car instead of the eclipse, so the eclipse itself is kind of blurry. But the sky is dark and even though it doesn't show in the photo, Venus and Mercury and a few bright stars were visible in the sky, including parts of constellations you never see in August.
The drive back home was epic. Not in a good way. The parts car ran perfectly the whole 600 miles, except for fouling the plugs at one point, which wasn't the car's fault so much as driving ten miles an hour for hundreds of miles straight. We didn't get great gas mileage either, almost running out in the town of Chemult, Oregon, or actually running out, but while waiting in line for gas at the all-night truck stop so it only counts as almost running out. The two quarts of Valvoline VR1 we bought before we left lasted the whole trip, with half a quart to spare.
With all of those miles and hours behind the wheel, the parts car now feels more like our own car instead of something we bought from someone else. It still doesn't feel as much like our car as the Locost does, and probably never will, but it's hard to compete with a car you built from scratch. The parts car shouldn't feel bad, though. We'll still use it any time we have to carry stuff, and its time will come when the seasons change and the weather turns bad. Until then we'll have to put up with the extra power, traction, visibility, and handling of the Locost.
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