Nine / by Brian Beck

Man vs Machine V rolled out of the driveway at 8 o'clock on Friday morning.  I'd made a stink about wanting to leave at 6am and true to form, we missed the departure time by about two hours, but I'd built in a reserve, so we left more or less on time.  Quimby was so anxious to see us leave that she was literally saying goodbye and opening the gate for us before we were even fully loaded.

We headed east on the 210, up the I-15 through the Cajon Pass and then peeled off on I-40 and settled in for the long haul.  Google Maps said the drive should take about 6 hours and 45 minutes to the Grand Canyon but I knew to expect that with the frequent stops for gas (the old Pontiac only gets about 15 mpg) and bathroom breaks, I should really assume more like 8 to 9.  By 2pm when we pulled into Kingman, AZ for lunch, I figured we were on track for more like 10.  We cruised down the main drag hunting for something we could all agree on and as I looked at the kitschy Route 66   shops and diners, it suddenly dawned on me that Kingman was the setting for the Disney movie "Cars".  There was the water tower, the gas station that was the inspiration for "Flo's" and numerous other relics of a travel culture long gone. We were the real thing though, cruising through town low and slow, and after returning a few "thumbs ups" from the cars whizzing past us, we pulled into a curb service burger joint to complete the scene.

As is my custom when driving a vintage car, I popped the hood after lunch for a look-see and was surprised to see oil all over the right side of the engine bay.  After a wipe with my finger and a few sniffs, I determined that the oil was power steering fluid, which was my fault because I'd topped it off before we left and had inadvertently overfilled it, resulting in some leakage from the cap.  In the course of my investigation though I discovered that my recently rebuilt master brake booster was leaking brake fluid out of a small plug under the master cylinder.  Enough had seeped out the bottom that I was now dangerously low on brake fluid, so I dug my toolbox out of the bottom of the trunk and tightened it up and then headed back into town to find a NAPA Auto Parts to top it back off.

With disaster averted, we got back on the road, and after a brief stop in Seligman, AZ to have a milkshake at the Snow Cap (one of the most celebrated roadside attractions on Route 66), we finally backed into our campsite just as the sun was going down.  The kids helped me set up camp and then, after roasting hot dogs on the fire, we shoved nine candles into three cupcakes that we picked up at the camp store and sang happy birthday to Parker.  They're both growing up too fast.