When last we left the saga of the Return of the Howe, we were sitting in a Walmart parking lot in Tilton, NH with only five functional tires. I haven’t felt like writing the rest of the story in detail, but here are the bullet points:
- Emergency tire replacement x1.
- Ran out of daylight
- Limped into safe storage in NH.
- Went back another day to finish trip.
- Blew hydraulic brake booster.
- Towed home & placed in garage.
- Fixed booster at last minute before big parade debut.
Which brings us to Saturday morning. I didn’t want to let the big annual Lynnfield parade pass without my Howe. There are other parades in the area, but this is THE one for me. The brakes are working, the alternator is questionable, and everything else seemed OK.
I made it to the lineup without incident, arriving early enough to be at the front of the parade. I don’t care about being first, but I wanted a bit of buffer time in case things went wrong.
And here she is in action, 6th unit from the head of the parade:
I made it home safely with electrons to spare in the charging system, and I’m still smiling.
1/26 – The Howe is finally under cover in her new home. I need to finish telling the story, but it has a happy ending thus far. This one looks best with a retro filter.
1/27 – Just uphill from the Local Suburban ambulance bay, the floodlights interact with the tree branches in a spiderweb pattern. I’ve been trying to capture an image with little luck. It looks even more spectacular with a bit of rain or ice on the branches.
January 21 – Home alone for the evening, lounging in front of the pellet stove.
January 22 – Cold day at work. This grew throughout the day. I kept waiting for the rig to hit it on the way out the door.
January 23 – My family says the dog is a good luck charm and she has to wear the shirt through the Superbowl. Cricket is not impressed.
January 24 – The Howe is finally safe at home. The trip was much longer and more expensive than planned. Details to follow.
That’s her older sister, Engine 2, in the background.
I sure wish I had those ladders.
The first long hill was interesting. I’d forgotten how underpowered these old trucks were. I was remembering quickly. We would get up this hill, but we’d do it in our own time.
The first few descents were interesting as well as I got the feel of her brakes and steering again. A big old truck demands defensive driving of the highest order, as you never want to trust that they will stop or turn as quickly as you expect.
Eventually we hit a good pace. The weather began to thicken into fog and drizzle, and I discovered the leak in the windshield. A gap in the rubber at the base meant that each left turn brought a spray of water on my face.
The previous owner had warned me that he ‘wasn’t too sure’ about the alternator. Neither was I. The voltmeter hovered just below 12 volts, and the ammeter was showing a slight draw. I couldn’t be sure if she wasn’t charging, or if the meters were just off slightly. I resolved to use the wipers and lights as little as possible and see how far we could go. I did have a spare battery after all.
The trip through Franconia Notch was surreal. I was driving a piece of personal and department history through some of God’s most beautiful country, yet I could barely see beyond the end of the hood.
At the foot of the Notch we stopped for food and fuel. As the gas gauge hasn’t worked in 25 years, this allowed me to calibrate for our trip. We were doing 6 MPG. One more gas stop should leave plenty to get home.
Back up on the highway we settled in at a comfortable 55 MPH. Climbing the hills wasn’t too bad. Oil pressure and temperature were holding fine, and voltage remained steadily just below 12. Vacuum reserves would drop on the long hill climbs but immediately come back as soon as I lifted the throttle slightly. Things seemed to be going well.
Then came the first thump. It sounded like I’d hit a piece of road debris. I hadn’t noticed any road debris. . . All the gauges still looked OK. Nothing looked wrong in the mirrors, and the chase truck wasn’t flashing its lights. Onward.
Just north of Tilton it all began to come apart, both figuratively and literally. Three things occurred almost simultaneously: I felt another thump accompanied this time by vibration, I saw something fly off behind me in the mirrors, and a motorist pulled up next to me honking and waving frantically. Thank you, sir, I can feel and see it.
Paradoxically as I slowed the vibration worsened. I couldn’t have blown a tire. The sound wasn’t loud enough, and the ride was still too smooth. I found that one of the rear tires had begun to disintegrate. It was still holding air, but it was throwing off large chunks of tread. This would not do.
We limped into a Walmart parking lot at the next exit, two hours from home and one hour from dusk.
The Howe still stands outside at the farm. We suffered a mechanical setback today. I hope it’s not as bad as it looks. In the ‘glass half full’ department, she broke before leaving the farm and did not leave me stranded on the side of a highway.
In any event, it now looks like another week minimum before I can get her home to a warm, safe garage.
January 11, 2012 – The Federal Signal Beacon Ray.
I wish I’d had my polarizer with me as the sky was fabulous. Engine 3 is now legally registered to me and should be completing the trip home soon.
P366 may become a bit sporadic as I’m experimenting with some shooting on film. I’m still shooting, but I won’t get the instant gratification of digital.