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On the 2006 WVO Roadtrip,

8:15pm GN Monday.  1600 Trip Meter Reading.

The replacement of the small/primary filter.  We stopped off to grab some food from a Village Inn and snapped photos of the “hot rod” while it’s still sitting high.  

We expected it to fall soon thereafter, but it maintained its stressed appearance for the remainder of the journey.


On the 2014 WVO Roadtrip, we hammered down to make Denver before dinner.  But we still needed to make one more quick stop before Valerie took her nap.

So we pulled off I-70 at Glenwood Springs.  At the time, we didn’t know about the wonderful donut shop named “Coloradough,” so we decided to pull off by the rest area which allows you access to the Colorado River.  We skipped rocks on the shoreline for an hour and released some energy.

Eventually, we had to go.  But Valerie didn’t want to leave.  I couldn’t blame her.  She was 3 and didn’t want to get back in the van for a few hours.  She threw a fit, but after sitting with her for a few minutes, she decided to move on.


On the 2018 WVO Roadtrip, we had to stop off at the infamous Coloradough.  It’s a doughnut shop that is amazing.  We got there after hours, but the owner was working in the back.  After he realized we were taking selfies in front of his beloved shop, he struck up a conversation with us.  After a few minutes, he generously gave us a few day-old doughnuts for our trip.  Thanks so much!

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Mesquite Nevada
June 202013

It seems like every time we pass through Mesquite, we have some kind of mechanical failure.  It’s really awful luck.

The 2006 WVO Roadtrip was the genesis of the terrible Mesquite breakdown.

10:05pm GN Monday.  1707 Trip Meter Reading.

We added three cubies to the tank.  We drove for the longest stretch without adding fuel and literally ran the tank dry.  Glenn was concerned because much of the fats and particles collect at the bottom of the tank.  Plus the VO acts as a solvent and deteriorates some of the lining of the converted diesel secondary tank.

There was some sort of vibration coming from the rear axle, and unfortunately the driver’s side CV boot had cracked.   He was somewhat concerned, but claimed that he’d piloted vehicles for thousands of miles without replacing the axle.

Turns out our jacked up height in the back end had put undue stress on the 25-year-old rubber boot.  Our fix to one system had introduced a new problem to another.

12:29am GN Tuesday. 1815 Trip Meter Reading.

Small / Primary filter replacement (Silver Shell Container).  Eight gallons of diesel purchased.

4:00am GN Tuesday.


While Glenn drove through west Utah and Arizona, I slept through the gradually increasing vibration coming from the rear.  Slightly disoriented, I hollered to Glenn that we weren’t going to make it through Arizona mountains with this shaking. He reassured me that we had already passed through them, but we maybe had five more miles left on the axle as is.  Not only was the vibration out of control, but there was the sound of screeching metal and worn bearings. We approached the town of Mesquite, directly on the Nevada border and promptly found the first exit. I jogged to the back of the car to see smoke billowing from the boot.  As a stroke of luck, there was an all-night Walmart literally one block to our right. Glenn suggested that if we could squirt a sizable amount of motor oil on the bearings, we could limp the wagon to the supercenter and purchase some bearing grease: if they even had any. I scavenged around for a plastic bottle from the ditch, from which we punctured the cap to make a squirt-bottle for oil.  But the bottle didn’t shoot very far. Then Glenn produced a clear hose and we siphoned some 10W40 into the boot which got us the remainder of the way. The Walmart didn’t have any of the special axle grease Glenn used for the other CV joint. Fortunately, we did stumble upon some generic marine trailer lubricant that would probably hold the best. We figured that trying to close up the boot with duct tape would be futile: our best strategy would be to pump the joint full of marine grease, let it spin loose until empty, and replace the goop every ten miles or so.  We just might be able to make it to Las Vegas, only eighty miles away, by sunrise. Otherwise there exist no Mercedes dealerships or mechanics that would have the resources or parts to handle our vehicle.

After a couple laps around the lot, Glenn stated, “Fuck it.  Let’s go.” After ten miles down I-15, the vibration returned to a relatively loud level and we repacked the boots at a desert underpass.  We repeated this procedure five times until we made it to Vegas and parked at Circus Circus, due to my experience with that casino and proximity to the north of town.

We made it to Vegas, and that story is continued on the Las Vegas article.


This 2013 WVO Roadtrip was another typical breakdown in Mesquite.

This time we were driving through the desert and the veggie tank was getting full.

We pulled over on a semi wayside, and filled up the grease.  While waiting for the oil to flow down the funnel, we noticed a fluid dripping from the Overdrive unit.  Turned out the rear seal was totally obliterated, and the fluid level was severely low.

We quickly got back in the van asap to limp it to Mesquite NV.  We figured what little fluid we had left would drain out if we didn’t get it to civilization quickly.  We left the wayside and headed down the road.

Eventually we got to Mesquite which was a few dozen miles from our breakdown.  We used the GPS to find a Carquest on the east side of town and they luckily had a replacement tailshaft seal in St George.  While we waited for the part to arrive, we parked the van in the back lot and walked around the town to kill some time.

After a few hours of dinking around, we headed back to the auto parts store who had our part in hand.  Thank god.  IF they couldn’t get the part on this day, we would be stuck in Mesquite for 2 days.

The parts store was really nice, and they let us swap out the tailshaft housing seal in their parking lot.  While we were working on our veggie van, another old man was wrenching on his RV next to us.  We often jibber jabbered while the other was working.  He was a cool guy, but his engine problems were severe.  I hope he got it running.

After we got the veggie van all sealed up, we headed north.  The section of Arizona on the I-15 is exceptional, and one of the best parts of the entire American highway system.



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Las Vegas Nevada
July 132012

We have visited Vegas I don’t know how many times now.  I suspect that 90% of our WVO roadtrips have us driving through or stopping in Las Vegas.  It’s on the main route to Los Angeles, so unless you are coming down the coast or along the Mexican border, you’ll come thru Vegas.

It’s one of those places where it’s just too irresistible to drive the strip.

On the 2006 WVO Roadtrip, 

After a couple laps around the Mesquite Nevada Walmart parking lot, Glenn stated, “Fuck it.  Let’s go.” After ten miles down I-15, the vibration returned to a relatively loud level and we repacked the boots at a desert underpass.  We repeated this procedure five times until we made it to Vegas and parked at Circus Circus, due to my experience with that casino and proximity to the north of town.  Since they didn’t have a wireless network in the lobby, we set out for a under-construction Hilton but found some service at the Travel Lodge nestled in between. While the sun rose over the desert, we surfed through some forums finding independent Mercedes mechanics, hoping they aren’t coots.  “Sig’s” sparked our interest because the testimonials claimed he was less expensive than most Vegasian repairmen, but there was a report that he’s known to take his time.

After a breakfast at the Peppermill, we parked the car at the front of Sig’s office, a white building with disassembled vehicles scattered about.  Serendipitously, his place happened to reside in the chaotic mish-mash of industrial one-stories behind the Circus Circus casino. We arrived a half-hour before his scheduled opening, but a gruff main in a  white van appeared to confront us about our wagon. Turned out he was Sig himself, and after some phone calls, he found the rebuilt axles at a neighboring shop. But it would cost us $800!

2:12pm GN Tuesday.  2120 Trip Meter Reading.  Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sig completed the repairs on schedule, to the contradiction of the aforementioned online reports.  Glenn insists he knew we were in a tight spot and exploited it. Whatever really happened, we had to keep moving if we were going to make Victorville to meet Jeff, the first contributor for the journey, by sunset.  We crossed the Mojave desert with little trouble with our vegetable oil temperatures maintaining temp. “Maintaining Temp” was a term Glenn continually repeated to describe the hot temperature of the VO. The engine must have the fuel heated in order to use it as a diesel substitute.

Things were looking up for us.  The engine was running great on VO, the axles were replaced, the suspension is maintaining its height and we have one third of our original VO cubies left. We even had time to visit a ghost town west of Victorville.  Turns out it was refurbished by the Knott family trust, so who knows how much was Disneyized or authentic.


On the  2012 WVO Roadtrip, we arrived kind of late in the evening, but it’s Vegas!  Everything is still open.  We found an Indian Buffet (Glenn’s idea) and gobbled up some food that wasn’t cooked in a microwave or served in an American diner.

That was the end of the 2012 WVO Roadtrip.  We wrapped up the remaining drive to Los Angeles in the night.


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St Louis Missouri
May 12006

This concluded our 2006 WVO Roadtrip.  We got into St Louis in the late afternoon.

After visiting the Gateway Arch and getting some food to eat, Glenn dropped me off at my girlfriend’s college apartment.  He took off to finish the drive back to Wausau Wisconsin.



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Branson Missouri
May 12006

In a classic Simpson’s episode, Bart claims Homer says “it’s like Vegas if it were run by Ned Flanders”.

Branson is about 20-some miles off the main interstate.  The drive is a gauntlet of billboards showcasing the “wholesome” talent further down the road.  I suspect they are trying to get the attention of the old codgers taking the shuttle bus from the nursing home to Branson.

As we read more and more billboards, I felt a wave of desperation.

“I think this was a bad idea.” –Nick, 25 miles to Branson.

We got into town during scattered showers.  This mean walking the strip was out of the question.  We drove around checking out the geriatric sights and sounds.

Maybe it’s all really cool.  We wouldn’t know.  We didn’t stop in on any of the shows, because we needed to get to St Louis before the end of the day.

Also, we had some repairs near Springfield MO.

From the log:

  • 9.896g 2.829dpg 269 tmr 12:3?pm GN sat.  Found burnt out fuel pump. Lines and all clear filters dry.  Direct battery test confirmed pump dysfunction. Disassembly of pump indicated a burnt capacitor.
  • 2:13pm GN Sat. 327 tmr Springfield, MO. Fuel Pump replacement.  
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Glenn was exhausted from constantly fixing his Benz, and he passed out as I drove across Oklahoma.

Eventually I had to hit the can so bad, that I thought I wasn’t going to make the next rest stop.  Coincidentally, the next rest area was the famous Will Rogers Archway.  We got some breakfast and headed further north.  Branson isn’t going to wait for us!



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Oklahoma City
May 12006

We got into OKC really late in the night and wanted to check out the Bombing Memorial.  We had not idea on if the park would be open late at night, but fortunate for us, the place is open and protected by security 24 hours a day.  We got to take our time and pay our respects to the people who died in the Oklahoma City Bombing.

Visitors have adorned fences and walls with bits of personal artifacts to commemorate their visit.  We didn’t have anything to contribute, so we went about our way.


We also visited this site in October of 2013.

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New Mexico High Plains
April 302006

From the 2006 WVO Log:

  • 11.69g 2.799d amar 775 tmr 2:00am Saturday
  • also primary/small filter replacement.
  • 28d 2.69dpg 070 tmr 8:12am sat
  • 9.896g 2.829dpg 269 tmr 12:3?pm GN sat.  Found burnt out fuel pump. Lines and all clear filters dry.  Direct battery test confirmed pump dysfunction. Disassembly of pump indicated a burnt capacitor.

The high plains of New Mexico are really pretty.  It’s at a surprisingly high altitude, so you get a cool breeze and lots of grass lands.



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Roswell New Mexico
April 302006

Roswell is one of our favorite places on the continent.  It’s a great little town in the middle of nowhere.  They have a little of everything.

Here’s an entrepreneurial MacDonalds owner that made a UFO themed version of the typical burger joint.

It was such an intriguing design, that we felt compelled to stop in and get some food.  We normally don’t like to shop at these multi-national companies, but the local owner really put in a lot of work to give it some character.

Then we went to the International UFO Museum and Research Center.

If you don’t know, Roswell is a destination for conspiracy theorists about a UFO crash landing in 1946.  Ever since, people have flocked here to investigate things further on their own.  Several Roswellians have set up shop to cater to these tourists.  So we took advantage of this industry.

On the way out of town, we did even more repairs in the hopes that we can make it to St Louis without more breakdowns.


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Alamogordo New Mexico
April 292006

As we pulled into Alamogordo, we noticed the headlights were not very bright anymore.  Sure enough, one of the bulbs was burnt out.  We decided to get to Walmart before they close (in a few minutes), and a cop pulled us over.  We tried to plead with the cop to let us go, because we are literally going to get a replacement bulb, and thankfully he gave us a warning.

Glenn fixing yet another thing on the Benz:



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With our daylight running out, we stopped at White Sands.  This place is amazing.

Glenn was notably upset from all the auto repairs.  He took this photo in a huge fit.

I think he just wanted to get home.  The Benz seemed to be falling apart.



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We had fuel starvation issues as we drove from Tucson to Roswell.  After we just drove the lowest latitude ever on WVO fuel in one of our cars on I-10, we pulled over in the middle of the desert.  Even though we were on the major highway, this part of New Mexico is quite sparsely populated and no one else was on the road.  Fortunately and surprisingly, we ended up pulling over under a random street lamp on the I-10, in the middle of the desert.  On the horizon to the north, there was a massive anvil thundercloud strobing every split second without any thunder.  We kept the wagon idling as we worked on repairing the WVO kit, because we were worried if we shut it down, it might not start again.

From the 2006 WVO Travel Log:

Friday April 28, 2006

  • 11.3 2.89 530 tmr 4:12pm GN Friday
  • Screen Unclogging using a modified pneumatic nossle and gas station compressor.  (still clogged)
  • Rerouting of the fuel output tube to the fuel pump from the top of the tank.  (Still clogged.)
  • We noticed that there are massive bubbles in the VO to the injector on a sustained acceleration.  A clear-tubed return revealed that there is little VO returning and some actually reversing at high R’s.

Things were getting really bad.  The Dana Linscott-style design had catastrophically failed on all points of the system.  Particles were accumulating throughout the fuel system.

Also, filters, glow plugs, and copper lines were clogging with gunk and polymerization.

And worst of all, what few rubber lines we had, were kinking, thus restricting the flow of what little fuel did make it to the IP.

This night was really tough.  We got everything back in order, purged the air, and kept on going to White Sands.


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Biosphere 2 in Arizona
April 272006

We cruised through the Seguaro Desert in the morning.

And got to the Biosphere 2 project.  Back in 2006, the place was still open.  From what I heard now, it’s abandoned or something.

We got one of the last tours of the complex before the shut down.

The underground has this massive diaphragm that ensures the entire complex has proper air pressure.  Remember, unlike the Pauly Shore parody “Biodome,” this complex is completely sealed off from the desert environment.

It’s really a foreign place in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a shame it was shut down.

At a certain point, Glenn dove into the water tanks and swam with the fishes.

We stayed the whole day here, since it was only a few years ago that we wanted to visit, but they were closed for the day.  Once our tour ended, we refilled the veggie oil tank and headed out to New Mexico.  We didn’t realize that our wagon would have even more mechanical issues in the evening.



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12:45am Thursday 575 Trip Meter Reading.  Primary Small Filter Replacement.

2:53am GN Thursday 667 Trip Meter Reading.  Major Secondary Filter Can Replacement. (after consistant engine spuddering)

At this point in the trip, we started to realize that the Dana Linscott plans for this WVO Kit were completely flawed.  We started finding massive particles in our fuel and the filters were clogging constantly.  Also, the Glow Plugs started burning out.  More serious failures came up in the New Mexico desert.



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Mexicali Mexico
April 262006

After surfing in San Diego, we stopped off at our only visit to Mexico on WVO fuel.  We visited the town of Mexicali in the night, which in hindsight was not a good choice.  Within minutes, we were hounded by gangs and had to evacuate the town after only an hour.



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San Diego California
April 262006

As the sun was about to set on the Pacific, we zipped down to San Diego.  Due to our mechanical issues in San Juan Capistrano, we lost our whole day that was supposed to be spent in the Gas Lamp District.

Glenn let me drive so we could navigate the traffic down to the Coronado area.

Got to the beach just in time for the sunset.  Southern California is amazing.

Glenn stole a surf board and hung ten with the remaining sunlight.

Wow.  That was a long time ago.



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8:30pm GN Wednesday  475 Trip Meter Reading.

Something was wrong with the oil we got from Jeff.  We pulled off in San Juan Capistrano to investigate the veggie oil we received.

Sure enough, the oil was super goopy on the bottom of the cubes.  Maybe Jeff has a full-heated setup which would allow him to run this creamy oil, but ours was just heated on the lines and engine area.  We didn’t have a heated tank setup in those days.

We unloaded the wagon to determine how bad the situation was.

Our only option was to reroute the fuel pump hosing so it empties the biofuel tank into an empty cube we had.

The process was VERY slow, because back in these early days of the WVO movement, we were using subpar transfer pumps that don’t have a good GPM rate.

Once it was completely drained, we put in a few cubes of good clean clear oil, and diluted any remaining gunk in the tank.

Here’s a picture of my ass on this trip.  I didn’t want to wear my nicest clothes, so I brought my low-rider and ripped up work jeans.  I apparently kept showing Glenn my “Brown Eye” whenever I got in and out of my seat.

He took this picture as proof that I’m an exhibitionist and gross.  He also said that after traveling 5000-miles with me and my ass, he “could give the police a composite sketch of my full ass.”


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Victorville California
April 252006

Things were looking up for us.  The engine was running great on VO, the axles were replaced, the suspension is maintaining its height and we have one third of our original VO cubies left.

8:00pm GN Tuesday.  2420 Trip Meter Reading.  Outside Victorville, CA.

It was quite a relief to approach Jeff’s neighborhood and finally park across from his residence.  He had an appointment across town so we hung out by the until he arrived. His wife invited us in, but we found that the rear hatch won’t open.  This is imperative, because we would have no means of refueling the VO Tank. I unloaded the car (again) and Glenn climbed into the back to forcefully kick the door up.  Lisa, Jeff’s wife, discovered some WD-40 and, since we’ve been repairing everything already on this car, the door was somewhat of a minor adjustment.

Directly after we reassembled the back hatch, Jeff approached in his VW TDI.  He provided us with over a dozen cubies of filtered VO, enough to finish the entire trip back to Wisconsin!  As I loaded up the wagon, Glenn and Jeff discussed their VO setups and brainstormed some fixes for the lack of “temp” that we encountered for the majority of our journey.  jeff stated that he couldn’t really see any way to improve the heating of our current system and the entire assembly is fully insulated.

For some reason we didn’t let Jeff fill our tank with his veg.  We had only sixty miles back to my place in West Los Angeles so we ran it on diesel.  The temperature outside was chilly since we were approaching the coast and the sun had completely set.

Onward to L.A.


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Calico Ghost Town
April 252006

We crossed the Mojave desert with little trouble with our vegetable oil temperatures maintaining temp.  “Maintaining Temp” was a term Glenn continually repeated to describe the hot temperature of the VO.

The engine must have the fuel heated in order to use it as a diesel substitute.  There’s a dust devil on the horizon in the Mojave.

Things were looking up for us.  The engine was running great on VO, the axles were replaced, the suspension is maintaining its height and we have one third of our original VO cubies left.

We even had time to visit a ghost town west of Victorville.  Turns out it was refurbished by the Knott family trust, so who knows how much was Disneyized or authentic.

Calico Ghost Town:




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1:27pm GN Monday.  1434 Trip Meter Reading.

Mid-way through the ascent into the mountains, we encountered some sputtering which generally meant the filter was clogged.  A quick filter change and bathroom break, and we’re off.

4:49pm GN Monday.  1496 Trip Meter Reading.  An offramp near Eagle, CO.

Glenn has a sixth sense about checking up on his motors.  He wanted to just check out the hydraulic suspension leveling system reservoir fluid level to make sure the expensive two quarts we deposited earlier was holding.  Right away, we noticed it was low. We dumped in another quart and began to think this trip was going to be pricey unless something gave.

We fired up the engine and the hose began to leak quite apparently.  Turns out our hose clamps had worked themselves loose. This was a big mistake on our part, because if we could have maintained those clamps, I’m sure we could have made the entire journey on our “MacGyver’ed” hose sandwich.  No bother, because Glenn found some bigger hose that would almost encapsulate the entire leak better than the sandwich setup. Now we had melted duct tape adhesive gobbed on the hose and fitting, which requires more cleanup, but the baby wipes worked magically.  Since we had done this before, we spent almost an hour making sure that the new fix doesn’t have a leak. Plus we used five clamps instead of three, to apply pressure throughout the fitting.

We have it perfect–there is no way this will leak.

We were wrong.  Not only did it leak, but it practically exploded.  Right away too, which in hindsight was much better. Since we only had one quart of the fluid left, there was little else to do but disassemble the hydraulic pump.  We couldn’t limp it to the nearest Mercedes dealership, in Denver or Las Vegas. I pulled out my laptop and opened those schematics we downloaded in Nebraska. Using only basic tools from a dilapidated socket set, Glenn pulled the pump off the engine and a black disk fell to the ground.  this disk was the “Driver Pin” that connected the mechanics of the pump to the power of the engine. With this removed, we no longer had to worry about the pump burning out due lack of fluid or lubricant, but we pretty much knew that eventually our jacked up rear end would drag on the ground.

Also, a man stopped off to help us.  Turned out he was from Michigan heading to San Diego.  He had some tools and helped us near the end of the pump reinstallation.  None of the Coloradans even bothered to look our way.

Heading to Glenwood Springs….


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11:02am GM Monday.  1339 Trip Meter Reading.  Denver CO.

The night before, we sped through the northern suburbs of Denver to reach the Firestone tire shop with ten minutes before closure.  They seemed obviously annoyed and nearly almost forgot to replace the burst tire in the back of the wagon. Luckily Glenn pounded on the bay doors and “caught” their reluctant attention.  Meanwhile, I sought out an adjacent autoparts store and inquired on the hydraulic fluid. Locally, they stated, a dealer and the NAPA warehouse would provide the elusive oil. Unfortunately after some phone calls, I determined that we would have to wait until Monday for the Littleton Mercedes Dealership and Service Center to open.   I returned to the Firestone with the bad news and Glenn was chatting with some of the shop staff about the trip, VO, mileage, and so on. Even after all this trouble we are still raising interest. The sun was setting by now, and not having planned to stay in Denver, this gave us the opportunity to see Denver. We headed directly through downtown toward Littleton.  Promptly we found the Mercedes dealership and assumed that a plethora of hotels would reside in the commercial district of town adjacent to the freeway. Not really.

After nearly an hour of driving, we still haven’t found a place to stay.  Finally, we broke down and asked an attendant at a Shell station. To our surprise, the man point to an establishment just down the road, claiming to be an inn.  I was driving, and I pulled the car up through the canopy and Glenn hopped out to make a reservation—the place was packed. As he disappeared into the crown, I noticed that a lot of people were gawking at me.  I moved the wagon into an empty space and Glenn reappeared at the passenger door quicker than expected.

Let’s go kill that fucker at the gas station!” he exclaimed.  Turns out that this “inn” is a restaurant and that canopy was decorative.  I was wondering why everyone was looking at me and there were no rooms nearby.

Eventually we found a couple of pricey places to rest and flipped on the tube.  More crumby news. There was an amazing forty degree shift in the temperature and now they were forecasting SNOW!  Three to six inches to be expected in the foothills and no information on the status of the mountains. Now this doesn’t freak us out: we’re from Wisconsin.  But we briefly discussed a possible detour south if we think we can’t handle driving with two bald tires on the rear of the automobile.

The next morning (Monday) we approached the breakfast room next to the main entry and the snow is coming down in little flakes.  Visibility is approximately a mile and the clerk tells us that snow in the mountains is extremely dangerous. We were low on WVO and decided to add 2.5 cubes under the hotel’s canopy to avoid getting snow in the funnel or tank.  This put on quite a show for the people in the breakfast hall and lobby, and eventually a woman emerged asking about our car. She seemed interested, but the comment “We drove here from Wisconsin on one gallon of diesel” caught her off guard.  She promptly informed the others and before we knew it, everyone was hovering around our car and asking questions.

After acquiring the hydraulic fluid for $18 per quart, we filled the reservoir and headed up the mountains.

We had flurries throughout the eastern mountains.

12:59pm GN Monday.  1421 Trip Meter Reading.

Received better performance with the WVO in the steeper inclines than the diesel purchased in WI and NE, due to the cold temperatures (around 32 degrees F).


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Northeastern Colorado
April 232006

3:56pm GN Sunday.  1139 Trip Meter Reading.  Somewhere 150 miles from Denver.

Halfway to Denver, we smell something funny about the engine.  We pull off onto a rarely-used off ramp and it turns out the car rear-end is fully extended, even with 25 cubies in the back.  Opening the hood, it’s apparent that the special hydraulic hose fitting for the suspensions system was leaking. At this point Glenn and I established official names for our roles in this adventure.  Mine was easy: the Navigator. I marked down the info into the log, and devised the pathway to see the sites and meet with contributors. Glenn has a proclivity toward making things out of nothing, which leads to his title:  The MacGyverer.

Eastern Colorado is not what I thought it would be.  It’s basically an extension of the grasslands of the Great Plains which is fairly dry and treeless.  For considerably long stretches, there exist no services and multiple offramps that lead to nowhere. Now this is the environment in which we built a fairly ingenious tube patch.  Keep in mind that we had only minutes to complete this task too, otherwise we won’t get to the tire place before they close.

Now the whole front end of the engine is coated in hydraulic fluid, so we cleaned it with the only we had on hand:  Baby Wipes. It worked remarkably well. Then Glenn wrapped the tube fitting and hose with duct tape, and we split apart a smaller hose to cup around the leaking connection.  Three clamps later, and we stopped the leak and was headed back toward Denver.


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7:00pm GN Sat.  1001 Trip Meter Reading.  Grand Island, NE.


After some time diagnosing and putting the bad tire to replace the de-treaded spare, it was too dark to make real solid changes.  We set up shop in the room and proceeded to contact contributors, to explain the delay, and post messages in the Mercedes forums, to get some answers on the Suspension Leveling System, turns out those leveling systems are a good concept but once they have problems, you have problems.

Glenn found a series of schematics in pdf format on the internet, studied them in depth and saved them to my desktop.  We would wake up at sunrise to make our move.  

We entered our hotel room in a really shabby condition:

7:00am MST Sunday.  Paxton NE.

Glenn elevated the car with that jack and I immediately went out scavenging for cinder blocks or wood to act as an improvised stand.  

Trying a series of repairs, the best solution seemed to be to turn the broken valve to wide open, to force the car to sit way up on the back end.

It would seem for comfort and handling, a dragging ass is worse off than jacked up.  As we ran the engine, the car gradually elevated (maybe a couple millimeters a minute), but no fluid was returning to reservoir.

This indicated that the struts are filling with expensive, rare Mercedes hydraulic fluid, and soon we’d need a lot more soon otherwise the pump would burn out.

1:55pm GN Sunday.  1064 Trip Meter Reading.  

Left Paxton, NE for Denver, CO, without any registering suspension fluid.


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7:00pm GN Sat.  1001 Trip Meter Reading.  Grand Island, NE.

Before we left Wisconsin, we had some concern over the reliability of the rear tire treads.  It may have been the load in the wagon forcing the tire to wear on the insides, but some of the steel was starting to show.  We made a defensive decision and opted to change the most deteriorated tire there with the spare and buy new ones in Los Angeles.  We plan to stay in LA for at least a day, maybe two.

Some tire places were still open, but were asking ridiculous prices.  Plus we didn’t have a lot of time to waste shopping around, so we managed to pry the lugs outside a local shop.  This was good thinking, because if we encountered a problem we could still purchase their services.

Mercedes Benz has a sketchy jack to put it mildly.  To describe it, the jack is a tube with a crank on the side.  There is no stand or bas, so you just jamb the connection into the Benz’s jack-hole and balance the stump on the pavement.  Glenn claims it’s really rational and because it seems to level itself as you crank. I think that’s a crock and with my remedial engineering education, I know that applying unnecessary moment (rotational) force to a unstable situation is problematic.

Knowing this, I go into the junk piles behind the auto shop to scavenge for wood for blocks.  Not to set under the car like jack stands, but to place behind the wheels to aid the parking brake and keep the car from rolling.  After I force the blocks around the front tires, I return to the rear of the Mercedes while Glenn elevating the automobile. I remember this vividly because it was prior to some strange sounds and behavior coming from the underside.  Glenn almost had the passenger side wheel off the ground when I hear a hissing and watched the driver sided start to settle in a matter of a second. I made a comment, but he stated that the Mercedes suspension leveling system will fix itself when the motor starts.

The spare now installed, I started the drive to Denver, losing only an hour in western Nebraska.  The suspension still hadn’t raised, but Glenn asserted that it would eventually elevate. Only a mile or so from our previous stop and the the newly-installed spare explodes.  Luckily we were only a quarter mile from the ext for Paxton, NE and there stands a convenience store and Days Inn with a monster parking lot.

Once parked, it was apparent that our “spare” was a poorly completed re-tread, but still managed to hold air.  Also, the suspension still hadn’t raised and after further inspection there was no fluid returning to the reservoir, indicating that there has to be a leak.  Glenn suspected a certain type of valve, with which he had previously purchased but regrettably didn’t bring.

This left us at an impasse.  Since we are on the cusp of the Mountain and Central Time zones, we had to decide on whether to return to relatively-large Grand Island or attempt to make it to Denver.  Mercedes dealerships are not ubiquitous American establishments. If I could contact a dealership in Denver before 7pm Central time, they may be able to supply us with a special hydraulic fluid on a Sunday (far fetched but who knows).  We have to get this fluid now, otherwise we are hung up in western Nebraska until Monday. Also, there are not tire places open in Grand Island on Sunday. If we get a flat on the way to Denver, we are stuck in a grassy desert hours from help.  

While Glenn was diagnosing problems in the dark, I promptly did what i could–grabby my computer.  I stormed the hotel lobby and inquired about the possibility of internet access. We had already decided to get a room, so the staff was more than helpful, even letting me use the lobby phone while I surfed the net for shops.  Unfortunately, no dealership was open and wouldn’t be open until 9am Monday. But I did find a Firestone Tire Center with Sunday hours until 5pm in Denver.

After some time diagnosing and putting the bad tire to replace the de-treaded spare, it was too dark to make real solid changes.  We set up shop in the room and proceeded to contact contributors, to explain the delay, and post messages in the Mercedes forums, to get some answers on the Suspension Leveling System, turns out those leveling systems are a good concept but once they have problems, you have problems.

Glenn found a series of schematics in pdf format on the internet, studied them in depth and saved them to my desktop.  We would wake up at sunrise to make our move.


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Omaha Nebraska
April 222006

2:46pm GN.  740 Trip Meter Reading.  Omaha, NE.

There was a specific museum I wanted to see in Omaha, but due to conflicts we had to forego that plan and we decided to cruise up to downtown.  We parked and hoped to stumble upon something interesting and this generally how Glenn and I operate. Granted, we planned this journey for weeks, but there’s something to be said about just seeing what happens.  Besides we had some time to spare if we were going to make it all the way to Parachute, Colorado by midnight, where we usually crashed on our previous road trips.

We walked a full loop around the downtown area of Omaha, where once again due to it being a Saturday, there was practically no one around.  Eventually we found a Famous Dave’s (a BBQ chain originating from Hayward WI) and got some food. I wa starving. Glenn, tired and already uncouth, reluctantly ordered some chopped port and complained about where the car was.  We had sauntered about for a while and he had disoriented himself.

I assured him that if we cut through a neighboring park, we’d come out by the car.  My theory was right, but we found people. There was a fountain and some kind of small river and, while we searched for a pedestrian bridge, we were accosted by network television.  Worse yet, Reality TV! Turns out that two women were trying out for “The Amazing Race” TV Show and wanted our support. Naturally we lied and claimed we’d seen the show.

Glenn and I casually escaped their cameras and loaded up two and half more cubies of VO into the tank.

Then we were back on the interstate heading west:



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Des Moines Iowa
April 222006

11:54 GN.  640 Trip Meter Reading.  Stewart, IA.

We replaced a small/primary fuel filter.  Glenn claimed that he had already stretched a previous thousand miles out of that filter before the trip, so if we could maintain a thousand-mile minimum out of those cheap ones, we’d be sitting nice with five in hand.

We approached Des Moines and the Capitol seemed the most logical to visit.  Right away, we thought about what concern might arise from driving a car to various governmental and historically American sites loaded with a hundred gallons of ‘fuel,’ but (as you will read further) it really didn’t matter at all.

 The building seemed pretty vacant so we assumed it was closed, but then again that is no indication that our government wasn’t supposed to be in session.  We parked and circumambulated the Capitol where we confirmed its weekend closure. It was still nice though.

On the way to Nebraska….




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Albert Lea Minnesota
April 222006

8:31am GN.  453 Trip Meter Reading (275 Miles driven).  ALbert Lea, MN, near the Minnesota/Iowa border.

On a Saturday morning in rural Minnesota, there is little traffic or commotion.  We figured we were low on veg (our fuel gauges had a broken the night before, so the whole trip will be a guessing game on how much fuel is left in the tank).  So we pulled off in Albert Lea and entered the bay at a local Shell station.

As a side note, we vowed that for the entire journey, we would only fill our VO tank at gas stations, preferably in the fuel bays to get maximum exposure.  It seemed rather worthless because there was NO ONE there. Except a station attendant. And I’m sure she didn’t care.

In mid-pour, a kid in a white van pulled up and a passenger stormed off into the Shell station.  The driver was transfixed by our activities and promptly asked what our car used for fuel.

After some discussion he approved and others approached the car as we got a pre-packaged, preservative-enriched breakfast.  Our first stop, and we already got a positive reaction.

Already entering Iowa by 9am:



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2006 Journal of Events and WVO Maintenance

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin

Saturday April 22, 2006 through May 1 2006.

2:30am CST Saturday Wausau WI.  

We left a half hour late, but it was no big deal.  We had loaded up 27 cubies into the wagon the night before and did some last minute checks on the system and engine.  We immediately hit some light rain and fog all the way to Minneapolis which reduced our speed to barely 45 mph. Once Glenn took over the wheel we drove considerably faster regardless of the conditions.

For the rest of the trip, we used the radio for our clock.  Since Glenn was so busy trying to get the car ready for the five-thousand mile trip, he couldn’t reset it.  Also there was some other reason why we couldn’t change it, but it slips my mind. Anyway, our following entries will use something called GN time which is the reading on the radio clock.  It’s generally about one or two hour ahead of the regional time.



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