pheo New Reader
11/16/17 9:14 p.m.


Well, I wanted an adventure. Oh, yeah.

Fast forward, its early morning I’ve said my goodbyes and hopped into the De-spec’d Miata and I am tooling along the early morning streets of San Francisco. I look at the gas gauge in the lower half of the range and figure I can make it to the out skirts of the city before I need to fill it up, I hope. Then traffic starts, I’m in a street legal go cart with no gps and I have never driven inside San Fran before. I know the basic direction. Then I can’t help but notice the cop car next to me.

                Let me back up…

I started the trip to retrieve the De-spec’d Miata with a different purpose in mind. My son was moving from San Francisco to Tennessee and had a 1992 Miata, several other vehicles and a van full of household goods. You can only hook so many things behind a rental van so he made one trip across towing the Exocet on a trailer. He could tow the Miata on another trailer behind the rental van but I had a better (in my mind anyway) idea.

I was going to be between college classes and talked Andrew into letting me drive the Miata across as sort help him / let me get out and camp and road trip to Missouri. Then he could come pick it up once he was settled in Tennessee. I had driven it while visiting him once and thought it would be a great travel blog and lots of fun. I got a new(er) camera and planned to drive across Hwy 50 which runs from Sacramento to Kansas City, MO. I was going to take 4-5 days and document it all. I thought the Miata still had a race seat and the cage. I planned to call the blog something like “2000 miles, a Miata and a race seat”. Lots of photos to offset my lack of writing skills. You know, best laid plans of mice and men.

In building the Exocet Andrew had gotten another Miata and stripped it down for parts. It didn’t have the race seat and column so he swapped those out of the De-spec’d Miata and cut the door tubes out. He planned to just track the heck out of it for those days when he didn’t want to tow the Exocet to the track. Then the De-spec’d Miata got stolen. Several weeks go by, insurance paid off and he had written it off as gone, physically and mentally. Then he got the call that it had been recovered and did he want to buy it back, cheap? Hey, parts are parts!

Andrew got it back and as the move started to loom closer, he thought maybe he should sell it but couldn’t get what it was worth. Yes, it had been tracked, started down the road to being spec’d, tracked some more, stolen, driven like it was stolen, recovered, left in an impound yard, etc. In other words, it had seen better days. But it ran well, it had less than 100k miles and a hardtop. I had driven it when it had most of the spec cage in it and a race seat, removable steering wheel and you kind of wiggled into it. It was a blast to drive. I liked the car and I didn’t think he should sell it.

Well, one morning I got up and drove to the Kansas City Airport, about 100 miles. I got my obligatory molesting from TSA and packed into a middle seat like a sardine. Two landings later I was in San Francisco, grabbed my luggage and was on the phone with Andrew. “Yeah, I’m on the lower road, it’s that, wait, no. Ok do you see a white truck ahead of you? <pause> Not that one, wait I see you, I’m half way down on the right…” Several of you know the drill of moving targets meeting. Yes, it was a little crazy getting to San Francisco.

Andrew’s daily is a Mazda Speed3, I strap in and away we go. I knew it would be a quick trip to the house, it was.  smiley

On the way he told me that the radiator he had ordered was waiting to be installed and we needed to check the De-spec’d Miata over. We spent a nice weekend in San Francisco doing some fun things and working on the De-spec’d Miata – At this point I know you’re wondering about the name De-spec’d Miata, I promise it will become clear later – the radiator was a nice aluminum unit and checking a few things out it needed front pads but was in really good shape considering it had been stolen.

It was missing the front license plate and had a few white strips where it had been spun while it was being driven like it was stolen because, well, it was stolen. That concerned me a bit, but I thought it would be ok. I asked Andrew about the registration and insurance paperwork.

He opened the glove box and said, “It’s right here in the glove…..shuffle, shuffle, shuffle…..what the heck?” The look of confusion said all I feared, no paperwork.

At some point it had been removed, by whom we don’t know, impound yard, insurance people, cops, tow truck driver, it could have been anybody. Crap. It was late Sunday night and I was leaving in the morning. Well he had the title and some other paperwork all in a folder, I figured I could play ignorant. It was registered and insured if they checked, I just didn't have the paperwork to prove it was registered and insured. It wouldn't be too much trouble. I could take my time with 5 days to cover 2000 miles.

Then my wife called. Her dad was selling his car and we needed to go get it Thursday, meaning I needed to be home in Missouri Wednesday so I could drive 10 hours to Louisiana Thursday. So there went my relaxing cross-country outing. In the space of an hour or so I went from it  'will be fun'  to  'it will be ok'  to  'oh crap', I have less than 3 days and an iffy setup with the De-spec'd Miata … I should mention that in addition to missing a front license plate, missing paperwork proving it was registered and insured, it was also missing the jack, the spare and the lug wrench.

Ok, so like I said, I wanted an adventure. Oh, yeah.

Fast forward, its early morning I've said my goodbyes and hopped into the De-spec'd Miata and I am tooling along the early morning streets of San Francisco. I look at the gas gauge in the lower half of the range and figure I can make it to the out skirts of the city before I need to fill it up, I hope. Then traffic starts, I’m in a street legal go cart with no gps and I have never driven inside San Fran before. I know the basic direction, I had glanced at a map. Then I can’t help but notice the cop car next to me.

Have you ever seen the Star Wars scene where Han Solo tells Chewy to “fly casual, but don’t look like your trying to fly casual?”

So, I am trying to drive casual, but I am trying not to look like I am driving casual. I tried to look bored like this was my everyday commute, I think I probably pulled off a look like I was constipated or maybe little crazy? I'm not sure which, but he decided not to pull me over, or more likely he never even noticed me. As he switched lanes I realized that I was already on the bridge. There are no gas stations on the bridge, and I don’t know when this car runs out of gas, or if the gauge works at all. Having fun all weekend I forgot to ask Andrew about it. E36 M3.

In a car with no carpet and setup to track the noise level is a little higher. I got my phone where I could use it but I didn't know if Siri could hear me. “Find a gas station” by now I was passing the exit to 13 on Interstate 80 heading north. What the first place she shows? Yup, the exit I just past. I wasn't all that sure of Siri anyway as I had just started using it the day before and she couldn't find the donut shop across the street.

When the traffic let up I looked at Siri and she was going to send me to find something else (I don’t remember what), not a gas station, I guess it didn't matter that I missed that exit. Not knowing how much gas I had I drove way too many miles before I pulled off on an exit and topped the De-spec’d Miata's tank. I reset the trip odometer so I could get an idea of the miles per gallon when I filled up again. The gauge was reassuring in its rise the full mark.

I took a deep breath and realized I had made it out of San Francisco and Sacramento without a ticket. I guess I thought I wouldn't make it because of all the things I was missing, you know, license plate, a little paperwork. I figured I would see every police officer getting off duty or starting their shift in both cities. Nope. After the first one I didn't see many. Maybe this would be a good trip?

I decided to skip Hwy 50 and take Interstate 80. I figured I could blend in a little better and a 2-lane made me more noticeable to police. It was also shorter by 200 miles, a bit faster and time did matter. Another point against me was the commercial drivers license in my pocket. If I got the wrong cop I could be in real trouble because as a professional driver I was supposed to know better. I did know better, but it was a cross country trip in a Miata, come on, The Answer is always Miata!

So rolling across the miles is a little boring to talk about, beautiful to see, but I am not a poet to describe it. What I can describe is that I had $200 in my pocket and a debit card. As I stopped to fill the De-Spec’d Miata up again my card is refused. And I had 1400 odd miles to go out of the 1800. Some quick mental math and I realize I can pay cash for the gas and food, but then my reserve would be getting slim. I can make Salt Lake by night, I got camping gear, yeah, I would be ok.

So at this point I had a full tank, some food in my stomach and I ask Siri “Find ‘My’ Bank”. After she couldn't find the donut shop I was looking at I had doubts. I followed her directions and was pleasantly surprised to pull up to my bank. After producing all three id cards I had to prove I was me and I was really standing in front of the bank officer, they hopefully unlocked my card. Apparently, I should have told them I was traveling, they flagged it when it showed up in California buying gas. Inconvenient for me but really, its a good thing. I figured I would keep rolling and find out later if my card was really working again.

Maybe Siri can find a camp ground this side of Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City, here I come..

pheo New Reader
11/20/17 10:28 p.m.

I forgot about the time lapse I was working on. Andrew (aka Accordianfolder) and I got it compiled in a short clip.

In it we were tinkering with the Miata the Friday before the trip. 

Prepping the Miata

I am working on the rest and it will be up shortly.


willjordan None
11/20/17 11:34 p.m.

You really had a great adventure !!!

accordionfolder HalfDork
11/21/17 11:31 a.m.

In reply to pheo :

Ha! - we got working after a lot of fiddling - good thing you wrote it down this time.... I need to order a timelapse controller thing for my big camera!

pheo New Reader
11/21/17 1:30 p.m.

Rolling through Nevada I pulled off the Interstate into a small town to find a store. After a short cruise I spot one and pull in. I didn’t have tools, I didn’t have a spare, I didn’t have food, I didn’t have anything but camping gear. Looking at my meager cash reserve and not knowing if my card was fixed I got the cheapest things I could to raise my confidence level, two gallons of distilled water, in case the radiator was low after it blew the old hoses and duct tape to fix said hose after it blows said hoses.

The duct tape actually came in handy, but not for the use I thought of.

Back on the Interstate I watch a couple of dust devils playing on the plains and the miles continue to roll on. Then it dawns on me, its going to rollover 100K on this trip. For some reason that really made my day, yes, I’m weird, but after all the possible bad things that had popped up I had something to look forward to!

Dust Devil

Now I’m rolling in a 25-year-old Miata, it has a/c but I don’t want to use it. See I have been stranded by a blown a/c pulley clutch once before, actually, I was stranded in a S-10 that I had blown both the transmission AND motor 150 miles from home. I was being towed by my wife in her Jeep Wrangler, and it had the a/c pulley that blew up. 90 miles from home we are both sitting on the side of the highway in the Texas sun. But that is another story in itself.

I don’t want to risk the same thing again because it’s the original pump and R-12 system that came in the Miata, 25 years ago. I am doing more constant high speed running than it may have seen in a while, since it was stolen anyway. The surge when it cycled on might put it over the edge. Or maybe not, but I don’t want to risk it because if it blows and a cop comes along, “License and paperwork please”… “Um, officer, you’re not going to believe this….”

I really want to avoid the previous scenario.

Oh, by the way, there is no carpet and hot exhaust on the other side of a piece thin metal by the skinny pedal. I am lucky, the cruise works. I set it and moved my feet left. Of course, with the continuous driving, the tunnel itself started to get warm. No carpet, no console, where do I put my arm? Yup, you guessed it. I folded up my sweatshirt I had on earlier and it made a nice padded console the rest of the trip. I also figured out that I had it on recirculate, once I switched it to outside air that helped a little. Its full-on day in the north Nevada/Utah plains, August. The windows are down to provide some relief, the really hot air from outside moved the much hotter air inside the  black hardtop Miata some.

I wanted an adventure, remember?

I was rolling along and trying to decide when to stop. I asked Siri “Find Campgrounds” as a test and reassuringly she popped up with a list, most within 50 miles. I felt like I could push on to Salt Lake and find some camp grounds near the city. Needing to get home I pushed on for another couple of hundred miles.

As I got closer I asked Siri nervously, “Find campgrounds” and I had no map except my phone.

I was nervous because this was my view...

Have you ever driven into Salt Lake City? The reason they call it Salt Lake City is because of the salt lakes around it. I had driven far enough that all I could see on the sides of the road were salt lakes.

Siri made rude noises when I asked her to find a campground. (ok, maybe that was my heat soaked brain producing delusions) As someone famous once said “Complete digital disobedience.”

I’m tired, finally cooling off a little, did I mention tired. And all I can see it the road, no ramps or roads leading away from it and the white of salt or salt lakes around it all. Still doing 70 and thinking about the 80 mph signs I passed, but not daring to push it that hard for this distance.

I’m going all the way into Salt Lake City I guess, I’ll find a hotel and I’m beat anyway.

Rolling into the dark, poorly lit city I croak, Siri “find hotel”, and I randomly punch the first one that pops up so Siri will lead me in the right direction. As I pull into the parking lot I see “Suites” in the name, expensive I know, I don’t care. I was in no shape to drive anywhere else, if it has a bed I’ll figure out the money later. Surprisingly my card worked and suddenly I had a/c, a shower and a bed! 

“742 miles of 1800 down, tomorrow, Colorado.” was my last thought before I fell asleep.

BlueInGreen44 SuperDork
11/21/17 1:39 p.m.

Well, I'm entertained yes

pheo New Reader
11/22/17 7:20 p.m.

I have never been good at sleeping in. When I go to bed late I am just out of luck. Last night I got to bed kind of late. When my eyes popped open about 3 hours before I really wanted to be up I figured I may as well get started. I needed to fuel up and find my way out of Salt Lake onto I-80.

Rolling into the morning crush of traffic in little more than a street legal go kart you notice what’s around you, pickups, vans and trucks. The traffic was a little crazy but it was also bigger than what surrounded me leaving San Francisco. Being dark and just following Siri's directions last night I was a little disoriented at first. Then I saw the sign I needed, suddenly a street legal go kart wasn't a liability, it was a blessing as I dodged pickups and vans to get 3 lanes over.

Of course, then I realized I was in the wrong lane at the next interchange. Oh, darn. smiley

Miata's are really fun little things. If you have never driven one, please do.

As I slide out of Salt Lake climbing the hill up I-80 and the desert opens up before me I feel like I have forgotten something. You know that nagging feeling that, wait, crap, gas. Not the first time I have started out like this but today I looked at the gauge with more confidence and once again asked Siri, “find gas.” I guess the disobedience of last night was because she was tired also, Siri quickly filled the screen and I knew I wouldn't have to turn around to get gas.

The miles roll on.

Its been cloudy, but now it starts to sprinkle, then it stops. I like the cloud cover, it made for lower temperatures. I didn't want it to rain, one of the wipers was messed up and would scrap the windshield.

Then it gets angry looking in the sky ahead, no big deal you say, well some details, Miata, all season radials, and I am on brand new freshly laid asphalt.  I am on the fresh new oily blacktop doing 70 and the bottom falls out. With less than no warning its like I am on ice, hydroplaning, almost in control, no, scratch that, I am not really in control. I am frantically trying not to hydroplane into the medium, from the right lane. Other people are trying to gain control, or even see, they are weaving and hitting brakes. As I slow down enough to gain control (sort of) I get pointed back into my lane. Slowing down further I flip the wiper on in time to remember Andrew telling me the passenger side wiper scrapes the window.

Sure enough it scraps. I slow down further pop the 4 ways on and wait for the rain to slow. About as sudden as it started, it mostly stopped. I pulled over to ponder the wiper, it’s the spring mount under the wiper that scraps. Looking at all the water and the wiper I decide to see if duct tape wrapped around it would slide on the water slicked glass surface. I wrapped 2 turns around it and got in.

As the rain started again I flipped on the wiper, I cringed waiting for scrap sound, nothing, no sound but the wiper slapping back and forth.


It had to be wet to lubricate the duct tape, but it was better than the wiper scribing an arc into the window. I figured it would wear down pretty fast but it didn't, it looked like it did wear through slightly, it was discolored when I finished the trip. That said, I didn't have to rewrap it the rest of the trip.

On through Utah and Wyoming into Colorado things went pretty smoothly. Denver traffic was Denver traffic, not much you can do about that. More miles roll on and I see the Kansas state line!  At about 750 miles for the day I find a cheaper hotel and I am not as wasted as last night, the lack of heat really helped. I did sleep pretty good. Although at 3 am a couple was getting frisky in the parking lot, cats are really loud in their mating rituals.

I would love to tell you that day 2.5 was dramatic. But mostly I got breakfast, fuel and rolled fairly comfortably through Kansas City and on to home, about 4 hours. So I drove from San Francisco to Kansas City in 2.5 days. Can you do 800 miles a day in a Miata? If you can, it can and will, happily!

Now why its called the De-Spec’d Miata. It is named that because I have cut the cage out and am in the process of returning it to a street car with carpet, console and a radio. Kind of anticlimactic I know. I should have documented the process and will take photos when I get back to Missouri. I will tell you that a properly installed spec Miata cage is a booger to get out. I smoked a circular saw (don’t ask) went through 5 cut off disks and 2 saws all blades. Currently I am fixing my mom's Equinox brakes, heater, etc in Tennessee.

A short composite video of the trip across in the De-Spec'd Miata.

Thank you for following me on this folly, I have gotten hooked reading your adventures, keep 'em coming!

edits, spelling and punctuation.

pheo New Reader
11/28/17 9:18 a.m.


I am in the last part of the semester and have homework to finish and finals to study for but I really kind of cut that last post short.

I rolled into Warrensburg about noon. As I pealed myself out of the Miata I groaned at the thought of climbing on the mower, but it had to be done and my wife was already mowing.

The reason this couldn't wait was because we had to leave in the morning to get my father in laws car. We would be gone for a few days and then school would start again.

But before we did that 10 hour drive to Louisiana we jumped in Bev's Rdigeline and drove 101 miles to the Kansas City airport to get my CR-V. It is Wednesday night.

Thursday I got a break from driving, we took her Ridgeline down 65 Hwy through Little Rock and to get the Accidental Grand Marquis project. That started Friday. 


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