San Diego: I made it back!

Center map

Feels like home!

So yeah, I left Lake Havasu, AZ after an extended stay. The looming expiration of my registration demanded that I return to good ol’ SD for some Minivan maintenance.

The return trip was uneventful albeit a bit convoluted. My GPS program sent me on a stair-stepped route through fields of hay, soybeans, corn, nut trees and even a strip mine!

Strange. If you’re north of I-8 or even I-10 there’s really no direct route west! At least, not in the southern half of California.

You know, the vast majority of Arizona is flat and unremarkable desert—with light brush, the occasional tree, some cactus and spotty rock formations. When my GPS announced, “Welcome to California” at the border, there was a striking change in terrain: green!

My brain, after a while in the desert sun, said “home.”

Oh, that’s riiiight.

It was nice to arrive back in the Golden State but, the very first gas station I hit reminded me of one of the reasons I enjoy traveling elsewhere—the price of gas. Just about everywhere else, regular fuel is anywhere from $1.99 to $2.25 a gallon. In my home state, it’s closer to four bucks and, in some places, even more!

But, hey, the weather is nice!

As a matter of fact, the weather is damn nice, with highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the upper 50’s. It will be getting warmer here in a couple months but, for now, it’s perfect!

Remember the new tires?

Yup, had a flat in Oregon and another in Washington! And I caught a third tire on the verge of losing its tread and replaced it, as well, in Washington—before it killed me. So, it certainly came as a surprise to learn that both of my rear tires (both of them brand spankin’ new) were revealing some of the steel belting on the edges facing the inside of the Sienna!

The back wheels are out of alignment! Who knew? I had always thought it’s the front wheels that needed alignment, not the rear ones. This is the reason why I lost those tires in Oregon and Washington in the first place!

So, I haven’t quite done the figuring yet, but it looks like I got only about 3,000 miles out of two brand new tires (the third new one, on the front passenger side, still looks new).

Had to buy two tires again—this time, used, but in great condition—and I had both of them mounted and ready to go for $100. There’s a “special tool” needed for the Sienna back tire alignment, so I’ll have to find a shop that has that tool and can get the $40 work done.

I don’t want to buy two more tires every time I drive out of state!

The Catalytic Converter

Yes, the State of California is fixated on air pollution—not a bad thing—and requires cars, trucks and minivans to get a “smog check” every two years or, at random, every year. This is my year! And so, I needed a new catalytic converter.

Expensive, they are!

Now, “research shows” that a catalytic converter is effective down to about 75% efficiency, but the millisecond it hits 95%, the engine computer module (ECM) turns on the “check engine” light! I’ve been resetting that light with my handy little OBD device for about two months now (it comes back on every eighty miles or so).

Hello Antonio!

My trusty auto mechanic, Antonio, had his Chief Mechanic change it out for me. When import expert Marcelo put the Sienna on the lift and pulled the converter off, pieces parts came falling out of it (guess I needed one)!

That looks like the problem there, Marcelo.

“Ya think?”

Once I’ve driven about 80 miles and the ECM resets, I’ll have Antonio perform the smog test and I’ll go get my $88 sticker for the back license plate.

Hello Doctor!

I have an obligatory visit to my physician this Friday for my regular bleeding (a blood test) so, that gives me some time to take care of the alignment, smog testing and sticker business for the Sienna. I am thinking those are all of the responsibilities I have this time in SD—and I can, once again, hit the road!

I’ll let you know in a week or so the launch time for RoadTrip 2.1! At this moment, I am setting my sights on Crater Lake in Oregon, as I have mentioned numerous times here, on

Happy trails my friends!


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