Eclipse from the Ruby Mountains

Scouting over maps of the path of October 14’s annular eclipse, I spotted a potentially nice area to view it in the lovely Ruby Mountains of central Nevada (south of Elko) – an area I had never explored before. Darlene was off to visit Maine with her sister and Hera had been having more health issues but she seemed to have stabilized again when I decided to go ahead and pack up my bike and telescopes in the van and head out a couple days in advance to secure a nice spot.

I found a spot with a gorgeous panoramic view on Harrison Pass that was somewhat isolated from the access road – and the soon-to-be-gathering small crowd of vehicles and campers.  I set up and tested my cameras and telescopes the day before the eclipse and also did a bit of exploring by mountain bike on what turned out to be some nasty steep ATV roads.

Two-minute video of the annular eclipse

The sky started out fairly clear as the eclipse began but unfortunately the cooling air seemed to form more and more clouds as the time of max eclipse approached.  It looked like we were going to be completely overcast and I could see and hear lots of folks jumping in their cars and driving down the highway to try to find some open sky.  As it turned out though, the clouds thinned enough to give a filtered view of the full annular “ring of fire”.  And sure enough, the clouds dissipated as the moon began to uncover the sun again.  Maybe a mountain ridge viewing point wasn’t such a great idea given that mountains tend to attract cloud cover even without the cooling effect of an eclipse.  At any rate, the eclipse viewing was a success.

 

I decided to cut the trip short due to Hera’s deteriorating health but then the van broke down as I got to Elko: check engine light on and lots of codes saying half the cylinders were misfiring – and on a Sunday when all the repair shops are closed.  I eventually got a 24/7 mobile mechanic service to check it out but they recommended taking it to the one Ford dealer in town as it was going to be an extensive diagnosis and repair, and should be under warranty anyway.  (Only 21,000 miles on the van.)  Apparently driving it too far in this state could cause serious engine damage so I spent two nights in the Ford service parking lot.  First waiting for them to open on Monday morning and then waiting most of Monday for a technician to become available. Something’s failed with the VCT (variable camshaft timing) system and it’s going to be a multi-day repair job (engine take-apart) but they can’t even locate parts right now due to the UAW strike including closures of many parts warehouses across the country.  So I decided to rent a minivan, transfer everything out and head home with Hera.  Once again, the van is kaput and in a shop far away.


Update (11/10/2023): It took three weeks but eventually the UAW strike ended and they repaired the engine over three days.  We drove out in my car (with Hera) to pick it up.

Before heading out of Elko, I noticed the fresh water tank was empty – which seemed very weird.  Why would they go to the trouble to find and open the dump valve?  We found a place to refill and it was nearly full before I stepped out and noticed all the water draining through the side door of the van.  Turns out the water pump filter/strainer had burst.  I should’ve emptied the tanks and pipes before leaving it because it apparently got cold enough to freeze and bust things.  I didn’t think about it before I left the van there amidst all the worry about the engine failure, sick cat and being stranded in Elko for who knows how long.

The scary thing was that the water was flooding the electrical compartment.  It was right on the edge of submerging the fuse box.  It was dumb luck I caught it when I did.  I don’t know what would’ve happened – shorted out, started a fire?  Anyway, I stopped the fill and we sat there for a while letting things drain before moving the van for fear of shifting the water and making contact and then who knows what.

When we got home I investigated further and found that I was able to replace the little $10 pump filter part and there were no other leaks.
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