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By Jan Wagner - syndicated weekly columnist/photojournalist
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April 7, 2006: Phoenix to Winslow, AZ


Yesterday I continued my drive through Arizona, stopping many times along the way to take pictures.

Bishop's Family Dining in Phoenix, AZ

My day started a little late, so I decided to fortify myself for the trip with a hearty meal. I was in Phoenix and stumbled upon a really great buffet restaurant. Bishop's Family Dining looked like just another restaurant from the outside, but inside it was different. It didn't have that sanitized, big chain look and feel to it. Not only that, but the food was special too. It tasted good -- like home cooking (at least as I remember it, from before I started living off of frozen dinners, pasta, pizza and bagged salad. Ah, the joys of being single again). I strongly recommend you try Bishop's if you're in the Phoenix area. They are located at 620 W. Osborn Avenue (Phoenix, AZ 85013). Oh, and for any cynics who may be out there, no, they did not give me a free meal to say this. I paid $7.25 (with tax) just like everyone else, and that included all I could eat of everything -- from salads to desert and beverages.


From there I headed on out and started driving. The scenery in Arizona is absolutely breathtaking. While I was on the road, the SMART car passed yet another of my tests.

TEST 7: Ease of repairs.


No car runs perfectly forever and I would be lying if I told you that any car does. My 2002 model has several thousand miles on it. I was driving up a long hill on the highway when I heard a tiny pop, followed by a hiss. I started to lose power so I pulled into a gas station and popped the hood, so to speak. One thing I am not is an auto technician so, while I was basically standing there scratching my head, a good Samaritan came up to me and asked if he could help. I, of course, welcomed his offer and described the problem to him. Thanks to his common sense and the easy access to the SMART car's engine, within two minutes and with absolutely no tools he fixed the problem and I was ready to continue on my journey!

Can you guess what the problem was? You might be able to see it in the photo -- Bill did and, while he said he has some familiarity with working on automobiles, I don't think he'd ever even seen a SMART car before. Now please don't hold me to it if I don't remember exactly what he told me but those of you who are familiar with auto repair might already have a pretty good idea what had happened. A little sensor of some sort had popped loose from the engine, depriving the engine of its vacuum. That triggered the SMART car's computer to shut things down, to protect the engine. Bill Walls, the good Samaritan, simply snapped it back on. After that the engine started up just fine. He suspects that it had not been fully attached at some point and had eventually worked itself loose.

Bill Walls, problem solver

Bill even offered to follow me on the highway for a few miles, to make sure that the problem was truly fixed. It was. Thank you for helping me to continue on, Bill. I appreciate it.

By the way, Bill told me that he needs a small, fuel efficient car to supplement his work truck. He said that truck only gets 10 MPG going DOWNHILL on the highway. He went on to say that it would be great if the people at ZAP could arrange for the use of a SMART car for him for a couple of weeks, to see how well it suits his needs. I wonder if that could be arranged for Bill? I have his phone number and he lives in Arizona.

Arizona viewpoint at a highway rest stop

I am not surprised that he'd like to try the SMART car. Today, like every other so far, practically every time that I stop -- and sometimes when I am moving, people make a beeline for the SMART car, give me a thumbs up, honk and ask a million questions. Many people ask me if the car is electric. It is not. It runs on gasoline. What other four year old car (mine is a 2002 model) attracts that kind of attention? If you like to be the center of attention, this is definitely the car to have! I do wish that my stops didn't take so long, but I like to talk to people. This trip has been fascinating, in part because of all the interesting people that I have met along the way. 

Approaching sunset in Arizona

Once it got dark I started thinking about where to stop for the night. Shortly after I passed the famous "Meteor Crater," I found a Holiday Inn Express in Winslow, Arizona (that reminds me of a song) -- complete with a high speed Internet connection in the room. I've got a lot of hours of driving ahead of me in the next days if I am to make it to New York City by April 11th. I'd better kick things into high gear. I may do what I did about ten years ago when I drove from California to the SCCA Solo II Nationals (autocross). I pulled over in rest stops along the way when I got tired, slept there and then continued on. If I do that, I may not be writing another column for a couple of days so I'll update you when I finally do stop at a hotel.

By the way, I've been keeping in touch with the other members of the ZAP Across America rally by cell phone (I'm probably going to pass out when I see my cell phone bill). Check out what they have been up to in their SMART cars at  

As always, please share your stories and send your comments to Enjoy the archives and more at Drive safely and do join me again next time.


Copyright 2006 Jan R. Wagner #186 AutoMatters

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