Title: Moving from Boston, Massachusetts to Cleveland, Ohio

Date Occurred: December 17, 1991 through January 3, 1992

Date Written: First section on December 23, 1991, Second Section on January 6, 1992

Date Prepared for Web Site: April 26, 2019

Written By: Joel T. Kant

Copyright (c) 2019 by Joel T. Kant


After having filled out my final paperwork and having my exit interview, I stepped out of M.I.T. Lincoln Laboratory no longer an employee. It was two in the afternoon. In two and a half weeks, I will be starting graduate school at Ohio State University in Columbus, although I will immediately start research at the Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland is a two-and-a half-hour drive from Columbus.

I hurried out to my Honda because it was windy and very cold. Weather reports warned of a major snow storm coming that night. Some people had recommended that I junk the welded together Honda before moving. They were right, but I didn't know it yet.

My brother Philip had driven to Boston in Mom's Dodge Caravan. Philip had brought two friends from Wisconsin Rapids to help with the driving--Tim Dempze and Jason Graff. The three of them had still been asleep in my apartment when I left for work. I had given them instructions on taking the subway or bus into Boston so they could see the tourist attractions, but I doubted that would be much fun in the cold. But then, Boston cold might be trivial compared to Wisconsin cold.

About a mile from work, the little red light on the dashboard that said "BRAKES" lit up. That was not good, especially since we planned on leaving tomorrow morning. I was about half a mile to the gas station where I was going to top off the tank and check the air pressure in the tires, so I decided I could make it.

The engine hesitated once, and then again. It quit. Fortunately, I was now at the top of the hill to the gas station. I pushed in the clutch and coasted. As I coasted, smoke curled up from the edge of the hood.

I rolled into the gas station. A mechanic stood outside next to a customer looking at a car. I had to wait for them to finish. I opened the hood of my car. The smoke came from melted insulation on the ground wire connected to the battery.

After the mechanic finished with the other customer, he came over to my car. He put his hand on various hoses. He touched the starter. He told me to try starting the car. As I turned the key, all the starter did was click.

The mechanic said that the problem was the starter. He said it was hot.

I got out and went over to the engine. I touched the starter. It was too hot to keep my hand on it.

The mechanic said that he might be able to get a new starter in tomorrow.

"I hope so," I replied, "because I planned on moving to Wisconsin tomorrow."

I went into the gas station to use the pay phone. I called my apartment. Philip answered the phone. The weather had been too cold to explore Boston. I gave Philip instructions on finding the gas station. He soon arrived.

Early the next morning, Philip and I took the van to get the U-Haul trailer. The snow storm during the night had been a dud, with less than an inch of snow. At the U-Haul place, we were told that the trailer hitch on the van had a maximum load limit of 2,000 pounds which meant the van couldn't pull the five-by-ten-foot trailer we had reserved. We were told that the van could pull a five-by-eight, but we would have to wait until tomorrow because none were in stock.

Next, Philip and I went to the gas station to get my car. As Philip pumped gas in the van, I went to check on my Honda. The Honda was supposedly repaired. The brakes never were the problem.

Philip wanted to leave as soon as he finished gassing up the van, but I told him not to. I drove over to the air hose and filled two low tires on the Honda. I also drove to the pumps and filled the gas tank. When starting the Honda to get from the air hose to the gas pumps, the brand-new starter whirred quickly without engaging the engine! When I tried a second time, the engine turned over and started.

By this time, Philip really wanted to leave. I told him that the Honda might have to stay at the gas station.

I found a mechanic and brought him out to the Honda. I turned the key and the engine turned over. I turned the key off and tried again. Again, the engine turned over and this time started. I shut off the engine. The mechanic looked as bored as Philip. I again turned the key and the starter whirred without turning over the engine.

The mechanic said that he would look at the Honda again. Since Philip and I didn't have a trailer, we had another day to wait anyway.

That evening, all four of us went into Boston. One of our stops was Tower Records. Tim bought two CDs, one of Christmas Rap music.

The next day, I received good news and bad news. U-Haul had a trailer that the van could pull. That was good news. The gas station had found that the ring gear on my Honda was bad which would cost six hundred dollars to fix--more than the car is worth. That was not good news. I decided to use the Honda as it is. With four of us, we could always push start it.

Tim also had some bad news. One of his CDs contained a different disk than the package claimed. He had popped it into my CD player and heard the wrong music before he noticed the mistake. While Jason and Tim took the bus and subway back to Tower Records, Philip and I took the van to get the trailer and my Honda.

While finishing preparations for leaving, I checked all the fluid levels of the Honda. I again checked the air pressure in the tires. I found that the driver's side rear tire had lost ten pounds of pressure overnight. I drove out to Sears and bought a can of goop that is supposed to repair leaking tires. I squirted it in the tire and hoped it would work.

After cramming all of my possessions in the trailer, van, and Honda, we were finally ready to leave. Well, since it was about ten pm, I was ready to sleep after all that moving, but Jason, Tim, and Philip wanted to get on the road. Philip and I climbed in the van. Jason and Tim took the Honda. Philip talked to Tim using the CB as we headed down the road. Tim had brought CBs for both vehicles so that we could talk between vehicles.

Philip said to me, "I wonder who is listening to this conversation."

Tim came over the CB with some message about a flat tire.

I thought, "Oh, good grief. We haven't reached the highway yet. I guess the goop didn't work."

Although I didn't know how he knew, Philip said that they were joking. Philip radioed back that Tim and Jason should check if his blinker was on. Philip did not turn on the blinker.

Tim or Jason came back that the blinker worked fine.

"Good," replied Philip over the CB, "because I am a little low on blinker fluid."

The blinkers and the repaired tire worked all the way back to Wisconsin, although while stuck in a traffic jam in Chicago, I did have to give instructions over the CB on which fuse to replace to get the heater fan to work again.


For New Year's Eve, I went down to visit Scott and Lona Billie in Evansville, a small town thirty miles south of Madison. I arrived two days before New Year's Eve because I had to drop Grandfather off at the Madison airport.

After finishing at the airport, I met up with Alan Raichel. Although he lives in Baltimore, he was back in Sun Prairie, which is to the northeast of Madison, visiting his parents. He drove his father's truck and I followed in my Honda. He took a vehicle of his own so nobody would have to drive him back later that evening.

For the Billies, I had brought a complete set of Desert Storm trading card as a belated Christmas present. We created a silly game based on the cards. I think everybody enjoyed it. Lona won by two cards.

We also played computer games. I think the computer games bored Lona.

At some time on either that day or the next, Alan, Scott, and I went into Madison in my Honda to go to computer stores. Scott and Alan were not impressed with my Boston-style of driving when I cut across three traffic lanes to get to a CompuAdd store even though all three lanes were empty.

At one of the stores, I picked up a game called King's Quest V. I wanted to see what it was like on Scott's impressive computer system.

Early on New Year's Eve, my car blocked the Billie's driveway. We had to shuffle the cars so that Lona could get to work. I had trouble starting my car. The starter would make a clicking sound but not turn over the engine. This was different than the problem I knew about where the starter whirred but the engine did not turn over. Once years before I had this problem and it had been caused by a bad battery connection.

After work, Scott Billie used his wife's car to take me to Madison to get a voltmeter and a starter. He said he could return the starter if it wasn't the problem. We reached Radio Shack and got the voltmeter. However, the auto parts stores were all closed early for New Year's Eve.

Back at the Billie's home, Alan Raichel had arrived. Rather than starting to party, we started auto repair. The voltmeter showed the battery to be strong. By tapping on the starter, I got it to work and the engine to start. The voltmeter showed that the battery voltage stayed reasonably high during cranking. It also showed that the alternator worked.

It looked like the problem was either in the brand-new starter or the wires leading to it. Scott mentioned a time when Lona's car wouldn't start because one of the bolts holding it to the engine was loose. Lona verified this story.

When I checked, one of the two bolts holding the starter in was extremely loose. I tightened it down. I also cleaned the contact for the wire to the solenoid. I cranked the car. It started. I did this half a dozen times without mishap. It appeared Scott was right about the problem.

Since I was supposed to drive to Cleveland tomorrow, I decided I better not trust the repair. I called my parents and asked Dad if I could switch cars with him for a week. I figured that if the starter failed again, it would be better to fail in Wisconsin Rapids rather than in the middle of nowhere, or worse, in the middle of Chicago. Dad agreed. However, Dad and Mom were leaving at noon to go to a wedding in Denver, so Dad left the Escort keys on the kitchen table. Dad also warned me about a CV joint that was making noise in the Escort.

Now that the car problem was settled, I could relax and enjoy the evening. For the actual midnight hour, we had the television on the Fox station. It had by far the worst presentation for New Year's that I have ever seen.

After celebrating the night before, I went downstairs and played a computer game. Scott and Lona were still asleep. Scott's computer is much better for playing games than mine because it has much superior graphics and a sound board. I played the adventure game I had bought--King's Quest V. The player of the game controls a character named Graham. Graham has to do things like find the skeleton in the desert which still had an old shoe next to it, take the shoe, go back to town, and throw the shoe at a cat chasing a mouse. When Graham later gets captured and tied up by thieves, the mouse comes and chews through the ropes. I wasn't the one that figured that out, although I had found the shoe the previous night and Lona had suggested what to do with it. I think this is enough of the description of the game. I kept doing the wrong thing and Graham kept dying.

While I played, Lona came down and fixed a delicious breakfast with pancakes and sausages.

After breakfast, my car started. I drove to Wisconsin Rapids. As I came into the city, I saw my parents leaving in the van but I don't think they saw me.

I made it to my parents' home.

When I tried to get the belongings I would need into a small car, I had too much stuff and too little car. The Honda Accord looked slightly larger than the Ford Escort. I tried starting the Honda several more times. It started perfectly. I also worried about the CV joint problem in the Escort. I have push started the Honda before, but if the Escort CV joint went, I would be completely stuck. Foolishly, I changed my mind on using the Escort and loaded my stuff into the Honda Accord.

I left behind things that I really wanted to bring such as a painting my sister had made and Dad had framed a few days ago, but the Honda just wouldn't hold any more. If I would have left my computer behind, I would have had a lot more room, but the computer may prove useful in my work.

At about three in the afternoon, I started the Honda and began my trip.

Going around Chicago on Interstate 90, I missed a turn because the Honda was so loaded I couldn't see behind me and the car has no passenger side mirror. As I signaled to try to lane change to the turn I needed, a truck honked at me and I missed my exit.

I pulled off at the next exit. I was in the heart of the city. At this exit was a gas station. I pulled in. A kid offered to pump the gas for me. I declined. I decided to put three dollars worth in the car even though the price was not very good merely to guarantee I would make it well out of the city. I had to pay before pumping.

The woman behind the cash register gave me instructions on getting back on I-90. While I had been paying and getting instructions, long lines had formed at all the pumps. After filling up, I got in my Honda, turned the key, and heard a quiet click.

When I was in high school, Dad bought a 1966 Chevy Biscayne with a rusted frame. He had wanted to put the engine into his 1967 van, since the van engine used too much oil. The engines never were switched, although Dad ran the van until 1987. The former owner of the Biscayne, Dominque Fifi, said that the engine worked well, but the starter sometimes stuck. She said that she would tap it with a hammer and then it would work fine.

I popped open the hood and got out my hammer. I tapped the starter. I climbed back in and the car started. Whew!

Now I made another mistake. I should have turned back to Wisconsin Rapids. Instead, I continued on my way. The next time I got gas, the starter went click. I tapped on it and the car started.

I reached Toledo, Ohio. It was three in the morning. I stopped at a 76 Truck Stop. As I filled up, the gas pump ran very slowly. I went inside and was told to move to another pump. The starter went click. I tapped on it and the starter went click. I tapped on it again and the starter went click. About the fifth time, the car started.

I reluctantly obeyed the sign about turning off the engine when getting gas. I filled up. After paying for the gas, I asked if there were any auto parts stores near the gas station. There were.

Should I wait for morning and get a starter, or continue on to Cleveland? I decided that if the car started, I would continue to Cleveland. The starter worked this time.

At four in the morning, I pulled into Cleveland. I stopped at a gas station. I did not get gas and I did not shut off the engine. I was nervous that someone would take off in my car while I went inside to ask for directions, but I didn't want try the starter again. I left the car running, went inside, and got directions to a motel.

I drove to the motel, parked, went inside, and got a room. I had my Trek bicycle on a bike rack. A thief could cut the straps to the rack and take it and the bike. I brought the bike up to my room.

As I went to sleep, I felt like the character in the computer game. I had to get a starter, put it in the car, go to the Cleveland Clinic, and later find an apartment. As in the game, I had to do these things in the correct order. However, the character in the computer game kept dying!

I slept until nine in the morning. I called the Cleveland Clinic and let them know I was in town, but was having car problems. Next, I went to the pay phone and left a message on my parents' answering machine to let them know I made it to Cleveland. I also found the address for a foreign auto parts store near the motel.

I bicycled out to the auto parts store and bought a new starter. At the auto parts store, the front brake cable on my Trek broke. Oh well, I could use the rear brake. On the way back, I stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken. I was very hungry. I should have included getting food in my list of adventure-game-type tasks.

Back at the motel, I figured if I asked if I could work on my car, they would say no, so I didn't ask. In less than an hour, the Honda had a new starter in it.

After taking a shower and changing clothes, I drove to the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Rim Cothren, my new supervisor, said I should first worry about finding a place to live. He also said that the motel I was at--The Shangri La Inn Motor Hotel--was a terrible, dangerous place to stay. He described it as "rent by the hour".

The first place I went to see about renting had an electric outlet hanging from the wall and a stove that didn't work unless a sheet of paper was put between two contacts.

At the end of the day, I found a nice apartment on Lake Erie in Euclid, Ohio, which is a suburb northeast of Cleveland. I worked Friday morning doing things such as getting a badge and a parking permit at the clinic. Friday afternoon I went out to the apartment complex to fill out paperwork. By Friday evening, I had moved in.

Everything had worked out. During the weekend, I could finally relax!


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