CHAPTER SEVEN. BUFFALO TO CANANDAIGUA
BEWARE OF THE COUNTRY MECHANIC
The five hundred and sixty-odd miles to Buffalo had been covered with no trouble that delayed us for more than an hour, but our troubles were about to begin.
The Professor had still a few days to waste frivolously, so he said he would ride a little farther, possibly as far as Albany. However, it was not our intention to hurry, but rather take it easily, stopping by the way, as the mood - or our friends - seized us.
It rained all the afternoon of Tuesday, about all night, and was raining steadily when we turned off Main Street into Genesee with Batavia thirty-eight miles straight away. We fully expected to reach there in time for luncheon; in fact, word had been sent ahead that we would "come in," like a circus, about twelve, and friends were on the lookout, - it was four o'clock when we reached town.
The road is good, gravel nearly every rod, but the steady rain had softened the surface to the depth of about two inches, and the water, sand, and gravel were splashed in showers and sheets by the wheels into and through every exposed part of the mechanism. Soon the explosions became irregular, and we found the cams operating the sparker literally plastered over with mud, so that the parts that should slide and work with great smoothness and rapidity would not operate at all. This happened about every four or five miles. This mechanism on this particular machine was so constructed and situated as to catch and hold mud, and the fine grit worked in, causing irregularities in the action. This trouble we could count upon as long as the road was wet; after noon, when the sun came out and the road began to dry, we had less trouble.
When about half-way to Batavia the spark began to show blue; the reserve set of dry batteries was put in use, but it gave no better results. Apparently there was either a short circuit, or the batteries were used up; the bad showing of the reserve set puzzled us; every connection was examined and tightened. The wiring of the carriage was so exposed to the weather that it was found completely saturated in places with oil and covered with mud. The rubber insulation had been badly disintegrated wherever oil had dropped on it. The wires were cleaned as thoroughly as possible and separated wherever the insulation seemed poor. The loss of current was probably at the sparking coil; the mud had so covered the end where the binding parts project as to practically join them by a wet connection. Cleaning this off and protecting the binding parts with insulating tape we managed to get on, the spark being by no means strong, and the reserve battery for some reason weak.
If we had had a small buzzer, such as is sold for a song at every electrical store, to say nothing of a pocket voltmeter, we would have discovered in a moment that the reserve battery contained one dead cell, the resistance of which made the other cells useless. At Batavia we tested them out with an ordinary electric bell, discovering at once the dead cell.
After both batteries are so exhausted that the spark is weak, the current from both sets can be turned on at the same time in two ways; by linking the cells in multiples, - that is, side by side, or in series, - tandem.
The current from cells in multiples is increased in volume but not in force, and gives a fat spark; the current from cells in series is doubled in force and gives a long blue hot spark. Both sparks, if the cells are fresh, will burn the points, though giving much better explosions.
As the batteries weaken, first connect them in multiples, then, as they weaken still more, in series.
Always carry a roll of insulating tape, or on a pinch bicycle tire-tape will do very well. Wrap carefully every joint, and the binding-posts of the cells for the tape will hold as against vibration when the little binding-screws will not. In short, use the tape freely to insulate, protect, and support the wires and all connections.
If the machine is wired with light and poorly insulated wire, it is but a question of time when the wiring must be done over again.
When we pulled up in Batavia at an electrician's for repairs, the Professor was a sight - and also tired. The good man had floundered about in the mud until he was picturesquely covered. At the outset he was disposed to take all difficulties philosophically.
"I should regret exceedingly," he remarked at our first involuntary stop, "to return from this altogether extraordinary trip without seeing the automobile under adverse conditions. Our experiences in the sand were no fault of the machine; the responsibility rested with us for placing it in a predicament from which it could not extricate itself, and if, in the heat of the moment and the sand, I said anything derogatory to the faithful machine, I express my regrets. Now, it seems, I shall have the pleasure of observing some of the eccentricities of the horseless carriage. What seems to be the matter?" and the Professor peered vaguely underneath.
"Something wrong with the spark."
"Bless me! Can you fix it?"
"I think so. Now, if you will be good enough to turn that crank."
"With pleasure. What an extraordinary piece of mechanism. - "
"A little faster."
"The momentum - "
"A little faster."
"Very heavy fly-wheel - "
"Just a little faster."
"Friction - mechanics - overcome - "
"Now as hard as you can, Professor."
"Exercise, muscle, but hard work. The spark, - is it there? Whew!" and the Professor stopped, exhausted.
It was the repetition of those experiences that sobered the Professor and led him to speak of his work at home, which he feared he was neglecting. At the last stop he stood in a pool of water and turned the crank without saying anything that would bear repetition.