NECE 3, Day 2 – checking out Bar Harbor, working on the car with Mark

Checking out Bar Harbor

After a VERY cold and dark night (3 hours south of me, the thermostats read -8 degrees at 7am), I was ready to 1) eat, and 2) be out of the cold.  So I headed down into Bar Harbor, both out of an interest in getting to see the town, and also hoping for a hot breakfast in a warm restaurant.  I took some photos of the town, which was actually rather small (and buttressed on 2 sides by the Atlantic Ocean), and then found the Two Cats bed and breakfast.

Two Cats Bed & Breakfast, and their lovely carving out front

Two Cats Bed & Breakfast, and their lovely carving out front

The town itself was fairly empty, which (upon asking folks) was normal – the town booms during the summer months with visitors to Acadia, and then busts during the late fall to early spring.

The lonely streets of Bar Harbor

The lonely winter streets of Bar Harbor

Along the way to Mark’s workplace (see below), I stopped by the Natural History Museum at the College of the Atlantic, and got to meet a very friendly whale skull (the poor fellow apparently decided to ram a ship!).  They had some other neat things in the building, but I just marvel at the fact that a student did an independent study on bone reconstruction in order to rebuild that skull for display – talk about a LOT of homework!

Ship hull: 1, Whale: 0

Ship hull: 1, Whale: 0

Meeting Mark, getting going on the car

The trip down the coast (approximately 3 hours) to the water pumping and treatment station in Woolwich saw me encountering several places worth a photo, including this:

The ocean was quite nice, and right off US 1 for ease of enjoyment!

The ocean was quite nice, and right off US 1 for ease of enjoyment!

and this:

A gorgeous Maine home, with a gorgeous winter day around it

A gorgeous Maine home, with a gorgeous winter day around it

As someone who continues to grow into the wonderful online community at the TDIClub forums (THE place online for learning about and the troubleshooting of owning a turbodiesel Volkswagen), I had been in conversation with a member there named Mark, who is from Maine.  I asked him if I might get his help on properly doing the coolant change on my car (besides its being corrosive as all hell, the chemical must be fully washed out prior to adding the new stuff… and I didn’t want to wreck the car by doing that wrong!), and Mark, in the first of MANY acts of gracious hospitality, told me he would be happy to help me do that and a handful of other things on the car.

MFALCON parked in the Woolwich water pumping station, ready to be worked on

MFALCON parked in the Woolwich water pumping station, ready to be worked on

All told, the day of work saw us do the following:

Repairs
1) the coolant needed to be flushed and changed out (as I didn’t know how old it was).  Once we did it, it was blue… so the original, stock coolant… meaning it lasted for 245,000 miles (and is really rated for approximately 100,000)
2) an extraordinarily leaky o-ring on the oil filter got replaced, as well as an oil change
3) the valve covergasket was replaced, as were the grommets which keep the head cover in place
4) the engine bay was sprayed with industrial strength cleaner and then hosed down, and now shines!

Upgrades
1) side marker lights – in place of the Castle Wolfsburg emblems which come stock, I was able to cannibalize a set of side turn markers from a *wrecked* 2001 Passat in a New Haven junkyard for a mere $10.  Mark helped me properly wire them up so that they can be easily removed for future maintenance, but also so that they work with the front turn signals AND the emergency flashers.  Writing in retrospect, these make a HUGE difference for safety at night and/or during storms
2) the 19 year old emergency brake cover, which had rotten away, got replaced by a spare genuine leather one Mark had on hand.  We had to heat it to 105 degrees C for over an hour to become pliable enough to get onto the plastic handle, but it looks so much better

To be clear and concise: Mark is some sort of VW angel in human guise, and is simply astonishingly good at glancing at a Passat B4 and seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Kevin, myself, and Mark with the car inside the water pumping station

Kevin, myself, and Mark with the car inside the water pumping station

At the end of the day, I bought Mark some dinner and then realized how exhausted I was… and asked if I could sleep in the back of my car in his driveway (rather than a 3+ hour drive north starting at 1130pm).  I can tell you that Mark and his wife were so hospitable that they let me sleep in their home that night (and I passed the hell out once there).  Both of them were extraordinary examples (or perhaps run of the mill, I do not know Maine well enough) of genuine hospitality I have not previously encountered in New England (much less the rest of the world).

A long day, but a great one.

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