Back in the desert southwest at last, where those forgotten patches of land way out on the edge of things are always so easy to find. We societal misfits have a thing for the edges.
It hasn't been so easy getting to this point, between my somehow getting sick twice in a week and a half, and then spending the better part of the past week troubleshooting a sudden 30% loss in gas mileage. On the upside, chasing down this sort of problem is a lot easier when you're burning through at least a tank of gas every day, so in a way, the timing was good.
In an impressively all-encompassing display of on-the-road diagnostic prowess, I replaced the spark plugs, spark plug wires, and air filter, tested both the oxygen and mass air flow sensors to ensure they weren't faulty (check), removed the catalytic converter to make sure it wasn't clogged or damaged (check), ran a compression test on all four cylinders (all are popping at 150 psi -- byoodaful), checked the fuel injectors to be sure one wasn't stuck open, checked the thermostat and coolant temperature sensor (false readings could cause the engine to run rich), and probably a couple of other things that I'm forgetting. All of which did little more than prove that the spaceship's engine is in amazing shape.
You know, except for the fact that it was getting around 14 mpg – down from an easy 20 to 21.
Then late yesterday afternoon, just before knocking off the last 100 mile push into Arizona, I got the brilliant idea of resetting the engine computer – as simple as disconnecting the engine battery's negative cable for a few minutes and then reconnecting it. Hey, if it's the first thing we do when laptops and phones act up, why not spaceships too? Lo and behold, while I'm only halfway through this tank of gas, early signs look very good.
I sure wish I had thought of this reset sooner. Testing engine compression in frigid 35 mph winds in an El Paso AutoZone parking lot was not fun.