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1993 300TE, 1995 E320 Wagon
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Discussion Starter #1
So I was inspired to add my story after a chat with Mapearso (recently returned from the Concourse in Monterey)….

I have owned my 560SEL since 2005 and had never taken her out to stretch her legs on an extended trip—until this summer. I made plans for an LA-Seattle round trip, taking my two boys and the dog (a loveable black Lab). The first thing I did was build a little platform for the dog’s bed to go behind my seat so she wouldn’t have to take up so much space in the back seat (pic 1). This also made for a surprisingly roomy little “cubby” under the platform that I used to store food, snacks, and sodas (and the bottle of scotch for evening cocktails). I planned to camp out most of the time, so we needed more than just the standard luggage…. One of the benefits of the SEL is its carrying capacity, and in pic 2 you see all of the gear that went into the trunk. Pic 3 is the trunk after packing everything in—and pic 4 is the rear end sag before starting the car up!! Here’s where the SLS system comes in—pic 5 is the result. I have found the SLS to be remarkably robust—I really tested it limits with the weight and some rough roads, and it performed flawlessly! I also found that it lifts the car even at idle, as opposed to 1500+ rpm as I had read.

The first day opened very well—the A/C was working (I had spent a good deal of energy and time rebuilding it) on the way to Lancaster to have a brief visit with Mclare—it was 104°, but the car was handling it like a champ. We pushed on to Fresno and into the Sierra on our way to King’s Canyon. Then the drama… the alternator gave it up. I suspect that the constant use of the A/C fans, the cooling fans and my new stereo amp was more than enough to make the old girl pack it in. So, we made our way back down the hill to Bear Valley Pizza and Auto Parts (I kid you not), where they ordered up an alternator from Bakersfield. Scrambled to get a motel room that would accept a dog (not easy), but the Sierra Inn was just up the way and they came and got us!! This was the first of several generous offerings by Gena (the owner). Had a fabulous steak dinner at the little bar/restaurant at the inn (can’t say the accommodations were much more than bare essentials, but the food was great)! Woke the next morning to another fine meal and called the parts place to find out that the wrong part had been delivered (and another part couldn’t come until the next morning!!). Not wanting to spend another night in the cramped and uncomfortable quarters of our little motel room, I was scrambling again. Well, Gena overheard the dismay in my voice and immediately loaned me her car for the day AND offered to take care of the dog!! Amazing. So we went back down the hill to Fresno (an hour or so), and I managed to scrounge up an official Bosch rebuilt alternator at one of the two junkyards in town. Picked up a second one just-in-case, and went to San Joaquin Auto Electric to have them tested out. Another fine establishment I can recommend…ask for Ken. Both alternators tested good, so I gave one of them to Ken for his time (he wasn’t going to charge me anything, and I couldn’t exactly pack it in the already filled trunk). Got the alternator installed and all is well—off to King’s Canyon only one day behind schedule!!

King’s Canyon is a lesser-known gem of a place, and it’s well worth the drive. Camp at Sheep Creek and take a drive to the end of the road and go swimming off of Muir Rock (pic 6). The cool, clear water in the King’s River is fantastic!! There’s also an excellent hike along the valley floor with spectacular scenery (pic 7). We also caught a couple of small trout—some bigger ones were lurking, but apparently not hungry.

I had planned on meeting up with Bondavi and Cascade on my way through Sacramento, but the day’s delay had thrown that out. So we headed up into the high Sierra above Carson Pass to a beautiful little “secret spot” called Upper Blue Lake. A fabulous campground at about 8500 feet—and some great fishing (pic 8). That’s me in pic 9 with a native Lahontan cutthroat trout. You have to drive on a dirt road to get there (pic 10), but that’s one reason I LOVE my skid plate!!! To be continued….
 

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Very nice! Looks like a blast, and some great pics. It's funny how inconveniences like losing the alternator can actually turn out to be a positive experience. I'm planning an extended road trip at the end of October and I cannot wait. I'm already getting antsy.
 

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1993 300TE, 1995 E320 Wagon
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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
A "Tour of the West" in my 560 SEL, part 2

We left the High Sierra to head east and north to Virginia City, NV, home of the Comstock Lode and the reason Nevada is the “Silver State”. Had a nice dinner at the Crown Point restaurant, but I must say that the town pretty much rolls up the sidewalks at about 8:00 on a Monday evening. From there, we headed back west to the Trinity River, about an hour west of Redding, CA. A fabulous drive through some wonderful wide-open country and into the forests around Lassen National Park. We met up with my parents and spent a couple of days trying our luck on the river for the salmon that were just beginning to run. My son saw a monster leap out of the water (biggest fish he ever saw, he says), but we were skunked. That’s why they call it fishin’ and not catchin’, though.

We then headed north to Oregon and spent another couple of days outside of Crater Lake, OR. We were at Natural Bridge campground (pic 11), and it’s another of my recommendations—we had a great site on the river (#16 if you can get it). Did a little fishing (two little trout), and went for a day to Crater Lake, which is spectacular (pics 12 and 13). From there we headed to a campground just south of Mt. Hood, OR. Year-round skiing and spectacular views from the front of a fabulous Timberline Lodge, a WPA project from the late 30’s (pic 14).

We then went north and west to my parent’s house near Seattle. After a few day’s rest, we took a day trip to Mt. Ranier (pic 15). Took a little hike above the Sunrise Visitor’s Center—just amazing (“looks like the Sound of Music!!” said my son). The drive was another highlight for the car—three adults, two kids, and the dog. A bit cramped in the back with the dog in the footwell (the platform was removed), but she handled the 350 mile trip with ease. Two days later, we took another “side trip” to Vancouver, BC. Discovered a little park north of the city near Horseshoe Bay called Whytecliff Park. Just a beautiful place, with lots of little trails and places to sit and take it all in (pic 16). Had a fabulous Chinese dinner in Richmond, BC on our way back into the US, too!

Finally it was time to begin to head back to LA (we’d been gone almost three weeks by now). The first stop was in Newport, OR, on the coast, where I lucked into a campsite that had just opened up (pic 17). The Oregon coast is RV-central for those who don’t know, and camping reservations are required well in advance for any summer weekend. I lucked out on a Thursday night… A spectacular beach and coastline (pics 18 and 19), along with a surprise. I had not thought about it, but about two miles away was where the 165-ton piece of dock had washed ashore from the tsunami in Japan. They were in the final stages of cutting it up to remove is when I was there (pic 20).

Next stop, after a long day’s drive was Macarthur-Burney Falls State park in northern California. We found an almost-deserted campground (primitive, but pretty) for $15 a night—best deal of the trip! We were “on the move” though, and we broke camp early to meet up with Bondavi and Cascade (finally) outside of Sacramento. David unfortunately had to leave almost as soon as we got there (we were late), but it was great to see him. Had a lunch and coffee with Cascade, and then it was on for the final push home. I had thought that there would be one or two more nights of camping (I was aiming at Yosemite), but the kids were getting homesick…. I didn’t tell them that I had resolved to push on home that night (it was two cups of coffee that helped). They were ecstatic to realize that we were heading home when we were still a couple of hundred miles out, though. Pulled into the driveway at about 10:00 PM, tired but happy to be home!!

All told, it was 4500 miles and the only drama was the alternator at the very beginning. Made about 18 mpg overall, despite a heavy load and lots of uphill work. What a great car—maybe I’ll have to keep it!!!
 

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'82 Euro 500SEL, '85 Euro 500SEC AMG WB Cabriolet,'86 Euro 500SEC RUF
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Glad you and the boys got to make the trip. They will remember it always. Glad you're back and really glad you didn't have any trouble other than the Alternator.
Great pictures. Makes me itch for a road trip.
 

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'84 500 SEC Euro 040 black Lorinser 2005 sl500
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Fantastic vacation where I am sure memories were made for all of you! Thanks for sharing.
 

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R.I.P. Never Forgotten
1983-2007 MB's
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Love the resilency of the W126, alternator notwithstanding. You've proven it can be used as a family chariot for weeks! :thumbsup:
 

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1997 SL500 40th Aniversary 1998 C230 2002 E430 sport 1987 420SEL sold 1989 300E sold
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That's a trip that you and your boys will always remember. I still remember all the road trips my parents took us on when when I was younger, and that was 30+ years ago, also always done in a Mercedes. These W126 just love the long road trips with miles and miles of open road. Thanks for a great write up and some incredible pictures. I think when you own a Benz, road trips are mandatory.:)
 

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1990 560 SEL with Euro engine, 1998 SL500 Sport
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Great little adventure and story. Nice to hear the car did so well... except for the alternator.
 

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2012 CL550 4MATIC Coupe
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Cool story! Great pics!
 

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Always Remembered RIP
1991 560SEC AMG
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10,146 Posts
Excellent tale!

A great story, well told, with sensational and evocative pictures. The family trip will live on in your memories, and those of your two great sons, each of who I felt privileged to meet - they are a credit to you, indeed.

The saga proves also, that the legendary w126 cars, when well kept, like your own, make fantastic road trip vehicles despite their age...
 
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