As I was approaching Sparks, I thought I heard a pop and saw a brief spark from the dashboard of my van, but wasn't sure and thought possibly I imagined it. I normally stop for a few minutes at John Ascuaga's Nugget to tickle my club card — we missed the last $10K draw because of the bad weather, but the next one is the Saturday that I arrive with the moving van. Exiting the freeway, I started to retract the roof antennas, but they wouldn't fold down. Fortunately, I had time to change course and head to the west parking lot, where I investigated. Nothing seemed to work to get the antenna mechanism to work, and it was clear that power was out to all of the radios as well. I unscrewed the two roof antennas because otherwise I wouldn't have been able to park in my garage when I got back to Fremont, then headed inside and tagged up on the Lightning Loot promotion.
Returning to the van, I noticed that the radio had forgotten all of its presets. It still worked as a radio, but the preset stations had gone away. I got back out on the freeway and as I drove through Reno considered what might be the problem. On the far side of Reno, I pulled back off and stopped at Starbucks for a coffee and thought more about the issue. (I also poured more material onto my MP3 player, as I'd exhausted my current stock of old time radio programs on the player.)
I confirmed that while the radio would remember its presets as long as the key was on, as soon as I turned the key off, it would forget everything again. Investigating further, I found that I had no interior dome or reading lights. The headlights still worked. The lights were off inside the van except for the bulb that went on over my head: I'd blown a fuse.
Fortunately, I was still in the Reno area, and there were two auto parts stores just down the road. I looked under the dash and saw the fuse box cover. There was no obvious way to remove it. I carry the owner's manual, though, and read the instructions. Need a screwdriver. Okay, I got the tools out of the back of the van and inserted screwdriver into the designated slot. No luck. I didn't want to push too hard because I was afraid of breaking something. After perhaps 20 minutes of fiddling around, I finally found the combination of forces needed to have the cover pop off.
Fortunately, the fuses are pretty clearly labeled, and it only took a minute or so to figure out which one had blown. While I'm sure I have fuses somewhere in one of the boxes in my van, it was easier to just pull out the 30A blown fuse and go inside and buy a replacement. The smallest unit they sold were two fuses, but no matter. I went back out to the van and duly inserted the replacement fuse in the slot.
The fuse immediately blew, startling me considerably. Hm, that suggests something more serious. Now, I could go ahead and drive back to the Bay Area — the non-working circuit was annoying but not critical to safe operations — but I now decided that the sound I'd heard outside of Sparks must have been related to the original fuse popping. I looked inside the 12V outlet. There I could see what looked like a small screw sitting there loose in the outlet. Holy short circuit, Batman!
Not thinking through the fact that the blown fuse meant the circuit was dead, I gingerly probed the outlet with a piece of plastic, not wanting to burn my finger on what was, after all, designed as a cigarette lighter. Out came a small metal part that must have come loose from inside the outlet and that I think was part of the cigarette-lighting part of the outlet. Other 12V plugs I have (like the phone charger) still work.
Now relieved that the fuses come in 2-packs, I plugged in the second new fuse, which held, and tested the circuits. Everything worked again. I reinstalled the fuse cover and put away the tools with much relief.
After more than an hour delay in Reno futzing with fuses, I finally got out of Reno and into the mountains. Weather was decent, although cold. I ran into some rain on the way down the west side, but no snow. Traffic was a bit heavy, with skiers mixed in with big rigs. At my usual coffee stop in Colfax, congestion was quite high, and I waited about twenty minutes for the queue to subside before getting my own coffee, but that's okay as I was checking mail and messages anyway.
In the end, I didn't get back to Fremont until nearly 9 PM.