I’m reposting here an email I originally composed and sent from my mobile phone while I was traveling to Los Angeles. Enjoy!
4am. Why am I up so early? I ask Google when the sun rises: 5:44am. Continental breakfast is at 6. Screw it, I’m eating my car snacks now (mozzarella and bell peppers) and heading out at 5:15. Preflight check: oil’s a bit low, but gas is full; plan to fill up both at next gas station.
Making good time. Fly through Rock Springs at 6:30, decide to push on until I need some coffee or gas.
Green River is the next city, I pass through at 7:30- but wait! Just as I approach the last exit, the oil pressure gauge hits zero and blinks red! Whatever, this is a known problem with this car. I quickly decelerate and take the exit off of I-80 into Green River.
I pull it into the nearest gas station, and pop the hood. As I pull out the dipstick to check the oil level, steam comes off it like a smoking pistol. No good. I run in and buy a pint of oil, and quickly dump it into the crankcase, which also steams as I pull the cap off. Fill the tank, grab coffee and breakfast, hit the loo. Back on the road!
As I turn the car over, I hear a squealing from under the hood. I quickly pop the trunk to investigate, but it just seems to be coming from the belts.
Now that I’m sufficiently worried, I call the previous owner and pow-wow on the cars history, oil pressure gauge, etc. I commission a list of numbers for local stores to check out the car before getting back to the highway. On the previous owner’s advice, I take the car for a spin in town to see if the squealing will work itself out.
I only get four blocks into Green River. The car has died, and will not turn over! I am parked in front of 486 W Flaming Gorge. This seems to be a quaint residential district in what seems to be a retirement community.
I gather the numbers for local repair shops. I have two numbers, one isn’t in service. It is now 8:15, and it seems nothing is open in this town until 9. I decide to walk around and see what businesses are nearby.
As I leave the car, I see a robin with a broken wing running along the ground. Theres a Motel 8 a block away, and a Wells Fargo another.
In the opposite direction lies the gas station I came from. On my way up I see a chick trying to flee into a retaining wall. I text Dan in LA and let him know I won’t be in today. He calls back and we walk through the events. We both agree that the oil pump has probably seized up.
Near the gas station is a car dealership, and someone has parked a truck with an advert for transmission repairs. Not seeing anything else save interstate, I turn back.
As I head back to the car, the chick is still uselessly running into the wall. I stoop down and chase it around the corner and up the cement steps into someone’s yard, then leave it to die. At least its off the sidewalk now.
I sit down near the car, its now 8:30. I call the number for the repair shop again. This time I get an answer; they won’t be able to fit me in until next week. I call the number on the truck, and get an answer! He listens to my narrative, and agrees to come by on his way to work at 9. I wait.
Jeff drives up at 9:20. We look under the hood, I crank the engine for him. I show him the silvery oil on the rag I used at the gas station. Jeff shakes his head.
Jeff offers me a ride to his auto shop. We pull up, and it’s the first shop I’d tried to call, with the out of service number! We sit down in the office, and he starts to make calls for parts.
As Jeff figures out which parts he’ll need, he realizes he’ll need to take off the timing case to get to the pump. He’s been down this road before, and suspects he’ll need to replace the case as well. As we talk through the repair plan, Jeff becomes pessimistic that the repair will yield a car that can make it 1000 more miles.
Instead, Jeff agrees to help me find alternate transportation, and to help get the car off the street. As we’re making calls, his wife arrives at the office and pitches in. It’ll be 600 to ship my boxes out. 500 for a plane from Rock Springs to Burbank. 60 for a taxi to Rock Springs. We talk about renting one way from Avis, Hertz, or Enterprise (graduation was this week, they’re out). I enquire about the local rent-a-wreck, and again Jeff shakes his head.
Jeff _is_ the rent-a-wreck. If I wanted to go one-way, I’d need to pay for his wife’s plane ticket and mileage to come pick it up. He looks over his shoulder at his rentals, and points out two he’d be willing to sell outright. One’s been to Michigan, the other just came back from Florida. He’s confident either could make it to LA: $2000.
I consult with my family. Given these options, we opt to take a chance on Jeff so that I’ll at least have a car when I get to LA. Otherwise, I’d need to rent a car once there in order to go apartment shopping. We choose the 2002 Oldsmobile Alero (150k) over the Mitsubishi.
The die is cast. Jeff and I go back to my car and tow it to the shop. We take out the battery for the the new car, and the cap for the windshield fluid. Jeff gives the car a full tuneup and fluid top off, and we head out together for a test drive.
As we’re leaving, Jeff is kicking himself for misremembering the mileage: its only 95k! The car easily hits 75. As we’re heading back, I roll my window down- but it won’t come back up! Jeff says he’ll have a look at it when we get back. We make a stop at Wells Fargo.
As Jeff goes in to talk to customers that have shown up and write me a bill of sale, I start to clean the car and check the spare tire. I find over 2 dollars in change, three butterfingers, and a box of .22 ammo. All goes in the trash.
As the bill of sale is being printed, I notice the antifreeze we added before we left is now in a puddle on the ground. We grind the whole sale to a halt and go back to the car. Jeff isn’t worried about the spill, he thinks he just forgot to screw down the cap. Jeff is more worried about the radiator fans that aren’t spinning, and opens the fuse box.
Meanwhile, I attack the passenger door with a screwdriver. Once Jeff verifies the fans were in fact fine, he comes over to look at the window. We both agree it would take to long to fix, so he gives me some substrate and tape, and I quickly patch the window.
The sale concluded, Jeff gives me a ride to the DMV to speed up the title transfer and acquisition of temporary tags. On the way, I call the family with the new VIN number. We add it to our insurance.
We head back to the shop, where I transfer the title of the Buick, and unload it into the new car. Ages pass. Nothing fits. I pull out the manual, and learn that each seat has different controls for movement. Somehow the Laser Cutter fits in the back seat! I manage to get everything packed into the new abode, which was quite the feat: the new car is smaller.
We say our goodbyes. I threaten to send a Christmas card. I leave. I grab gas and coffee. Its 3:15. The seat is uncomfortable. I make Evanston at 5. I stop and check the ship: tight. I decide I’ve had enough of Wyoming, so I hit the road again.
I take Scenic bypass 189 (bypassing SLC), which neither me nor the car likes: too twisty and hilly. I pull into Provo at 7:20 and rent a room. I compose a novel.
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