Posts Tagged With: cars

Back Flash, Not Quite the Same as a Hot Flash, But Close

This thing is a Thing.

This thing is a Thing.

Saw this car the other day parked across the street that belonged to some parent watching his/her kid practicing soccer. My favorite two-year old couldn’t ignore the thing. In fact she insisted on touching it, tried opening the door, peeked inside, very nearly climbed over the side and into the cute yellow and black plaid seats. Then I suggested a photo-op and she copped a few poses for me. Then she seemed satisfied.

Little did she know I’d just done a back to the future moment during all of that.

I so much wanted to own a VW Thing back in the day. So versatile, I thought. So cool, with it’s convertible roof. I could just picture myself at the beach, my surf board tossed casually in the back after a day of sun and waves. Or just as easily I could envision my backpack and tent piled in the back as I drove to the mountains for a weekend trip. Or even better, imagine me, the famous writer zipping about town in my flashy Thing, to this book signing and that book signing. I’d pop a cassette tape of David Cassidy in the ultra-modern radio console, crank my windows down, put the top back and be the envy of all who saw me.

Not sure how I was going to afford that on my McDonald’s “how may I serve you” salary, but I could surely dream big back then.

I wouldn’t have picked yellow though. Red, fire engine, fingernail, Maverick RED.

And after the dance, the Stomp is what we really called the casual dances, I’d pile my friends inside and we’d head over to the local drive-in and catch a double feature. Wouldn’t that be fun in a Thing? I thought so. Still do.

I liked how different it looked. Not like every other vehicle on the road. Fitting in was for cheerleaders and football players, not smart people.

Flash Back to the here and now. Reality check.

I’m just glad to drive something reliable, even if it’s a bit dated. And, quite frankly, I’ve had my fill of cars that stand out for weird reasons. Fading paint job, a never repaired gash, a window that won’t close, shocks that desperately need replacing on a nearly zeroed out budget.

I’ve been to the beach exactly four times. Closest I came to surfing was a sad imitation of someone boogie boarding. Gave a bunch of people a few good laughs, though.

Camping, I’ve done a ton of that. With MSH and the whole family. There’s some solid good times there. Sometimes all our gear sat atop the tiny Datsun in a totally uncool car top carrier. Sometimes it all fit in the back of the custom van or SUV. Sometimes it took a combination of both.

I met MSH dancing. That turned out okay. We even have a drive-in movie story that’s pretty funny.

We still have a cassette player in the truck we occasionally drive if we have to. There’s some pretty sweet tunes in our cassette collection. Chicago, Vivaldi, Three Dog Night, MoTab, Safety Kids, Brian Adams, Windham Hill, Whitney Houston, Yo Yo Ma, Hercules the Sound Track, Mason Williams, Sharon, Lois and Bram, Bread, Kenny Loggins. I could go on for paragraphs.

No book signings yet, I’m afraid. That would require an actual finished book. Working on that one. So maybe someday…

For the record, nowadays my dream car happens to look like this:

1975 Maverick Grabber

1975 Maverick Grabber

Oh yeah, baby!

Some of us just can’t let go of the past, at least, tiny bits of it. Ah, those were the days!

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Categories: Fun, Memory Lane, self-image, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Sainted Mechanic of Rio Caballo

In recent news: “Pope Francis cleared two of the 20th century’s most influential popes to become saints, approving a miracle needed to canonize Pope John Paul II and waiving Vatican rules to honor Pope John XXIII.”-By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

Saint Bonaventure Window

With such generosity and goodwill wafting about I’ve come up with my own candidate for Sainthood. Whether or not he receives approval by the Pope or anyone else for that matter, is of little consequence. In fact, he isn’t Catholic, so I’m pretty sure he’ll be off the list on the first round. To me, this man is a true Saint by any measure.

He has performed miracles, uses his great gifts to bless the lives of many, brought the dead back to life, and brought hope to countless numbers whose hope wavered, flickered and nearly flamed out.

Who is this man and why haven’t we read about him in the news? Ah, for two good reasons.

1) he is humble and unassuming

2) he is my mechanic

Yes, you’re reading this correctly. I’m praising the man who repairs my vehicles. He deserves high praise, in fact.

How often does a mechanic receive such accolades? Rarely, I can tell you that. We’ve had some doozies when it comes to car repairs. A few mechanics in the past obviously thought we owned a money-tree orchard. If that were true we wouldn’t be driving fifteen-year old cars around, would we? I suppose desperation drives (cough) people to do ridiculous things and spend food and rent money to keep a car running. Unlike some shysters we have encountered in the past, our mechanic is honest, direct and helpful with reason and sanity.

This guy is amazing.

  • He makes house calls.
  • If the problem with the truck or car is something that MSH or my son can reasonably repair, saving us the cost of labor, he’s happy to explain the process, suggest places to find the parts needed at a decent price and answer questions if they come up.
  • More times than I care to count, he has resurrected a car past the “stinketh” stage.
  • He has taken mercy on us on occasion and moved our sole working car to the head of the line of cars outside his backyard shop.
  • Widows often have repairs done at little or no cost, because he can. What a good guy!
  • If it isn’t repairable, he’ll say so, flat-out. “Dude, you need to get a different car. Sorry to have to break it to you.”
  • Car repair isn’t his first job. It’s a kind of hobby/second job/good Samaritan thing he does.
mechanic with car

(Photo credit: anyjazz65)

Alas, I looked up the requirements for canonization (i.e. becoming a saint) here and it doesn’t look good so far. Candidates must be deceased and my mechanic remains very much alive and rolling. Thank goodness, ’cause we’d be lost without him.

On the other hand, he has led an exemplary life, blesses others daily and has no skeletons in his closet or his tool chest, which are other requirements he clearly meets astoundingly well. He is a man of integrity and generosity and knowledge, a perfect combination in a businessman and a gentleman.

Countless car miracles have occurred to which we and others will gladly bear witness. Lame, maimed, nearly dead, completely dead, gasping, choking, smoking, he has dealt with and cured or at least temporarily revived many a sad car in its day. Surely a few minor rules could slide to allow a non-Catholic some well-deserved Sainthood.

Personally I’d love to reside where I could get by without a car. But for where we live and what we do, it isn’t terribly realistic. Maybe someday we’ll live in a tiny town where I can ride a bike everywhere I need to go. Or a big town where public transportation is convenient, on-time and reliable.

In the meantime, our mechanic will remain, anonymously, The Sainted Mechanic of Rio Caballo.

Categories: Humor, Transportation, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s Gratituesday! Thank Goodness for Trusty Dusty

For the past three years I’ve driven a Toyota extended cab pickup truck. I don’t know the name of the model, or even the year. Here’s a photo of it. That should give you an idea of the year. Ish.

Trusty Dusty

As you can see, it’s not a newer model vehicle.

In fact, I was recently transporting several teenage girls one evening in it. As we pulled into traffic I rolled my window down, meaning, I turned the crank handle to open the window.

“What they heck did you just do?” one of the twelve-year olds said in disbelief.  “Did you just open the window by turning something?”

“This is a really, really old car isn’t it?” another one said.

Stunned into momentary silence I shook my head. I suppose the truck is probably older than those girls are. Strange thought.

I considered referring to the Flintstone’s foot-powered vehicles, but knew they wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

But wait, there’s more!

My truck also has a cassette-tape player that works!  Luckily, the teens in my car didn’t notice that bit of antique hardware. I might have to show them next time we go somewhere. Won’t they be overwhelmed with awe! More likely they’ll be completely convinced of my total lack of coolness.

There’s also a back seat that holds three people with smallish legs. It’s only a two-door truck though, so getting back there takes some maneuvering and flexibility.

When I start the engine on this vehicle, you can hear it!  How’s that for amazing?

Sometimes when I drive my best buddy Kathy somewhere in her van, I inadvertently try to start it when it’s already running!  Oops. If I can’t hear the engine I assume I need to start it. That’s how mine works.

Her van, a newish one with power windows, power locks, powertrain warranty, and some get up and go is a delight to drive. In her van I can make left hand turns with ease and speed. In her van I merge onto the freeway without any puffs of smoke coming out the exhaust pipe.

My truck drives more like its get up and go has got up and went.  It wants to think about picking up speed. There’s some hesitation in its idling. If the AC is running while I’m stopped at a light, the cool air will stop and warm air will blow instead. Kind of temperamental, wouldn’t you say?

Is it wise to name your vehicle?

Kathy has named my little truck ‘Trusty Dusty.’ She named her van  ‘Chocolate.’  I’m a little jealous. But both names fit. Hers is smooth and delightful. Mine looks like it needs a wash all the time. In spite of its slowness and well-used looks, it gets me where I need to go.

I don’t usually take Kathy anywhere in Trusty Dusty because the shocks aren’t very absorbent, or whatever they need  to provide a smooth ride. Her bones can’t take hits from bumpy roads like my truck offers. So if her van is available, we drive that. (Well, I drive, she rides, let’s be clear about that, since as I wrote about in this past blog post, she shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car.)

We do own another car, but it decided to give out last week. It’s been on the brink for a while. In fact the mechanic had said, “don’t take it out-of-town, always have a cell phone with you and just drive it until it drops, then buy something else.” Three drivers, three work schedules, one vehicle makes for tricky math, but we manage. We have before.

I like my little truck. It’s handy. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve hauled stuff in it. Beds, appliances, camping gear, wedding decorations, food, top soil, bikes, plants, potting soil, water barrels, rocks, college kid supplies, moving boxes, even catering supplies and meals. It’s been ‘worth its weight in gold’ on many occasions. (I suppose if that cliché were really true I’d own some spiffy newer model year kicking it into high gear dual wheel truck with shiny all over it.)

Yup, that's over 200,000 miles your reading.

Yup, that’s over 200,000 miles your reading.

We thought last year that it was time to retire Trusty. I was sad and forlorn about it. Then my son decided he might be able to perform surgery on it and bring it back to life.  Our driveway looked a bit like Frankenstein’s laboratory for a few weeks. (Much to the HOA’s chagrin.) A spider took up residence between a wheel and the edge of the driveway. It thought it had found a permanent home, no doubt. But tools, skills, the internet, perseverance and desperation won out and Trusty revived for another 15,000 miles or more.

Sure I’d like to drive something sleek and shiny with a state of the art sound system, and all the bells and whistles. But that’s not really in the budget, nor has it ever been.  We paid cash for Trusty, so no monthly payments. That’s a nice bonus. Maybe someday I’ll drive something admirable and more reliable. Or maybe not. I’m just glad I have some means of transportation with AC for the desert heat.

Luckily, I can simply keep on keeping on! For the time being.

Categories: Humor, Traffic, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Many Ways Can You Say Stranded? #1

Before cell phones were commonplace, before cell phone towers dotted the country like stars dot the sky, car problems were trickier to negotiate.

Nowadays, if you have car issues, you whip out your trusty phone, call AAA or whatever service you pay for towing and flat tires, and within hours you’re on your way again.

Not that many years ago, it wasn’t that simple.

Driving North with two of my young daughters we crossed the Reservation, enjoying the strange and changing scenery, when the Honda van we were in started hesitating. That particular stretch of road was only two lanes, with a narrow shoulder. I pushed down the panicky feeling and watched for a pullout area, which was usually only the size of a car and just inches from the roaring traffic.

Vermilion Cliffs from Kaibab Plateau overlook ...

Vermilion Cliffs from Kaibab Plateau overlook  (Photo credit: Al_HikesAZ)

As the van sputtered and lurched forward, I put on my emergency flashers, hoping there’d be time for the cars behind me to slow down before plowing into our backside. Fortunately, the next pullout we chugged up to was actually one of those spots built to accommodate sales of Native American trinkets, jewelry and fry bread. There were no people, and no cars, just us, the wind, and an occasional scuttle of clouds overhead.

I popped the hood and looked inside. I checked out the parts I knew about. Oil levels. Coolant levels. Loose belts. Battery terminals. We had plenty of gas since I’d filled up in Flagstaff. All appeared as it should.

Maybe the car just needed a bit of rest. We got out the snacks, had some water, explored the nearby sagebrush and torn up barbed wire fencing. Half an hour later, we all climbed back into the van and I started it back up. Everything sounded fine. So off we went. Ten minutes later, the chugging and spluttering began again only worse. Again I looked for a pullout.

This time we rolled into a large pullout with a Semi truck and trailer parked. I felt lucky thinking I could simply ask the trucker for help. Or at the very least, he could put out a call on his CB radio and send a tow truck. But as far as my knocking could tell, there was no one in there. More than likely, the trucker had crawled into the sleeping nook and was catching some Zz’s.

My next option was a quarter-mile hike to what looked like a tiny settlement, a small church, some kind of housing structures, a dirt path between them. And best of all, a thick wire hanging from the church to one of the buildings, indicating electricity or phone service. What I found was a solitary, ancient grandmotherly figure inside the open doorway of one of the huts who didn’t speak English. I did my best sign language for indicating the need for a telephone and she did her best to let me know I was up a creek without a paddle.

I hiked back to the van. We had plenty of water and food in our ice chest. So the heat wouldn’t be a problem. But what to do?

The girls were coloring on some paper they’d brought for getting through the boredom of the long drive. I decided to make a sign. “Please call AAA” it said in large block letters. Then I taped it, using their stickers, to the back of the van. Forty five minutes later a couple of women in a red convertible stopped to get our story, check on our status and offer to call a tow truck for us when they got to Flagstaff.

Hours later a tow truck lumbered into the pullout where we sat bored beyond all reason. It was nearing evening and I was relieved to not have to spend the night on the side of the road.

English: A car being loaded onto a flatbed tow...

A car being loaded onto a flatbed tow truck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The driver filled out some paperwork and then proceeded to hook our van up with a thick chain. Then he lowered the back-end of his truck at an angle and was ready to pull it up on the bed of the truck, which would then level out. He looked at the three of us and said, “you’ll have to ride in the van, I don’t have room in my truck up front.”

My heart nearly stopped. Surely that wasn’t safe. Or legal.

“Are you sure? I could hold one of the girls on my lap,” I replied, desperation in my voice.

“We do it this way all the time,” was his only reply. Conversation over.

Next thing we knew we found ourselves perched high atop the back of a tow truck, a stellar view of the sunset, the reddening cliffs and the heart stopping path ahead. A winding road barely clinging to the side of the cliffs.

As we proceeded up the cliff, the tow truck sputtered, the driver down shifted, the gears made a horrific grinding sound, and I was sure we would plummet in a fiery mass down to the bottom.

It was all too terribly reminiscent of another cliff side drive I had endured.

All the way up the mountain the gears ground and roared and argued with the driver. I told the girls to pray. I prayed like I’d never prayed in my life. Being stranded overnight on the side of the road seemed like a better alternative at that point.

After the longest ride I’d ever endured in a vehicle, we finally, miraculously made it to the closest town for hundreds of miles. The driver dropped us off at one of dozens of motels, our suitcases dragging pitifully behind us. He dropped the van off in the parking lot at the back. I was on my own to find a mechanic the next morning.

Oddly, the mechanic could find nothing wrong. We drove it around town, out on the open highway and back to the motel and it behaved perfectly.

“Probably some bad gas you got in Flagstaff,” he concluded. He was kind enough not to charge me for his time or his opinion.

For the rest of the drive to and from our destination, the van performed as if nothing had ever been wrong. Perhaps the precarious ride up the side of the mountain had scared it into submission.

Nowadays, the Reservation has some of the best cell phone reception in the western United States if I should need my trusty cell phone. But I’d rather not have to use it to call a tow truck.

Never again.

Categories: Humor, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Ups and Downs of a Mouse’s Life

Some days and weeks are like a roller coaster ride.

 

Somehow, I’ve never quite learned how to deal with the sudden shifts in mood, perspective and direction that life can throw my way. My instinct is to crawl under the bed covers and sleep, let my unconscious mind create a workaround solution to the juxtaposition of happy and sad, or joyous and melancholy.

 

Reality almost always dictates that I stay out of bed, fully dressed, interacting with the real world. I simply have to put on my game face and keep moving in the various directions the tracks take me.

 

Road Runner Express wild mouse roller coaster ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember a carnival ride growing up called the Wild Mouse, or something like that. Scarier than the full-sized roller coaster, each car held only two people tightly scrunched and belted down into tiny seats. At first the contraption moved the pair of riders slowly, haltingly upward, climbing higher and higher, providing a great view of the theme park and everything around for miles. Then suddenly the ride would shoot forward toward the outside edge of the track with a near certainty that it wouldn’t make the sharp ninety degree turn ahead.

 

Sure of my imminent launching out into the open air and down to the asphalt below I would close my eyes and try to hold the lurching terror of my stomach down. Somehow, miraculously, we’d make the turn without being thrown from the mouse shaped car only to careen up or down or out or around in a crazy mouse maze of speed and height.

 

Give me a roller coaster any day of the week.

 

I read a book a few years ago called “Who Moved My Cheese.” It’s about resilience and the ability to adapt and go with the flow. At least that’s the message I took away from it. My friend Kathy pointed out to me the other day that I’ve become skilled at moving with my cheese. In my personal mouse maze of life I’ve somehow managed to not get too lost or jaded or discouraged for too long.

 

Once in a while, in the middle of some incredible happiness and some of life’s best moments, life throws out rotten tomatoes. Wrapped up in the revelry of good stuff, I’m always caught off guard by those not-so-happy zingers.

 

What to do, what to do?

 

Put on my game face. Steel myself. Hold on for dear life.

 

And enjoy the moments that I can.

Even when things are tough, life is still filled with wonderful things. If I can remember that, then I am blessed beyond counting.

 

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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