Posts Tagged With: transportation

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.

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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 Unmatchable Pleasure of Puddle Jumping

The rarity of rain in the desert brings out the oddness in some of us dry skinned, somewhat parched critters. Today’s downpour, complete with a bit of surprising lightning, reminds me of some delicious memories.

We don’t live in a rural area, but we have rural patches of neighborhoods in the landscape of our town that haven’t been incorporated into the city. This leaves wonderful one and two acre lots with farm animals, irrigation, bumpy roads without curbs, traditional  on post mailboxes out front of the houses, and best of all, a sense of the history of this former farming community turned big city suburb.

2000 Jeep Cherokee

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to drive my youngest daughter to fifth and sixth grade, usually taking a short stretch of county road. On rainy days the water would flow haphazardly on the edges of the road in huge muddy puddles. At the time we were driving a well-loved older model Jeep Cherokee with four-wheel drive.

Did you know if you’re going just the right speed and hit a puddle at a certain spot you’ll get a wide arching wall of water that can shoot out a good twenty feet? My daughter and I discovered that one drizzly morning.

Rainy school mornings took on a whole different feel for us. The anticipation of knowing we’d get to splash and spray our way to the school motivated us so we were usually ready to go earlier than usual. We called these mornings puddle jumping days.

Fortunately no one was ever walking the muddy shoulder of the road on rainy days. Approaching a glistening pool of brown water filled us with excitement. The sensation of tires hitting the edge of the puddle was answered with a marvelous shower and spray of water propelling outward and upward in an artistic chocolate sweep. Sometimes, depending on the depth of the puddle and the angle the tires hit the water, we’d end up covering the jeep in a  deluge of mucky water. Fortunately I usually had the wipers already going due to the rain pouring down.

Child enjoys a puddle in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Does this look fun, or what? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We aimed for puddle after puddle all the way down the road. I’m sure any onlookers thought we were high school troublemakers raising havoc. The goats and sheep looked on in bemused silence. We left behind emptied puddles and chaos.

Ah, we laughed our way to school those days.

I still can’t resist a puddle on the side of the road, whether I’m walking or driving. I want to make a splash, soak everything in sight then look behind me at the mayhem.

Today is gonna be a great one!

Categories: Joy, Memory Lane, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Peeling Off the Layer of Years

It’s Gratituesday! Today I am grateful for the bicycle I have. It was a gift  a year or two ago from a friend who was clearing out her possessions for an anticipated move overseas.  I’m sure she had no idea how much her gift would bless my life.

That bicycle has been one of my essential forms of transportation. Four drivers and sometimes only two cars has necessitated some juggling. Having the freedom to hop on my bike for a run to the library or the post office or to visit a friend has freed up my schedule and saved me hours and gas money and frustration.

The build of this particular bike lets me sit in such a way that my back doesn’t tire out and get sore, which I thought was simply one of the sacrifices bike riding required until I met this bike. Now I can ride for miles and still feel relatively young and agile in spite of the often harsh realities of my aging body.

Roger on Richland Avenue with Schwinn Bicycle

My first bicycle looked much like this one. It was a hand-me-down from my aunt. (Photo credit: roger4336)

There’s nothing else I know of that brings back the joys of childhood as readily as a bike ride. Such a sense of independence grabs hold of you when you throw your leg over the seat and set the wheels of a bike in motion. Feeling the wind blowing past peels off layers of years mentally and emotionally.

There’s the added bonus of being able to take off in the early light, helmet on, breezing through an exhilarating morning past some of my favorite sights and sounds. Getting my heart pumping and my lungs filled with fresh oxygen by pushing those pedals starts the day off with a burst of energy and joy. What a wonderful way for a day to begin.

I celebrate the bicycle every time I ride. In fact, I’m celebrating life as I ride, feeling youthful, free, energized, grateful. What joy!

Surely someone has created a worldwide holiday in honor of the humble, practical, fun-loving bicycle.

Categories: Exercise, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Navigating Through Life the Traffic School Way

A traffic school for navigating through life sounds like a good idea to me. Anything that helps me avoid a big fine, a penalty, some heartache, frustration or pain seems like a great idea.

So I’ve come up with a few rules of my own.  Having done some significant amount of traveling, I figure maybe I’m somewhat qualified. At the very least, I need the reminders myself.  I’ll work on the slide show presentation later.

Old Truck

Old Truck (Photo credit: cindy47452)

  • Avoid rush hour if possible, morning and evening.

The sun is always at a bad angle at rush hour, low in the sky and in your eyes, or reflecting in your side or rearview mirror.  I aim for the middle ground when possible.  I can legally use the HOV lane between nine and three. I can easily change lanes, merge, keep space between me and some yo-yo on his phone.  This works in real life too.  Trying to do what everyone else is doing, when they’re doing it isn’t always the best course of action. Be yourself.

  • Don’t text and drive. Don’t drink and drive.

That’s a no brainer isn’t it?  Likewise, don’t drink and be online.  You’ll regret whatever you put online while under the influence.  An emotional crash, a friend bender, relationship dents, are all possible outcomes when you’re online under the influence. You are not wiser, wittier, more honest or pleasant when you’ve had a few too many. Angry texts and online rants aren’t generally productive either.

  • Use a map, or at least have one with you.

I used to always have a map in the car.  I used to always have a plan for my life, for my day, for my week, for the next hour.  Sometimes your plan just needs ditching and you need to take a detour. If so, go for it. You’ve got a map to get you back on course when you’re ready. Sometimes you need to stick to the planned route no matter what.  Only you know which it is.  It’s also okay to ask directions, get a different perspective, especially from someone who knows the terrain.

  • Have a contingency plan if you get separated.

Staying in touch is always a good idea. A weekly email to your sister, a phone call to mom or dad, a text to your brother, an instant message to a friend, an ongoing Scrabble game with your cousin. There’s also actual handwritten letters, not to mention live and in person visits. Don’t let those distances grow too far apart. Those connections are what really count. That’s what the drive is really all about.

Another closed rest area.

Another closed rest area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Stop for bathroom breaks more often than you think you need to.

I can tell you from experience, breakdowns happen and you don’t want to be squatting on the side of the road, no matter how big the bushes might seem.  You think you can go full throttle through your day with no breaks, no feet up, no ten-minute nap, but you can’t and you shouldn’t.  Step outside and breath real air, go up and down the stairs a couple of times, drink a bottle of water, actually go to the bathroom, do some deep breathing, read a page or two of a book, rest your eyes, do a few stretches.  Give your brain and body a break here and there and then you can put the pedal to the metal for a while longer.

  • Bring snacks, CDs and water.

Snacks provide entertainment value sometimes, but they also provide memories.  See my post about the Lonely Duck for proof of that one.  What’s a road trip without licorice, peanuts and m&m’s?  Not a real road trip.  Pop some music or a great audio book in the CD player and enjoy. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the difference, don’t ya think? A handful of laughter, a little dollop of whipped wonder or a spoonful of silliness, can make all the difference in life.

A typical speed limit sign in the United State...

A typical speed limit sign in the US showing a 50 mph restriction. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • It’s okay to go slower than the speed limit.

Now there’s a revelation!  That number on the sign says it’s a LIMIT.  Not a suggested speed, but a maximum speed.  I know this is a new concept to most drivers.  It’s also okay to not race through your life.  Just because everyone else has their kids in fifteen afterschool events per week doesn’t mean you have to do the same with your kids.  Your to-do list could have one item on it, and that’s okay. Take life at the speed you’re comfortable with.

  • Take the scenic route occasionally, or at least take a different route.

Studies show, (okay I made that up, but it’s true) that a change of scenery is a great plan.  You don’t have to up and move to another state, like I did six times, for a change.  Maybe the change you need is simply a change in routine, or a change in how you react to traffic, or a change in how many breaths you take per minute, or a downshift in the urgency you place on whatever it is you’re doing. Smell those roses, pick those daisies, walk on that grass, take that photo, touch the wet paint, turn right instead of left!

road rage

road rage (Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan)

  • Don’t yell at, aggravate, cut-off, or flash random hand gestures at drivers.

I still talk to the traffic way too much, but I have changed how I talk.  I say quietly to myself  things like, “I sure hope his wife doesn’t deliver those twins before they get to the hospital.” Or I wish them well in “getting to a bathroom before the food poisoning hits full force.” I figure there’s a reason behind what people do, no matter how aggravating it is to me.  I also try to cut myself some slack when I’m the irritating person.  I try to say kinder things to myself, give myself credit for what I do right, instead of focusing on the few things I think I’m failing at.  Kindness never hurt anyone, in fact it often helps.

So, class…did I miss anything?  Would you add any pointers to my Traffic School Advice?  Let me know in the comments below.

Don’t forget to buckle up and have a nice trip!

Categories: Humor, Traffic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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