Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's not a Road Trip if something doesn't go wrong, Part 1

Patty Larkin--"The Road" (mp3)

My friend was so worried about my car. I probably shouldn't have mentioned it to him, but, in preparation for my trip, I had just spent $1329 getting everything fixed on it that I could think of--brakes, radiator flush, tires, tune-up, oil change, axle repair for when I thought a curb was a speed bump, lights, filters--and then some. So then the mechanic from Pep Boys called and said it was ready and then asked, "Was it running hot before?"

Well, that set me off, of course, and that portion of me where my father resides kicked in and soon I was politely questioning how I could pay all that money for a car that was worse off than when I brought it in. When I picked it up the next day, he did clarify that "I didn't say it was overheating, I said it was running hotter than normal."

Oh. And the difference is? In my non-mechanical mind, something that is hotter than normal for too long is going to eventually going to get too hot. Or should I have said to him, "No problem, I like my cars like I like my women.....running a little hot!"

So, having mentioned the heating problem to my friend, he got pretty cranked up about how we had to go in force to Pep Boys, about how I had used the wrong place to get my car worked on, about how I needed to take it to his mechanic right now. I said, no, let me just drive it around a little and see how it does. So, he kind of threw up his hands and let me know that he thought I was wrong. I picked up the Camry, I drove both on busy streets and on the interstate and the temperature remained normal. But I knew. A few days later, I drove it up Lookout Mountain in the middle of a hot afternoon and by the time I had reached the top, the temperature needle was flirting with the red zone.

What my friend does not understand is this: it isn't a road trip if something doesn't go wrong.

The Great American Road Trip is at least partly based on the idea that you're going to try to go farther than you should on less than you need. Think the Joads. Think Sal and Dean Moriarty. Think Kesey and his Magic Bus. Think Bob and his overheating, check that, running hotter than normal Camry.

And, yes, my friends, I have been on this highway before. I remember a night in Missouri in 1980 when the alternator went out on the way to California and my friend Kenny and I waited late into the evening while a mechanic replaced it and then charged us an outrageous price because he could. I remember being holed up in Lincoln, Nebraska for days after the right front wheel sheered off of the same car (return trip) because the ball bearings had no lubrication. I remember driving home from Colorado with my wife and baby, completely out of money and living only on a credit card.

So, yes, the car was running hot as I planned to leave on my solo trek to Chicago, and I was beginning to have nightmares about having somehow to get over Monteagle Mountain. Because my friend didn't know that the car had overheated before, that that was part of the deal. It's a 13-year-old car that someone dumped some instant seal crap into the radiator way back when and everytime I get the radiator flushed, it seems to exacerbate the problem. I can live with that.

When you set out on a real journey, you don't have all of the contingencies covered. You don't have the perfect vehicle that will keep you safe and warm (or cool). You don't have all the money you need. You forget key items that you'll need. And even if you do, by some chance, have everything covered, something is still going to go wrong.

........to be continued

The other Patty, Patty Larkin, a gifted songwriter and master of stringed instruments, has songs available at Itunes.

1 comment:

troutking said...

Hmm...maybe I'm not going to drive to Calgary in few weeks in a car with 175,000 miles on it.