06 October 2009

Car Wars

The plan was to go camping in the wilderness for five days. Twenty miles outside of town, the engine light came on. Again. Third time this year.

Ever have times when you feel like just screaming?!?

My first Light 'Em Up occurred three days before the Trek. I was supposed to transport teenagers to and from the event, as well as serve as official photographer. New coils (and a few other assorted tasks necessitated by normal wear and tear) would run $1,200. Ouch!

Shuttle rosters were rearranged, and the kids assigned to my vehicle were squeezed into other cars. My camera gear and I rode in one of the medical vehicles.

Three weeks ago the Lizard and I were planning to spend three days in the Aspen area, camping, hiking and shooting quaking leaves. Second day into the trip, that orange dashboard glow ignited again. The car seemed to be running fine, but we brought it right home, hoping to avoid towing altogether and get the car fixed in time for our big camping trip last week.

Four days later and another grand, we had a new water pump and timing belt, plus some other stuff I don't remember the names of they say is good to replace while you're in there so you don't have to pay for labor in the same area down the road. We were free to escape civilization for almost a whole week!

We left town at 3:30 a.m. with a specific destination targeted for sunrise photos. On a sharp curve in a tiny, dark canyon, we were met head on by a full-sized, heavy and full trash receptacle right in the middle of the road. Fortunately, we had been moving slowly, so we did not hit it. We shuddered to think what might have happened to someone on a motorcycle or in a small car had they been traveling at the speed limit. We pulled over and moved the bin out of the way, shocked and alarmed that someone thought that to be a funny prank, but thankful we were able to remedy the situation before someone got hurt.

Not two or three minutes later, the now too familiar bright orange "Check Engine" lit up the dash yet again. We turned around and drove back to the city, waited two hours for the shop to open, waited another two and a half hours to learn the catalytic converter is the culprit this round. We were assured we could take our vacation as planned; the car would not blow up in the wilderness and leave us stranded. Just bring it back in when we return.

For some, this entire chain of events might seem like a strong, bitter dose of Murphy's Law, and believe me, there are moments when I wonder why everything in my car is breaking down or giving out, and all in such close intervals, not giving me much time to prepare for the next potential misfortune.

Yet when I look at the common thread in each of my Check Engine Glows, any of them could have occurred out in the middle of nowhere. But they didn't. They happened in or close to civilization. The mechanic even commented, "You were living on a prayer with that timing chain." No kidding. I live on a prayer (or two or three or a hundred) EVERY day!

Some say my car is attempting to give up the ghost and that I should be compassionate and let it die instead of continually reviving it. "That's exactly what the Cash for Clunkers is all about!" they tease.

How many 11-year-old vehicles out there on the road today can be trusted to go to Wyoming or the Weminuche Wilderness? What's the difference in insurance costs for a 1998 vehicle vs. a new car? How many cars of any age can go through as many major surgeries as mine has faced and still keep purring? Or at least growling?!?

Yes, my car is getting old, and it's beginning to display its age. The repairs have not been fun for my budget, but in the long-term, I'm still not paying as much as I would be forking over if I were to buy a new car.

I'm kind of funny like that. I don’t go out and buy a new camera or phone or computer or television every time a new one comes out or whenever my existing equipment burps. Heck, I don't even buy new clothes often! I'd much rather make them myself!

I can't help but think we were supposed to be on that narrow mountain road exactly when we were so we could prevent a disaster. And that leads me to believe there was some reason we weren't supposed to be in Buena Vista for sunrise that day. I don't know why, and I may never know. Everything in my life seems to happen for a reason, and I think this latest string of events is no different.

Now, if I can just figure out what greater purpose is to be served by finding a mouse in the basement upon our return from the wilderness...

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