I'm hell on wheels.
No, really. I'm hell. On wheels.
More specifically, cars. See, because they're on wheels and I'm hell on cars.
It seems that every car I've ever owned has tried to one-up the previous vehicle in terms of cataclysmic reasons for it no longer working.
My first car--which I loved, by the way--was a 1992 Pontiac Grand Prix that I got while in college. It was awesome. I used it to smuggle all the cheap beer I could from Illinois into Indiana when I was in college. My friend, Big Willy Style, nicknamed it "Smugglah", since I was all about going to Scotchman's East AND West in Watseka, Illinois. 32 ounces of Old Milwaukee never tasted as sweet as when they were delivered by the loving, cushy backseat of Smugglah.
Smugglah, unfortunately, died in a parking lot of a Ryan's in Mishawaka, IN while I was in grad school. I was able to get it to limp down the road to a dealership where I traded it for a lemon of a Ford Contour that was such a terrible car, it deserved no nicknames. That car got me to North Carolina where it decided that it would start eating timing belts. Smugglah liked to eat alternators, but those were $100 to fix and would last for about three years. Timing belts are five times as expensive and the Ford tore through those in about two weeks.
I finally traded the Ford in for a Saturn Vue a little over five years ago. About a year into owning it (and, naturally, after the warranty wore off) it developed a rattle in the engine. It was nothing big, but it was a touch annoying. I didn't think anything of it. I got it serviced, it ran, so I continued driving it.
Until last week. Last week, I got the car serviced. The rattle had become more pronounced so, in my blissful ignorance, I thought it just needed a service tune up. The day after I got it worked on, it died. Battery failure. Again, not a big issue, however I had to get it towed--almost literally around the block--for a little over $100 and then put $100 worth of battery and labor into it (I had them do a diagnostic on the electrical system, in case it wasn't just an old battery). I started the car up, it sounded great, and so I drove it.
And a week later, the rattling was far worse. It was accompanied by a popping sound, almost like when a soda bottle expands when its laying on the floor of your car under the heater. A lovely, reassuring sound when you're driving down the road, to be certain. Then a loud, screeching squeal would sound intermittently from the car. Unpleased, I took the car to the same place that had serviced it prior. I explained what was going on and they said they'd look at the catalytic converter, see if that was the issue or not.
Apparently, not would be the correct answer. The guy who looked at the car was nice enough to shoot straight with me. He told me I needed a new engine; something inside was broken and they couldn't fix it. He went on, blah blah, something something, get some quotes, blargh...but I didn't hear him. I was quietly weeping, wishing that just once in my life I could pay a car off before it decides to die on me.
If you're keeping score at home, thats a service, tune-up, tow, battery replacement and a diagnostic test--about $300 worth of work--for a car that is now all but undriveable. What a happy fucking New Year this is turning out to be.
Because I had to, I reclaimed the car, driving it home about as fast as I possibly could--which is to say "not very". The car runs, but loudly, and it doesn't like driving in first gear (you know, something that is kind of important in city driving) and doesn't like driving up hills (again, something important in North By God Carolina piedmont driving). The car now sits at the top of my yard, quietly watching the world go by. I dare not drive it very far, as I'm unsure of if or when it will die and not restart.
Which means, I'm without wheels for a while.
A short while, as it turns out. Shortly before Christmas, my wife's grandfather passed away. He was a man who had several cars, and my wife's grandmother, out of the kindness of her heart, is going to lend me a car for, essentially, as long as I need it. The trick is, I have to figure out a way to get it from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to North By God Carolina.
Which is why I'm Oklahoma-bound. I'm flying out either Wednesday or Thursday, taking care of what I need to out there, and then driving from Tulsa to my home here in North Carolina. The plan is to stop in Knoxville and bother my wife's uncle and aunt for a night's rest, and then the drive home after that. I'm going to see a lot of America. Specifically, I'm going to see a lot of I-40.
And unfortunately, I'm not going to be driving a big old pickup truck.
Driving Down Highway 40 In My Big Old Pickup Truck
Skyler | Myspace Video
I guess the good news is that I won't have Freddie Prinze, Jr. in the car with me.