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Inspirational Reads

Oklahoma Bound

January 4, 2011

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.


Eric said...

Hey, you could stop off in Alabama and pick up some carvin' marble!

Wow, I really need to get to Oklahoma more often, those are nice mountains and it's only about an hour away.

Scope said...

Hope your wife's grandfather didn't have the same luck in cars as you did.

And is your car up on blocks in the front yard as is the local tradition?

Ed said...

Safe travels.

DEZMOND said...

well, if you don't need Freddie Prince Jr. please feel free to send him to me!

Pearl said...

Nicely told!

I, too, have had many cars. I no longer name them as it breaks my heart when I am forced to abandon them.


Del-V said...

I feel your pain. My grandmother also died from battery failure.

I mean kidney failure.

Either way, it's sad.

Bev said...

Pontiac, Ford, Saturn -- there's your problem. ;) I used to have those problems too before I started buying Hondas.

Good luck on the drive! I hear the waving wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain.

erin said...

I hate cars and am not all that fond of Oklahoma either. (Long story involving Academic Decathlon and a bunch of horny MIT freshman)

SkylersDad said...

Thanks to your photo I am now aware that the proper pronunciation is not "Oklahoma", but rather "Okla.......Homa".

Good luck getting your grandmas car back home, did you get the Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, or the Bugatti Veyron SS?

Gwen said...

Um, last I checked Highway 40 runs straight through St. Louis which is between Oklahoma and North by God Carolina. Simply an observation and offer of lunch, pal.

snowelf said...

Awww, that totally sucks that your car died!! :( I hope you have a safe trip and hwy 40 does come right through St Louis--be careful though,cause while I appreciate law enforcement for keeping me safe and stuff, the cops on 40 are vicious and cranky once you get near the city.


(And how cool is it that Gwen and I both live in St Louis. Nice! You're like super popular here! That should cheer you up at least a little bit, right?)

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

Will your route take you through the bluegrass at all? If so, wave as you pass through. I'd invite you in for a pit stop, but hubs usually frowns on it when I have other men over.

Happy Road Tripping!

MJenks said...

@ Eric: One of the other cars that I could have had was actually in Alabama. They own a lot of property in Alabama, though I don't know how much carving granite they have access to.

@ Scope: Me, too. And, I hope that my luck doesn't ruin this car for them. :/

@ Ed: Thanks, Ed!

@ Dezmond: That's something you're going to have to work out with Sarah Michelle Gellar. Though, if she's left lonely...

@ Pearl: I was sad when I left Smugglah at the dealership. The Ford I wanted to set on fire. I'm not sure how I feel about the Saturn...

@ Del-V: Wait, your grandmother's kidneys were battery-operated? Your grandmother was a Cyborg???

@ Bev: There's no rain in Oklahoma. It goes from ice and snow straight to tornadoes.

And, I've been thinking about the Honda switch. We'll see what happens in the next few months.

@ Erin: Pardon me for being so bold, but I daresay that any group of freshmen would be rendered quite horny in your presence.

Plus, academic decathalon, c'mon! I was a quiz bowl junkie. I know what the presence of a female does to these people!!!

@ SkyDad: I hope all those dots are where I insert the motorboating sound...

Yeah, she wouldn't part with the Delorean. She said something about Gigawatts and somesuch then offered me the keys to the Black Van with a Red Stripe.

@ Gwen: Highway 40 does indeed run through St. Louis. Unfortunately, Interstate 40 runs a bit to the South. So, unless you've been lying this whole time and "St. Louis" really means "Little Rock", then we might be out of luck.

Which is fine, because I don't know if I could take THAT MUCH AWESOME in my lunch. It would crack my Armor of Bitterness.

@ Snowelf: The mere presence of you and Gwen in one location packs that place so full of awesome that it offsets my distaste for most St. Louis sports teams, which is about the only ill feelings I harbor toward the Gateway to the West.

And, while it might not be Peoria, I'm proud to be playing well somewhere! :D

@ Amber: Strangely enough, my wife frowns on me paying a call on attractive females I meet on the internet. *shrugs* I dunno what she's worried about.

I'll wave where I'm somewhere around Knoxville...that's almost due South-ish from you.

Hart Johnson said...

Urgh! Sorry about your car-ma! I don't have great luck either, but I've resolved it by only owning one car and putting hubby in charge... I mostly walk everywhere. Nice to get a lender though! Tell Oklahoma hi (since i don't think I know any PEOPLE in Oklahoma to tell it to)