Archive for the ‘Cars’ Category

Check engine light on in the van…

So I mention to C that the check engine light is on in the van. This is how the IM conversation goes:

Me: it’s been on since lunch yesterday but I forgot to mention it yesterday. I’m not worried…nothing’s changed. I mean, it doesn’t sound different or anything
Him: Oh, babe, we needed to get that checked this morning. I wish you’d told me
Me: I know, I’m sorry
Him: We’re not driving three hours to Chicago with a pregnant woman in a van with the check engine light on
Me: if something happens, your family or mine can come get us, but I don’t think it’s likely at all
Him: ಠ_ಠ
Me: oh come on 😛 We have cell phones, it’ll only be dark for the last half hour or so, and we’ll be close then anyway. The check engine light goes on for all kinds of things
Him: ಠ_ಠ
Me: [my co-worker] points out that we can go to autozone and they’ll tell us what the problem is for free. His has been on for two years
Him: ಠ_ಠ
I’m still laughing, especially when I picture his very expressive face with that look. We decided to take it to Autozone and if it’s a real problem we’ll ask to take his mom’s van instead. Yay compromise!
Update: turns out it’s just the O2 sensor, which we had a problem with before…I remember not fixing it, he remembers fixing it, so we’ll have to check that. But it will be fine for the trip up to Chicago. I always prefer to take our own vehicle, so I’m happy.

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Van’s good again!

Ok, hopefully this will be the last post about the van for a while. Bessie* wasn’t firing on all cylinders, and I mean that quite literally — one of the spark plug wires had been bent and/or frayed, and the plug wasn’t firing. Tatman’s fixed her up the same day C dropped her off, and they didn’t charge us. They also washed the bird shit off (it was back the next morning since our parking spot is under a tree — god I can’t wait to move) but before they sent her under the power washer, somebody pointed out that because of her new paint, she can’t go under the power washer for two months and the time isn’t up yet. So that means they washed her by hand.

I need to make a yelp post about Tatman’s; they’ve done a great job. State Farm has also been great through this: it’s been relatively painless to deal with them and even though the total repairs cost only a little under their appraisal of the van’s value, they still went ahead and paid for everything.

In other news, we finally started going back to the gym. I was disappointed that I can’t do 110 on the lateral pulldowns anymore, but I haven’t lost much — I can still do 100. (And I’m suspicious of the machines — some of the cable machines at the gym have more resistance than just the weight; maybe the cables or pulleys aren’t lubricated or maybe they’re tightened too much.) I did 65 on the barbell bench press, which is ok but I think I did 85 once before (that was pretty close to my maximum though). We’ve gone back to dumbbell chest press because I want to work the stabilizers more. Legs yesterday didn’t leave me terribly stiff, but it hasn’t been 24 hours yet so we’ll see.

*I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but the van acquired the name “Bessie” toward the end of the honeymoon. It seems to fit the white minivan pretty well. It’s not a complicated or very poetic story…C mentioned that he’d been trying to think of a name but all he could think of was “Bessie”, and I agreed that seemed a good name.

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The van’s idle was set too low and it shudders a bit when idling, but we figured it could probably be easily reset when we take it in for a long-overdue (by mileage, anyway) oil change and alignment, as it pulls a little to the left now. But this morning the check engine light went on and stayed on, and when I took it on the highway for a couple of miles, it shuddered when I tried to maintain 60 mph. And I smell antifreeze when it gets up to normal operating temperature, but I wouldn’t expect them to have hosed off the engine after the radiator broke and spilled coolant all over the engine anyway, so that doesn’t really concern me.

So I guess we’re calling the body shop again on Monday morning…

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I had just taken the wheel at about 4:30 am, maybe 5. Charles had been driving but was getting a little sleepy, so I was going to drive while he took a little 20-minute nap to refresh himself till the sun came up. We got back on Interstate 80 with a pickup in front of and a semi behind us. The pickup was just under the limit so I passed in the left lane, and if I’d been looking in front rather than in my rearview as I was getting back in the right lane, I’d’ve seen the deer just a quarter-second sooner…not that it would have mattered.

I saw it just as Charles shouted; took in the adolescent size, the lack of antlers, the direction of motion. Horror filled me as I stood on the brake, every cell in my body screaming denial of the impending impact I could not avoid; it sent us just enough to the left to begin a skid. My hands reacted on the steering wheel before I consciously knew what was happening, trying to hold it straight against the pull (I realized I was screaming) — but seeing that the van was about to go into the median, instinct took over: cars must stay on the road! I over-corrected just slightly and the van suddenly magnified the turn a hundredfold, pulling hard to the right. Still screaming, harder now, in my mind I saw the world turning upside down, felt and heard the ground on the top of the van above our heads, wondered how badly we’d be hurt…but the van stayed upright. My hands continued to straighten the wheel as my eyes and body fed reality into my brain, bringing the van almost to a stop right on the shoulder of the road, facing the wrong direction. We were not quite on the shoulder; I let my foot off the brake to get the rear of the van out of the lane — and jumped as the pickup and semi shrieked past us, missing us by mere feet.

I was no longer screaming, but still crying out in horror and absolute terror, a part of me still rejecting the possibility of what had just happened and what had almost happened. Charles’s arms were around me the best he could reach, pulling me toward him. He reached over and turned off the engine. One of us, maybe both of us, pressed the button to turn on the hazards. We sat close together for a moment, Charles repeating that it was over, that we were okay. But I was agitated, twitchy, my mind churning with what should be done now. I pulled away and tried to open my door, thinking of the deer, the van, as if I could do anything to help either one; but Charles pulled me back, took my face in his hands, forcing me to look at him. “Say it! ‘We’re okay’!”

I located the words deep within me. “We’re okay,” I said, so that he would let me go and I could go do…what? I didn’t reach for the door again. He pulled me to him across the armrests and the gap between the seats, and we sat together for a moment, quieting. I began to grasp that the immediate danger had passed. We were okay. We were not hurt. At 75 mph (that’s the interstate speed limit in Nebraska, a speed I will never go at night ever again), the deer had to be dead, but it was quick. There was nothing to be done for it. There was nothing that had to be done right now for the van, or for us, except we should take a few moments to calm down.

I don’t remember many specifics after that — really after the pickup and semi passed us, very obviously going the opposite direction, most of it is blurry. He waited for no traffic coming and tried to get out the passenger side to look at the damage, but the door would open only enough to get an arm out.

That was our first indication of the damage done to the van.

Then we saw the smoke rising up from…where? I assumed at the time it was the engine, because I’ve never seen anything but the engine smoke on a vehicle, but now I’m sure it was the tires (and possibly the brakes?). The engine wouldn’t have been doing any more work than usual, but the tires laid down a fair amount of tread. The smoke did stop eventually, and I never noticed a smell, but then I wasn’t trying to.

We called 911 to get a sheriff out to us (trying to figure out how to tell them where we were — GPS coordinates were not useful to them), and waited on hold for freaking ever with Verizon’s roadside assistance, finally giving up. We looked at the damage, took pictures. With us in the car — the bugs were overwhelming so he let us sit in his car — the sheriff backed up along the shoulder to measure the distance from the mile marker to the site of the accident, which is when I noticed the track of the poor deer’s body from the shoulder far into the (blessedly un-mowed) grass. The sheriff got out and confirmed that the deer was dead (he’d’ve put it out of its misery if it wasn’t), though it took him a minute or two to find it in the grass. Neither of us went to look.

The body shop that the tow truck took us to got a radiator, fan, blinker, and headlight from a Town & Country in the salvage yard down the street from them, and informed us that it could be today or it might be Monday when they’d have it done. At around 2:30 pm, they called to let us know that the van has been repaired enough to get us home (they’ve been working overtime on Saturdays to begin with, but they still put us ahead of local customers to get us back on the road — we are very grateful). They even pounded out the major dents in the body, and the passenger door seems to move just fine. We’re resting up tonight, and we’ll head home tomorrow morning, driving considerably under the 75-mph speed limit, watching carefully for deer. Barring any further incidents, we should be home in the evening.

I feel terrible about it. There was nothing we could have done, with the knowledge we had, to avoid the accident, except possibly going under the speed limit (many, many vehicles in Nebraska go 5 or 10 under the limit on the Interstates). But I didn’t know what a vehicle that hit a deer might do — call me stupid, but it never occurred to me that it might send the vehicle into skids like that. And they tell you in driver’s ed not to overdrive your headlights, but then you go and drive the Interstates for 13 years without hitting any animals, and you forget.

It’s unlikely that you’ll hit an animal at any given time, or even on any given trip. But when you add up all your highway miles, it’s pretty much bound to happen sometime. I look at unlikely incidents like that after they happen (odds are it would happen to somebody…) but I should look at it like that before they happen, so that I’ll take precautions like an intelligent adult.

We have both agreed that, for our next vacation, we’re going to fly somewhere and stay there for the whole trip. No driving.

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Requiem for a car

Well, not a requiem, really. I only sold it, didn’t junk it (I couldn’t bring myself to do that). From the look of the guy (and his willingness to take it without finding out every little thing wrong with it), I’d guess he’s going to fix it up and maybe sell it to someone else. That, or put it into a monster truck arena, but I can’t imagine somebody would pay $300 for a car just to smash it.

I’m going to stop thinking about that now.

It wasn’t my first car, but considering I got it when I was 17 (I think), it seemed like my first car. But at 175,000+ miles, when one brake started spraying fluid all over and another started making screechy noises, and they told me it would be $480 to fix…. The car sat around for a few weeks. Now we’ve got another vehicle we’re buying (never thought I’d have a minivan, but it’ll be useful on our road trips) and need to make room…also the insurance is running out.

It’s a good car still. Proved it when he tried to start it: it coughed a little the first time, but the second time it started just like it was summer and not 0°F after being below zero for a day and a half. “I’m still good!” I managed not to tear up then but I admit it, I cried a little later. It’s just a car, Netta, it doesn’t have feelings. It doesn’t feel abandoned. You can stop feeling guilty about not vacuuming it out for the last couple of years, not driving it regularly, and not getting the bumper fixed after that hit-and-run 7 years ago. It doesn’t know.

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Death machines and bicycles

Today was the second time a driver looked RIGHT FREAKING THROUGH ME and did not see me. She HAD to have looked through me, because the car that was passing me passed her when I was just going into the “intersection” (it would be an intersection if it were a street). It was on Devonshire at the westmost entrance to the bank parking lot (not the entrance you take to get to Spherion most directly, the other one). She didn’t stop at the stop sign, just kept right on going into my path, and if she hadn’t been cutting the corner short, she would have sent my bike flying and me tumbling over her hood at the speed she was going. As it was I’m pretty sure she bumped one of my stays (no damage as far as I can see), and I hope she has a little dot of silver on her expensive black car to remind her to look where she’s fucking going. She’s lucky I didn’t start pounding on her car, which occurred to me, but I didn’t think I had balance to spare. Probably better that way; she might have startled and lost her grip on the steering wheel.

It was dusk, about 4:45, so I had my 30 white Christmas LEDs blinking on my silver bike, my headlight on, and (not that she could have seen it but) my rear blinky dancing merrily. I’m gonna start wrapping my torso in five or six strings of Christmas lights, I swear.

Given that the first time somebody looked right through me was in broad freaking daylight, when I was in the middle of the lane, sitting up as straight as I could, with my left arm outstretched in a signal for the left-hand turn I was planning on making, maybe my paranoia about not being seen is understandable.

If this keeps up I may have to name this blog “Evolution of a car-hater”.

The thing that pisses me off the most is not that she could have seriously injured me, because yeah she could have but so could every driver who doesn’t give me six feet of space on an icy road (I’m unhappy about that, sure, but I’m used to it). What pisses me off is that she kind of slowed down — I saw brake lights — but she didn’t stop. I did…she didn’t. Granted, my shrieks of “Hey! HEY! WHAT THE FUCK!” (I couldn’t think of anything else) while she was NOT STOPPING as she drove into my path probably didn’t encourage her to do so, but that’s not an excuse for not stopping to make sure that the cyclist you just ran into traffic is okay.

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