Continuing Car Saga

Several years ago I had a hard time with my car because, as I found out later, the mechanic I went to at the time was a cheat and not only didn’t do what he was supposed to, he actually sabotaged the vehicle. In one case, instead of replacing the leaky brakes, he cut the rear brake line and blocked it with a bolt. I still don’t understand the reasoning behind that. And there was something about the points. Either he put in bad points or used cheap ones, or something, because the car kept breaking down.

I eventually found a mechanic who only dealt in air-cooled VW Beetles. He switched out the original ignition with an electronic ignition, which eliminated the points problem. Of course, things are never that easy. It turns out that the electronic ignition and the carburetor no longer “spoke” to each other, so he had to put in an older carburetor, which entailed reworking various connections.

Fast forward to today. The carburetor he put in no longer works, so my current mechanic ordered and installed a new carburetor. And no surprise, it doesn’t speak the language of the electronic ignition. The mechanic spent all day yesterday trying to get everything meshed, without much luck. (I felt bad that he had to do all that work, but he seemed happy enough to have something different to do since it’s a far cry from what he normally does.) He’s trying one more thing today, replacing some connectors, but he doesn’t think it will work. While researching the problem, he found site after site that categorically said not to put an electronic ignition in this particular model and year because of the very problem he encountered.

So now the best option seems to be to order a new ignition of the non-electronic variety and install that. I had no problem with the original-style ignition until the days of the cheating mechanic, so I’m okay with that, and in a way I prefer it since it restores the car to its original condition. Although I had no objection to the electronic ignition, I never really liked the idea of a non-regulation carburetor.

I do like that this new mechanic seems to be invested in my car. I think he gets as much a kick out of people commenting on the vehicle when it’s in his care and listening to their reminiscences of their experience with a VW bug as I do.

Even though some people think I need to get a new car (and as I get older and have a harder time clambering in and out, I sometimes agree), I’ll stick with this one to the end — either my end or the car’s end. The money I put into the car each year is a lot less than a monthly car payment would be. Besides, it’s to the point that I almost have to keep it. I mean, how many people have bought but a single vehicle in their entire life, and are still driving that vehicle? It gives me a weird sort of prestige. And makes almost everyone I meet an instant friend.

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What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

The Mature Adult and Hiking

I received an early Christmas present yesterday. Well, technically, it wasn’t early, I just opened it early. I figured since I was grown up, I could either act like a mature adult and save the present until Christmas or act like a mature adult and do whatever the heck I wanted, and I opted for the latter. And it was the perfect time to open the gift and the perfect time to enjoy the book. (Since I love this particular gift giver’s wrapping, I wrapped another book in its stead, a perfect example of having one’s gift and reading it too.)

The gift? The Creaky Knees Guide to the 100 Best Easy Hikes in Washington. Isn’t that a perfect gift to prepare for my May adventure to the Pacific Northwest? Most of the hikes listed do seem easy enough for these creaky knees, but some seem difficult even for the pre-creak set. Eight miles round trip with a 2,880 elevation gain? Yikes!! Not a beginner slope for sure.

Just because a hike is easy, it doesn’t mean getting to the hike is easy. In one case, the directions call for a drive of 14 miles on a washboard road, and then another 3 or so on what sounded like a barely navigable dirt track. That is simply not an option for my poor ancient VW. The bug looks pretty and runs well, but the welds holding it together are 46 years old. Yikes, again.

And then there is the little tidbit I found in the book about a private hiking club in Washington with $5,000 a year dues and a mere 63 members. The sole purpose of the club? To stealthily grade, or rather de-grade the roads to their favorite trails, making the roads all but impassable, in order to keep the trails to themselves. More yikes.

The most daunting part of the book is the admonition against solo hiking. This isn’t the first time I have encountered that rule — every single tip sheet for hikers talks about the dangers of solo hiking. Apparently, “do not hike alone” is the number one rule. For everyone, of course, except solo hikers, who love being out by themselves. Yes, things do happen to solo hikers. Bad things. But bad things also happen to people walking in the city, solo or otherwise. (It was in the city, in a parking lot, that I fell and had to endure the absolute worst injury I ever suffered.)

I’ve already broken the solo hiking rule (being the aforesaid mature adult and doing whatever the heck I want) — I’ve hiked a couple of hundred solo miles (not all at once, of course) in various wild places, and many hundreds more walking in the Mojave Desert — the rather tame part close to town, though rattlesnakes and coyotes and jackrabbits carrying jackknives do abound.

I won’t give up solo hiking, no matter what the rule, nor will I give up my absurdly impossible dream of a solo backpacking trip on one of the iconic trails. Hiking in a group is too dangerous, at least for me. As a straggler who hikes my own hike, stopping frequently to drink in the ambiance or to take photos of nature’s artistry, I often have to hurry to catch up to the group, and so end up going much faster than I feel that either I or the trail can handle. And there are too many times groups cross creeks or rivers that are more than I want to attempt, and usually some well-meaning folk end up trying to help and merely land me in the drink. And if I hike in a group, I have to hike when and where they choose, regardless of what I might want. There is definitely a place for companionable hiking — I have done many hikes with others that were enjoyable — but that is not the same as being alone with the world, feeling connected to the world, breathing in the essence of the world. Of course, the first time I meet a cougar, I’m sure I will rethink this lofty position.

Meantime, like any mature adult should be, I am safe inside, comfortably ensconced in my armchair, reading about hiking in far-flung places and dreaming of being out in the wilds.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.