Archive for the 'Car' Category

May 31 2014

Wednesday’s Woes

Published by under Bullshit,Car

You know those people who can’t wear watches because their magnetic fields or something mess them up? I think I’m that way with cars.

The five year old car that I bought a mere five months ago is already having problems and costing me a fortune.

It all started when I drove home one day from the jobette and could not open the car door. At first, I reasonably assumed it was user error, as it often (always?) is in my case, but nope. Wednesday refused to open, so I rolled down the window and opened it from the outside. Jonathan thought he could eventually fix it, but it would mean taking the entire door apart (disassembly to repair almost anything appears to be a Ford specialty). Also he was in the middle of digging a well which was due to be inspected*, and wouldn’t have free time to fix it any time soon.

I got used to rolling down the window (at least it’s summer) and holding the door open with my knee while I rolled it back up again. But then more problems struck.

The engine light came on and the wrench light also. My opinion is that these lights should be replaced by dollar signs, since that’s what they really mean. My brother read the codes and it said it was the solenoid or similar. Unfortunately, he can’t fix transmission-related things, not having the specialized and expensive equipment for it, so it was time to go to the car doctor.

The car doctor said that he could diagnose and fix the solenoid thing à la carte, but that Wednesday was overdue for a 90,000 mile maintenance, and most likely the solenoid thing or whatever it is would be fixed by the zillion and one things included in the 90,000 mile maintenance procedure. Unfortunately, the maintenance procedure was $700.

It’s at times like this that I wish I were a real adult instead of the extremely faux one I am. Surely by the time a girl is more than half a century old, and with yet another birthday sparkling on the horizon, she ought to be able to make good decisions about things like this. Somehow I didn’t get the manual, or else I never read it, since we all know reading the manual is a last resort.

I decided to just do the maintenance and walked sadly to work, trying not to cry. It took two days to fix the car, and when I got it back, I learned that it would take a further $150 to get the part for the door and get it fixed, which I get to look forward to this week. Ever since I got the car back from the shop, I haven’t been able to make my iPod work with the car stereo, so it’s been long and silent drives to the jobette and back, alone with my deep thoughts.

When I put on my turn signal today to turn into the parking lot at the jobette, I got an error message saying “check turning lamp”. At least the other lights are off, right?

Maybe it’s just as well that I learned to drive so late in life. I may have saved a bundle!

*My siblings’ land partners have rented out their house in Grass Valley and are moving to the property to start building their house there. Since the house will have to be inspected, the well will, too, unlike the original one the boys dug a few yeas ago.

5 responses so far

Apr 08 2014

Play Date

Published by under Car,Family,Friends,Special Occasions

If it’s Friday, it must be play day…

Last Friday, I thoroughly enjoyed a teenage production of The Breakfast Club, and this Friday, Megan, Rob and I attended a performance of the play Other Desert Cities. Daughter Brooke, a Democrat, author, and survivor of a nervous breakdown (not necessarily in that order) returns home to Palm Springs for Christmas with her parents, former Hollywood royalty and current Republicans (pretty much in that order). During the course of the visit, a long-held family secret is shockingly revealed.

During intermission, we were surprised and delighted to see our former swimming teacher, Sallie. Her hair was longer and her smile and hugs as wonderful as ever. I wish I could resume swimming lessons on Saturdays, but unfortunately, I am resuming work at the jobette on Saturdays instead, just in time to miss the Kentucky Derby, my favorite sporting event of the year. Adult swim classes are now at 11:30 and I have to start work at 10. Maybe Megan and Rob can fit it in, but there’s a lot going on over the garden in the spring and the summer. We’ll see.

We took Wednesday for our evening out, and amazingly, it was the first time Megan had driven her! Megan thought it handled well and is pretty good overall, though like me she finds it a little on the fancy side. She’s less horrified by the gangster dark tinting than I am, so I may be overreacting as per usual. I haven’t had it removed yet and maybe I’ll just let it be.

We had a wonderful time, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the theater’s season!

3 responses so far

Jan 16 2014

Report Card

Published by under Bullshit,Car

Newsflash! I’m still blowing my nose about 500 times a day at a conservative estimate. Maybe you should just assume that I’m a snot monster until you hear otherwise.


Ironically, I went to the clinic yesterday for a check-up having nothing to do with my actual illness. It was just a routine check up. I had originally scheduled it for a couple of weeks ago at 8:00 am, when I would have been the first patient and I would have had a fighting chance of getting to work on time at 9:00. Of course, the clinic called to reschedule it for 11:30 today, making sure I’d have to take at least one unpaid hour off from work.

As usual, I waited for more than an hour and saw Dr. Sue for about 10 minutes. Poor Dr. Sue was totally overwhelmed with fellow flu sufferers. I don’t know how she works such long hours with sick people and is still so nice. She actually apologized for my waiting in a room full of germs. 🙂 In case you were wondering, I am perfect as always, other than the seemingly endless sniffles.

I ran into my brother in the waiting room. He was getting some paperwork done for continuing to be a fire fighter, and his next stop was the DMV for more fire fighting related bureaucracy, always fun after working a 48 hour shift.

I paid my usual $50 for the check up. I still haven’t availed myself of “affordable” healthcare. I need to research it more, but it appears that I will either have to pay $200 a month, which has a $4,000 deductible and requires $75 for a doctor visit, or $400 a month for a lower deductible and co pay. If I understand my insurance-ese correctly – and I should after the whole Miss Scarlett débâcle – this means that I will be paying $200 a month for nothing, since it will not go toward the massive $4,000 deductible, which will have to be met before any benefits kick in. This doesn’t strike me as exactly affordable.

5 responses so far

Dec 21 2013


Published by under Car

There’s nothing like driving The Beater to motivate a girl to buy a real car.

After an exhaustive (and exhausting) search, I finally located a car that met my two criteria of a) less than ten thousand dollars and 2) less than one hundred thousand miles on it. You’d be amazed by how hard it is to find a car that is both of these things. I saw some that were two years old and had more than 100,000 miles on them. That takes some serious driving.

So did the trip to get the car. Rob and I went all the way to Modesto, in the Central Valley, and back in one day – a round trip of about 500 miles. We left home at 7 am and got home about twelve hours later. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the Central Valley before. It was interesting to see a different kind of farmland – almond trees and orange trees, heavy with bright fruit, instead of vineyards and sheep.

The car is a 2008 Ford Fusion, with about 85,000 miles on it. My record of only owning Fords remains intact. Hey, if they were good enough for Clyde Barrow, they’re good enough for me. It’s a lot fancier than I’m used to, and characteristically, it has opened a whole can of neuroses.

I have never had a car note before, and I woke up at 3:00 am the night after I bought it, thinking about owing the bank thousands of dollars and what if something happens to it before I pay it off? What if the insurance rates go up after The Incident which led to the untimely demise of Miss Scarlett? The Incident really shook me up, too, so I’m nervous about driving at all, let alone driving a car that makes me look like a tourist.

It’s a real grown-up car, with its leather interior and helpful little messages (“Tire pressure low”; “Low fuel”) and general gadgetry:

including one of those silly keys with a chip to lock and unlock the door which you cannot get copied at the hardware store, but rather, have to spend a bunch of money to get another one from an official source (but where?). A second key is a total necessity for a girl like I, who loses everything and has an advanced degree in screwing up.

In addition to it being so nice that I’m terrified to scratch it or dent it, it has gangster dark tinting on the back window and side rear windows, which is a necessity in the Central Valley, whee temperatures are routinely over 100F in the summer. However, it also makes it impossible to see anything in the rearview mirror, and thus it’s more likely that I will scratch or dent the car. I’m planning to get the tinting removed as soon as the holidays are over and just hope for the best in the meantime.

I felt kind of sorry for my new, as yet unnamed ride as we made our way down the rough, unpaved driveway. I imagined it thinking, “You’re kidding, right? You don’t expect me to live here?”

2 responses so far

Dec 06 2013


Published by under Calamity Suzy,Car

The insurance adjustor checked out Miss Scarlett yesterday, and as we expected, the news was not good.

The repairs needed to get her back on the road again exceeded her current street value, so they declared her a total loss. The adjustor asked if I could remove my personal items* from the car so they could tow it away, and even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, I got in The Beater and headed for the Big Town.

On the long and noisy drive, I wondered if I am supposed to learn something from all this, and if so, what it is. Everyone around me seems to feel that these things are just random events and that’s the way life is, but I’m not so sure. I wish I knew what, if anything, the lesson is. I’ve certainly been pushed outside my comfort zone, driving The Monster and The Beater. I’m grateful for the support of my family and even the kindness of the insurance folks.

When I spoke to the claims representative, just about the first thing she asked was whether I had been hurt, another car involved, the police, or the hospital, and when my answer to all of these things was no, she said that in that case, it was as good as it could be, and she was right. I’m glad that I wasn’t hurt and that I didn’t hurt anyone, and that I was able to get the car off the road. But I’m very anxious about the cost of another car, not to mention the hassle of finding one. I’ll almost certainly have to go to the Bay Area or Sacramento to find something. Also I’ve never had a car note in my life. Maybe all this is some kind of life lesson.

*This was a surprisingly upsetting experience. I have to admit that I patted her gently and gave her a little kiss goodbye. We’ve had a lot of adventures together, and I miss her already. I had to sit in The Beater and sob a little bit before I could move on.

4 responses so far

Dec 02 2013

Suzylocks and the Three Cars

Published by under Bullshit,Car,Travel

I’m coming to you from the modest motel in San Francisco, where the foghorns are blowing up a storm, so I’m guessing it’s dark grey outside. You may wonder how I got here with Miss Scarlett in the shop and the loaner Honda clearly not up to the road trip.

The day after Thanksgiving, Megan, Jarrett and I went to the craft fair in the Village, our holiday tradition. Then we went to the Big Town, where we confidently drove up to the strip mall where the DMV is and the one car rental place used to be. Used to be.

I checked my confirmation email on my iPhone and learned that the car rental place had moved. We went to the new location, which is a fancy way of saying “desk with a girl inside a car dealership”. It turned out that she only had one car available, even though it was nearly 4:00 in the afternoon and they close at 5:00. Apparently people who promised to return their cars had not kept their word.

Since the car rental place is closed on Saturday and Sunday, I had no choice but to take the enormous and hugely hideous Jeep Compass. Megan and Jarrett callously left me there to deal with it with the insouciance of people who have driven an ambulance (Megan) and currently drive a gunboat sized 1977 Chevy (Jarrett). I asked if I should bring it back full, and she said, “No, it’s at a quarter. So bring it back at a quarter.” Not only did this necessitate an immediate trip to the gas station, where it took me forever to figure out how to get the key out of the ignition as the day darkened, but I’ll have to try and finesse my gas purchasing to make sure I don’t give the rental people an early Christmas gift.

Did I mention that the monster gets about 18 miles to the gallon?

Although huge, it’s claustrophobic inside, with surprisingly little trunk room. Also the windows are tinted, making vision difficult at dusk, and the rear window is partly blocked by the absurdly high seat backs, even at their lowest setting, and is difficult to see out of at all due to the odd angle.

I felt like the universe was saying, “You don’t like the tiny, noisy, rattly old car with no radio or stereo? How about a huge, quiet, new car with a CD player?” I had an almost physical longing for Miss Scarlett as I drove along the Ridge, in peril of the three foot deep car eating ditches. This one’s too hard. This one’s too soft. This one’s just right.

One response so far

Nov 27 2013

One of Those Days

Published by under Bullshit,Car,Country Life,Schatzi

Oh, it’s been quite the morning so far.

The little heater I use in my uninsulated and otherwise unheated bathroom crapped out on me before my shower – hello, 50 degrees! – which was not quite warm enough despite only using hot water. On emerging from the warmish shower, I reached, glassesless, for the pink towel turban I use for my hair, discovering that a spider was in residence.

Now, I’ve pretty much learned to peacefully co-exist with my arachnid roommates, but this was unexpected and somewhat horrifying as the spider skittered down my face.

Imagine how the spider felt.

I got into the 1986 Honda that I’ve been driving during Miss Scarlett’s hospital stay. It’s creaky and rattles and sounds a lot like the Waltons’ old truck that was always breaking down. I can barely hear the rattles and creaks over the sonic boom of the engine, however. There’s a hole in the exhaust pipe or similar, so it sounds like a plane taking off even when you’re only going 20. It also doesn’t have any kind of power assist for steering or brakes, with the result that I am now driving like the old lady I am, or, dare I say it, a tourist.

Good thing, too, since as I came around a curve on the ridge on my way to the jobette this morning, there was a dog dancing happily in the middle of the road. I slammed on the unassisted brakes while the dog bounced around happily. He reminded me of the good old days when Schatzi used to prance around in front of my car on the driveway, necessitating getting out of the car and making sure she was safe before heading on my way. I’d do anything to have to check on her safety now. I sure miss that girl.

I stopped off at the mechanic’s on my way to work and they were still working on estimates, but the numbers under discussion were alarming. We’ll see what happens. I may be the only girl in America who is less stressed by Thanksgiving than the rest of my life. I wish I was running up a tab at a bar instead of at the mechanic’s.

3 responses so far

Nov 23 2013


Published by under Bullshit,Car

So yes, we did get the rain. Two and a half inches of it in three days, though we are now back to sunshine and I fear that I will once more be watering the garden with icy cold water before too long.

On the rainiest of the rainy evenings, beset by logging truck backwash and the futility of headlights, I was just a few miles from home, driving up the hill from the Gro when I noticed that the car was barely going 30. The engine light came on, and then I lost all steering and brakes, not fun on a dark, rainy country road. Somehow I was able to steer Miss Scarlett off the road and more or less off the Ridge, though her capacious butt was closer to the fog line than I would have liked.

I went down to the house whose driveway I was unexpectedly occupying and knocked. It was locked up with no lights and all the shades drawn, so it’s likely a vacation rental. I made my way to the Gro, where there is a pay phone to call for help – no cell service in these parts – and a nice place to wait for it to arrive. I was offered rides home and possible diagnoses of what ailed the car.

Miss Scarlett was ignominiously towed back to town, where it was discovered that there was a problem with a belt, pulley and tensioners. They further discovered that there is a hole in the radiator, which is buried far, far inside, necessitating an entire day’s labor to replace it.

I called my brother, who said that I should have called him when it happened, so that Rob could have towed it to the family property and worked on it, saving the exorbitant labor costs. I pointed out that he was at work in town and Rob was out when it happened, and I was so shaken up that I wasn’t thinking straight. I am barely an acceptable adult at the best of times, and this was not the best of times.

My brother is going to go and look at it on Monday and figure out whether it’s better to tow it back to Hooterville or let the mechanics work their magic. Stay tuned….

3 responses so far

Nov 18 2013


Published by under Car,Country Life,Friends

This morning, I dropped Miss Scarlett off to get two new tires put on, just in time for the rain that’s supposed to arrive tonight. Tires have a short life expectancy around here – they’re basically all members of the 27 Club. Maybe not even that old. If they last two years on the rocky, rough, rutted country roads, you’re doing well. Which is why I always feel like I’m buying tires. Because I am…

After leaving the car in the capable hands of the tire technicians, I walked to the jobette. It was nice to walk in the cool morning air, but a couple of blocks down the street, I was honked at. It turned out to be my friend Liz from the pool. She said they were all worried about me – I haven’t made it to the pool in the past couple of months due to my crazy work schedule(s) – and missed me. I explained some of what had happened and she was really sweet. I have promised myself to go tomorrow.

As I walked down the street, I felt so lucky to live in this odd little corner of the world, where people actually care about you, and to have somehow landed here, surrounded by friends and family. On Friday, we had a late season BBQ at my brother’s place with our friends Rik and Lu (and their dog Harlow, who is Star’s BFF), Lichen, and my siblings’ land partners, Dave and Jennifer, who were so kind and helpful during the Great Schatzi Search this summer. They are buying the property along with my siblings, and one of these days they will have a house on their half of the 68 acres, so they will be neighbors as well as friends.

The sun was setting and the moon was rising when I arrived:

My brother was manning the grill and everyone else was gathered around the fire pit*:

Lu and Rik went on a medical mission to Honduras earlier this year, where they helped villagers who hadn’t had any medical help in months or even years, and they are going back in February. They specified that they wanted to be posted to same village so they can check in on the same folks they met last year and see how they’re doing. I’m so proud of them for caring and making a difference, not just here but abroad as well.

After dinner we sat by the fire feeling as relaxed as Harlow looks here:

It was a good evening with good friends.

*Which used to be a well ring.

5 responses so far

Nov 24 2003

Car Reflections

Published by under Car

Selling the car has made me think about the whole thing. Have I learned anything from what was essentially a really expensive mistake?

I didn’t learn to drive until I was more than 30 years old, which should be an Awful Warning to others. If you’re going to do it, do it when you’re young and fearless. If you wait until you’re old, like I did, you realize that not only is Death inevitable, but it’s coming for you personally. And driving just makes it all that much easier for the Reaper to get his scythe on you. When I’m driving on the freeway, I’m going the speed limit and everyone else is passing me and I’m thinking, “If anyone hits me, I’m dead.”

When was learning to drive, people kept telling me, “Look at all the idiots who can drive. Anyone can do it.” I did not and do not find that comforting, because that means that some, if not most, of the cars jetting by me at 80+mph are being driven by stupid people. This does not decrease the danger, in my opinion.

I’m just not one of Nature’s drivers, and that’s that.

However, I didn’t know that right away, and once I got my license, I wanted to buy a car. I started looking at used cars, with my brother’s expert guidance, and was shocked by how much a decent used car costs. When I discovered that I could by a 1966 Mustang convertible for the same price as a reliable ugly car, you know I had to go for the Mustang. It was like jewelry I could drive. I never want the sensible and boring if I can have the pretty and impractical instead. And it’s not like I needed a car to commute in every day or take the kids to soccer practice. It was a frivolous car for a frivolous girl.

I didn’t heed my brother’s caveats about old cars, either. In my ignorance, I figured, how much could go wrong with it when it’s such a simple machine? I mean, you look under the hood and there are about 12 things in there. You can see the ground. What I didn’t understand then was that something will always go wrong, and that vintage cars are holes you pour money into and which put you at the mercy of mechanics named (and natured) Snake.

So, I guess I learned that not only am I not one of Nature’s drivers, I’m not one of Nature’s car owners, either. I’ll leave cars, like children, to those who really want and/or need them.

5 responses so far

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