I would tell it from the beginning, but the beginning is rapidly losing itself in an ongoing saga. But, best shot here: the Beginning was when the engine light came on in my Volt. Diagnosis showed the battery was overheating. Headed to Bravo Chevy in Las Cruces where there is a resident Volt tech – a true rara avis of mechanic breed. Chevrolet Central has twice sent them the wrong battery. I believe they use short-armed men from China to row these over because it’s been just about a month, now.
That was early February. They gave me an innocuous loaner, a Malibu, which I describe a bit in my prior post. What I didn’t mention there was that the second time I drove the Malibu, headed out of town to visit a friend whose sole connection to the grid is a shared telephone line, the Malibu’s engine light came on. It was 4:45
This conversation ensued:
Me: Ray, the engine light just came on in the Malibu!
Ray: Oh no, Miss Borsello. Just stop driving it!
Me: Ray, I’m halfway up a hill heading south out of town, and…
Ray: No, no! get it to a dealer right away.
Me: Well, it’s the “stabilitrak” light that came on, with a little wrench beside it. Are you sure I can’t just keep driving?
Ray: NO, no! The car will start going 30 miles per hour because the engine light is on.
Me: We have one dealer in town – Whitehead Chevy – the ones without a Volt tech. Ok, I’ll turn around & bring it there.
Ray: give them my card, we will take care of everything, no worries.
Me: Y’know, dear, I’m not so much worried as getting a little excited about the fact that I need a reliable car right now.
So I tuned around, drove 30 mph to Whitehead & hitched a ride home. The next day, I waited until about 4 to call them. Was it THAT serious, it took all day? Was I going to have a car at all? WC said they had had an exciting day; their service manager’s last day was two days ago & they are really catching up on things…so they just forgot to call me. They would come out right away to get me. The did. The Malibu needed to have something beeped at it to turn off the light. There was nothing wrong.
I overran the Malibu’s 500 mile allowance, but the next car – the Impala – was a dream &, like all dreams, it has faded already into something expensive & pensive both. You see, they were giving me 500 miles per loaner vehicle. But most loaners go to folks living in town. They don’t have 200 miles used of that 500 allowance just getting back/forth to the dealership. I need a large reserve which is difficult since some of my jobs are 60 miles round-trip from where I live. Or 20. Plus regular back & forth here to friends. I drove like Danica getting the Impala back to the dealer before their 5:30 closure time. I had to thread in & out of legal traffic with two Texans who ignored the speed limit like it was a noncommittal fantasy…Now there are two theories that go with this risky business on my heavily-patrolled highway: One is that if both in front pass the trooper, they will scout him or her out, lights flashing, sirens playing Doppler – while I get to slow down behind. Two is that I’m the last one of the three & I get the Statie on MY tail as (s)lowest fruit hanging. But I was game. I made it to the agency at 5:18.
Ray got me over to the Hertz agency where I waited for others to finish sobbing their stories about not enough on their debit cards to rent anything. (Not a joke this, b/c there’s a $200 deposit & a car might cost $238+tax for four-five days…) The young feller finally turned to me. I handed over my license, insurance card & a $50 bill. That was my day’s pay. YF slipped the $50 right back, gazing up innocently from under his billed cap to say, “We don’t take cash here.” I handed over my debit card instead (rent due tomorrow & I have $3 over the rent in the bank, O Lord)… I refuse to worry. Spirit has my back on this, I can only hope they have my wallet as well. I noticed a sign placed high above a door, clear out of sight for most customers, that said: “You fill it, $2.39/gallon. WE fill it, $9.99/gallon.” I shuddered & took a mental picture. “Good, I thought, “everyone must fill them before bringing them back. I’ll do that, too.”
After “topping off” the Impala with $30 in gas (remember, I only earned $50), I asked him for an economy car, but not a subcompact. Most drivers in NM drive F150’s if they don’t have vans or SUV’s that scrape 15’ high road signs. I want something that will at least show if it gets tangled in their wheel wells.
Now, YF had asked me if I wanted insurance. I innocently replied, “Well what’s the coverage?” He said, “Full warranty, bumper to bumper.” I said, “That sounds like enough.” He reached again for my debit card saying, “OK, it’s only $21.99 per day.” I gripped his hand with my massage-hardened fingers & slipped the debit card from under it in a smooth movement, hissing, “Can’t you see the notches in this already? I meant what’s YOUR coverage?!” He replied, “Your insurance.” I said, “OK, good enough.”
He said, “I’ll drive it to the front of the hotel, just go out that way.” So I did.
Another gent was waiting outside while his wife arranged for their room. We talked about the wind picking up, the dark closing down, the huge full moon. When I spotted a cute little silver minnow cutting around the portico, I inadvertently murmured, “Lord, I guess they didn’t have any whole cars to give me.” The kid tossed me the keys, reluctantly came back when I asked how to open the gas cover (which has been a challenge in each & every car)… He pushed a button, flashed a grin & sped through the heavy glass doors of the building. The kind gent helped me turn the lights on (embarrassed to say I didn’t remember how to do this as I’ve had a car for three years & loaners for a month which had lights on with ignition.)
Then I adjusted the seat so my nose was a bit above the horn, turned it on (a key? Really, you use a KEY?), drove ten feet into nearest parking space & looked around in wonder at this darling miniature vehicle. I found controls for the windows and the mirrors. I guessed that the eight buttons on the steering wheel had to do with cruise & some other things. I gingerly pushed every button in the car since it was blowing heat from the third ring of the Inferno out all available ice-cream-cone-shaped vents. Maybe YF was trying to overtake the bad perfume of the last driver permeating the vehicle. Turning on the a/c slowed the engine alarmingly. I heard the hamsters under the hood exchanging cowboy boots for Keds with tiny squeals. I pushed the defroster button & two or three of them started chanting: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.” Fortunately, we don’t have moisture enough to need a defroster in NM, so I turned that one off as well.
I mounted Betty Lou, my faithful Garmin GPS unit on the dashboard. I realized it took up a good quarter of the available window space, so moved it lower by the gearshift. I wanted to get to Olive Garden for some salad before hitting the road – something between breakfast & home right now would be good; it was 7 p.m.
I hoped that since half the Nissan is “Missan” (I will only apologize once for the bad puns this car has induced in me, so here it is.), I’d get good mileage. It had some pep. We made it to the light for my left turn to I-10. Across the street from the intersection, a train horn was rising in volume. All traffic was stopped on red lights as the arms floated down. I watched in jaw-dropped amazement as one of those F-150’s NAILED the accelerator to the floor, making it around the corner & over the tracks as the arms struck sparks from his truck bed & the burnt rubber rose about him in a demonic shadow. I even timidly backed up a little in case anyone else wanted to perform any similar maneuvers. I counted 110 train cars & two more red lights before I got an arrow, but believe you me, I was not about to move until I got that.
I was unsurprised to find Sirius radio available & happily spun the dial looking for Classic Vinyl, Deep Tracks, Bluegrass or Classic Rewind. I hit on Tom Petty station & noted the screen wasn’t even big enough to put up all the letters. “It’s Good To Be K” said the screen, by “Tom Petty & the Hea.” Ok. Economy, I get it.
When my sneakers began to smell of burning rubber, I figured it was time to locate the heat button to turn it down. That took a couple of miles. Olive Garden was well in the rearview mirror as I just wanted to go home now. “Home, where the h” by “Simon & Garf” was playing. It made me sentimental.
Once well onto the highway, with only 60 miles of pretty empty road, I lowered my right arm onto the .. the … what? No hump there in the middle to rest my arm? I could hang it so my hand fit into the tiny cupholder (no jumbo drinks in here, Ma’am). Back to ten to two position. Just nail the sucker & go home for God’s sake.
One thing YF said that I did hear loud & clear was “Unlimited Mileage” so I took advantage of the fact to plan a drive to Socorro to my favorite market today. (Socorro is about 70 miles north.) I turned on the car and an engine light came on. (No, I am not kidding.) Fortunately, this one was simple. I drove to Whitehead & got the guys to adjust tire pressure. Then I hit I-25 & headed north, did my shopping, got some lunch & headed home. I had found a wonderful relaxation CD for 25 cents at the thrift & plugged that in, humming softly.
About 35 miles out of Socorro, where there are no towns whatsoever & no services to be had, the cute little gas pump light came on. I called Hertz. I asked the Other Young Feller on for the day if they tank up the cars when they release them. “It all depends on the car,” he hedged. I said, “At $10/gallon, you don’t take advantage & refill the cars?” “As I said, Ma’am, it depends on…” at which point I cut him off to rumble, “It depends on how much you want to weasel out of this call, you coward.”
I hung up & hung onto the wheel. Now what? I have AAA. I was not worried. I had food to eat if it took until full moonrise to get a truck to me. I was thinking of how to make room in the glove compartment for a peeler & a can opener. I read each sign avidly – T or C, 41 miles, San Marcial one mile. (San Marcial is a farm.) I found out that turning up the relaxation CD to full volume does nothing for relaxation. And then a blue sign with a gas pump on it. OMG. My angels are on overtime & I will gladly put feathers in their tanks on demand! This is the ONLY gas between T or C & Socorro & I [literally] stumbled into it.
The gas station had two pumps, just tagged for pickup by the Smithsonian (or the hoarders, whichever arrived first.) See photos below. I believe there are two burros underground hoofing a tight circle to actually pump gas into these antiques. We aren’t talking including the “M” of Modern here, just the “o dern!” But it was gas in the desert. I waited for the septuagenarian at the pump ahead of me to move her truck from dead center of the two available pumps, which she kindly did & returned to filling up her eight red gas cans. I charged into the store & paid $15. The gal said, you need to move to the other pump because the one you’re at isn’t working. Now, there are only two pumps here with three hoses each, two sides of each pump. And the dance continued. After four tries & with the help of two others, I got gas into the car.
I’m home; the groceries are stashed, the blog is written, the photos mounted. Later, I need to drop off some picked-up items to a friend. If you hear a loud boom in a bit, it’s because an engine light came on when I started it up. You might want to cover your ears.