Esmeralda’s tune-up

Driving past a Volvo dealership in Asheville, North Carolina, I decided it was time for a little tune-up after more than 6000 miles on the road. I was lucky to be able to walk in and get her an appointment where she got a new headlight. I hadn’t even noticed that a headlight was blown as I haven’t been doing any night driving. When I realised that, I thought it sounded a little strange to me. Two months on the road and virtually no night driving. I sound like a nanna.

I’m just a girl

Today’s blonde moment occurred early in the day.

While checking under Esmeralda’s bonnet at her coolant levels, I noticed another reservoir looking rather empty. I tried to unscrew the lid to get a better look, but it wouldn’t budge. I tried shining the flashlight app on my phone at it to better detect the levels. I tried wiggling it to hear a liquid slosh. My diagnosis was that it was empty.

Consulting the Volvo handbook I learned that this was the brake fluid reservoir, and I started to feel slightly anxious and sick in the stomach that Esmeralda and I were going to be stranded in the mountainous Colorado. I didn’t actually think anything more negative like “oh my gosh, Esmeralda’s brakes are going to fail and we’re going to go over a railing and into a deep valley, never to be seen again” because I’m not a pessimist.

So I drove to JiffyLube to get them to check it only to be told “we don’t do brakes”. I asked for a suggestion of where I should go and they suggested three tyre places. So I drove to Big O and asked if they could check it only to be told “we don’t do engine fluids”. Thankfully, my femaleness and accent was enough for them to say they would at least check to see if I did need brake fluid.

I pulled into the bay and the mechanic came over, unscrewed the cap and lo and behold, there was a full reservoir of a pinkish fluid. I felt like such a ditz. He didn’t even need to put any elbow grease in to get the cap to come off, the only logical explanation was that I must have loosened it for him.

Esmeralda’s brake fluid levels are just fine, it’s just my pride that’s a little depleted.

The lesson of the Frenchman

Before I left LA I made up all these flyers to put up in hostels to find company along the road from place to place. I figured what’s a road trip without any company.

On my last evening in Vegas, the staff at the hostel said an old French guy was interested in getting a lift. I was a bit carried away by all the social activities, so I didn’t follow it up. Anyways, he found me and told me he was looking for a ride to see Southern Utah.

I told him my vague plans and said I could take him to Zion National Park, an offer he took up.

He wasn’t the best car company. It came to pass that he hadn’t understood that I was going to be camping and so he had a little melt down in the supermarket as he started to buy food provisions only to realise he probably wouldn’t be able to use them as he wouldn’t be able to stay at a campground.

I waited in the car while he checked out a number of accommodation options. I used this time to consult the map again and discovered that after Zion my next stop would be to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon instead of Bryce Canyon which is where Andre wanted to go.

When I told him this, he got a bit upset as he said there is no public transport to get where he wants to go. We arranged to be in touch and then I received an email from him saying he couldn’t get to Bryce and that if wasn’t going north then he would hitchhike back to the next big town to catch the bus somewhere else and he didn’t know why I’d changed my plans.

Part of the reason I have a car is that it gives me freedom and flexibility to make my mind up as I go. I also have the luxury of a schedule that means I don’t have to stick to a timeframe.

So now, I have learned a lesson in offering rideshares. I need to do my due diligence and specify that there are no promises beyond the next destination.

Exit the freeway

Doorman's Chair
The doorman gets the best seat in the house, although the view of the stage is pretty shoddy.

Astra and I were headed out for the evening to see a musical comedy show, Lost Moon Radio, produced by a (hopefully soon to be) friend I met last week.

We had just got on the freeway and I was telling Astra how I like to sit on about 55 miles per hour (not quite 90kmph) when all of a sudden all I could see in my mirrors was a cop car with flashing lights and sirens blaring. I was being pulled over. I had a mini panic because I didn’t really know what to do. I moved into the far right lane and went to stop on the shoulder when over the megaphone I heard “Take the next exit”, so I kept going. The exit seemed to go on forever and there wasn’t anywhere to pull over. The cop could sense my hesitation and said “Exit the freeway! Exit the freeway!”

I continued to receive barked instructions over the megaphone, which were distorted and unintelligible as we passed under the freeway, so I trundled slowly on and got a commanding “STOP!” I made to turn and get my handbag off the back seat, but Astra warned me not to, just to stay still in case he got spooked about me pulling a weapon or something. Whilst I’ve not had to use it before, I’m sure I could use my handbag as a weapon, especially since I had the mean motorcycle bag with me, but that would be as close as I would get to carrying and using a weapon.

The cop appeared at Astra’s window with a torch. I pressed the button for it to wind down and he asked to see my registration papers and drivers license. He then told me that he’d pulled me over because my tail light was out. He didn’t really want to believe that I didn’t know that but said he would let me off with a warning. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to know when my lights aren’t working, and after just having picked Esmeralda up from the mechanic, it didn’t even cross my mind to check. But I promised to get it looked at the next day.

As the cop went to leave, he asked if I knew how to get back on the freeway, and I said “I have a GPS”.

Not that it helped. We went around in circles for a while as we ended up going north instead of south on the freeway and then east instead of west on an exit to turn around. Despite still feeling shaken, we could see the funny side of driving in circles.

For some reason, the GPS (whose name is Lori the Lunatic), kept telling me to exit the freeway way earlier than I had seen on my earlier Google Maps direction plot. Supremely confident in my ability to find my way, I ignored Lori every single exit until La Brea which is where I wanted to get off. Then I mucked it up and couldn’t get off so I had to wait until the Fairfax exit. Then Lori didn’t want to help me get on West Adams Boulevard, so Astra and I found that on our own and then proceeded to the address. However, after we passed La Brea I started to have my doubts about where Lori was trying to take us.

After a mile and a few blocks, I thought I’d best check the address. And well, human error does occur. It seems I’d typed in 3253 instead of 5253. I think a bit of dyslexia had kicked in there. So we turned around and finally made it to the venue on time – albeit via a most roundabout trip. I would love to see a print out of where we drove, there’d be comedy in that.

Lost Moon Radio Episode 9 was great (and worth the massive adventure to get there). There were some very talented people and some really funny pieces and it was a great opportunity to take advantage of the diverse entertainment on offer in LA. Though I didn’t get up and sing karaoke to the live band afterwards; that would have been bad entertainment.

Some sleuthing a la the Famous Five

Bonding with Esmeralda after I got her home yesterday, I discovered that her rear seats fold down flat!

It was a nice surprise that was to come in handy as  I did a late night dash to Ikea for a whole bunch of stuff, just because I could. Because I had wheels and freedom and the ability to ride the freeways to my heart’s content.

I think that the previous owner had no idea that the seats folded flat, because when I pulled up the base of the seat, I found two receipts dating back to 2005. (see them here: Found Receipts)

I feel like I want to make you guess what is so interesting about these receipts, but that doesn’t really work over this medium. It turns into a whole lot of bubbling excitement for me for too few or too slow responses. So here I go and give the game away with a list instead.

  1. These facsimile receipts are still readable after 5 1/2 years. Quite remarkable.
  2. The purchases were made in Phoenix, Arizona and they were returned to Los Angeles, California. A distance of 378 miles which takes 6 to 8 hours of driving (according to Google).
  3. The sales tax in each state differs, 8.1% in Arizona and 8.25% in California (2005 tax rates)
  4. When the chick (note the jewelry on the receipt and hence my dubbing the previous owner a female) returned the items in California, she got more money back. She got $29.50 plus the tax of $2.43 when she only paid $2.38 in tax in Arizona.

Okay, so she only made a nickel (five cents) on that transaction which would have gone nowhere if put towards her gas (petrol) bill to drive back. But it raises an interesting point of how you can make money on returning items in a different state, and how much tax you could save on some of those bigger ticket items you might be purchasing.

Side note: I always wanted to solve mysteries like the Famous Five, Trixie Belden, the Secret Seven and sometimes Nancy Drew. That went nicely with my fascination of Harriet the Spy and love of the boardgame Cluedo. Whilst this may not be a real mystery, it has been fun putting all the pieces together. Who knows, maybe I’ll be dumpster diving tomorrow in search of the next great mystery.

Esmeralda is back!

Esmeralda's bits
Esmeralda's broken bits. They have made way for strong, new bits that won't break.

I got to pick up Esmeralda from the mechanic today and the reunification was so sweet.

My excellent mechanic, Vicente from European Motors, was just lovely. He showed me the bucket of bolts that came out of Esmeralda and all the broken bits she had replaced. He then told me to take it easy for 500 miles and then bring her in so he could check everything over and make sure that everything was sorted. I asked for a definition of easy, and he said nothing over 80 miles per hour. I then asked what the speed limit is (because even on the freeways I pretty much hover around 55 – 60 mph) and he said that it is 65 to 70 mph.

No fear Vicente, I will not be going hard on Esmeralda like that. That and the fact that I do not need a speeding fine to add to my car expenses in the US.