The car breaks down and other stories from the road

by Kim on July 18, 2012 · 26 comments

No time like the present to get started a starter

In Asheville I went out to the car one morning and it wouldn’t start. After a few minutes of diagnostic work  Brian determined that the starter was dead.

I called AAA for a tow to the nearest mechanic. When the tow-truck driver arrived he got in the car, turned the ignition, and the damn thing started right up.

The driver was a big dude dressed in greasy overalls and missing a couple of teeth. He looked like the kind of guy who might know a thing or two about jerry-rigging a car to keep it running long after it should have been dead.

When the engine roared to life I looked at him with an expression that surely said “what the f&@!.” He gave me a gnarly grin and explained that sometimes the starter just needs to be “knocked and jostled” in order to get it running again.

You know how much that information is worth?” He asked, leaning into me.

Twenty dollars?” I replied hopefully.

He gave me a steely look. “It’s priceless, lady.  That information is priceless.”

I gave him the twenty bucks anyway.

I was glad the car had started but it left Brian and I in a gigantic disagreement.  I wanted to fix the car immediately because surely the starter would fail again. I had visions of being stranded at the end of some desolate trailhead in backwoods Montana while grizzlies circled deciding which of us they should have for dinner first.

Brian wanted to hold off on fixing the starter until it died a second time because “it could be months from now” and also because he is apparently the cheapest person on the planet. I swear I did not know this about him before we started the trip.

Against my better judgement Brian won the argument mostly because I didn’t have enough knowledge about cars to keep my head above water.

But you know what I do have? Common sense.

As common sense would dictate, the car crapped out again in Driggs, Idaho as we were preparing to leave on our four-day backpacking trip in the Grand Tetons. We’d loaded the cars with our packs and were setting off for the trailhead when Brian turned the ignition and nothing happened.

Brian hits the starter with a bigger hammer.

Because I’d paid $20 for priceless knowledge back in Asheville, we eventually got the car started once again by pushing it up on a ramp and hitting the starter with a hammer, then a bigger hammer, and finally a broomstick.

Eventually the car roared to life and we made our way into the Tetons for an excellent few days of backpacking. I am happy to report that the car got a new starter in Salt Lake City and is now running like a dream.

Life on the road in general

Brian and I are both surprised at how quickly we have adjusted to our new lifestyle. Perhaps it is because our days are packed with new and exciting experiences, but we just haven’t spent much time looking back. As hard as it was to leave Portland now that we’re gone I don’t dwell on what we’ve left behind.

I’m also not crying myself to sleep over the dogs.  I miss them of course, and I wish they could be here with us, but they are being loved and spoiled at their grandparents house and I know they are happy. Whole days go by without my thinking of them.

Overall, life is still life. It’s just that now instead of working in a cube and commuting and dealing with the domestic tasks at home I am setting up camp and hiking and spending hours plotting where we’ll stay next and how we’ll get there. The latter is what I want to be doing but its not always thrilling or even fun.

At least one time each day, though, I find myself so sidelined with joy its like I was knocked to the ground by an invisible linebacker.

Sometimes these moments of joy come when I would expect them to like while standing at an isolated overlook in the backcountry or watching the sun set in Arches National Park.

Other times they hit when I am doing regular things like driving in the car when the windows are down and the music is up. Or, at night, when I’m lying in the tent watching the stars glowing in the sky and Brian is sleeping at my side.

These are the moments when joy rushes in and I know I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but exactly where I am. In these moments I close my eyes and whisper: thank you, thank you, thank you.

A joyful moment in Arches National Park