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



{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Carmel July 18, 2012 at 9:13 am

I figured when you mentioned how cheap Brian is, there would be a link or reference to the gelato incident again. Oh there wasn’t? You’re welcome for bringing it up again. 🙂

Ah, cars. Shawn and I have an argument over the car at least once a quarter. Glad yours is working again.

I have those moments at times when I am so overwhelmed with joy and contentment that I almost feel like I’m floating above myself. And all you can feel is gratitude. I had that feeling post-race on Sunday when I turned the corner near the finish line and saw my mom, Shawn, best friend and niece all cheering for me as I finished the last .1 mi (uphill). It just seems that in our daily lives when we’re just “dealing” with life, we’re not seeing the cheerleaders on the sidelines, or the beauty surrounding us, or those small things that make life worth living. It’s much harder to give ourselves the time to notice them, but they’re always there.

That being said, I’m still wicked jealous of the things you’ve experienced lately!


Kim July 18, 2012 at 11:30 am

What was I thinking? I totally just linked to the gelato incident.

You are so right that the beauty and joy is always there but we don’t always see (or take the time to see) it. One of the great things about this trip so far is that I literally have time to stop and smell the roses. I have time to linger in the moment. I guess I always did, but now I actually do it.

So proud of you on your half marathon. It is evil to end with a hill. EVIL!


Carmel July 18, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Sorry Brian.

It is evil. And cruel. And just plain mean. It was a short one, but still, you want to look like a stud crossing the finish line.


Rhonda July 18, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Gorgeous post Kim… I’m thrilled that you’ve already found that “place” where you are at home wherever you are!
I do love the starter story because I can see us having the same discussion:)
Just think..not long now until you’ll be back in PDX briefly and then leaving on a jet plane. wow!
p.s….another mention of bears in a post. hmmm, have you considered therapy!?


Kim July 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

There are even more mention of grizzlies to come!

I will definitely enter therapy if I ever move to grizzly country. For now, it only effects me every so often.

But seriously, the don’t terrify you??? I mean they could EAT YOUR FACE OFF for NOW APPARENT REASON!!


Gillian @OneGiantStep July 18, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I loved it when the broom came out that morning. Seriously?! The boys thought a BROOM would make it all better?


Kim July 22, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Hahaha. I know, right?!


Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) July 18, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Despite having packed up our apartment in Nashville and hauling our few remaining belongings and our DOGS all the way across an international border, I still don’t feel like I’ve really entered a new phase in my life. I think it’s a combination of the past few months being SO INSANE and filled with so many huge changes that my brain is still racing to catch up paired with the fact that I’m now living back at home with my parents so even though life is different than it was a month ago, it’s not really in an exciting and new way. Right now it just feels like we’re on the world’s most boring vacation, but hopefully once we’re out there seeing and doing, the reality of it all will finally start to sink in!

Given all that you and Brian have encountered since you’ve set off, I think your ability to maintain perspective is pretty awesome. And I know Brian is frugal, but after ANOTHER reminder of the gelato incident AND the finagling with the car, we’re all going to have to start laying bets on how much his pride is worth! 😉

All in all, have been very much enjoying reading about your adventures on this leg of the trip and I hope your car sees you through to the very end! What are your plans for it once you depart for South America?


Kim July 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Haha! Don’t worry about Brian’s pride… because he prides himself in being cheap! Trust me, he thinks of it as a compliment 😉

I know the feeling with all the turmoil in packing, moving, and then crashing with the parents as the same thing happened to us. It felt like a weird, extended visit with family. Now that we are moving around it feels more like “real life.” I can only image how we will feel when we leave the country in a few weeks.


Sunee July 18, 2012 at 11:39 pm

I read this post while having my breakfast, about to start my daily grind in the cubicle and I couldn’t help but think how happy you look in the pictures from the last few weeks and how lovely it sounds to spend your days camping and your nights looking up at the stars! Even with all the car problems (it’s all part of the adventure!). I think you made the right choice 🙂


Kim July 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Sunee, I think we made the right choice too. Last night we slept at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and we didn’t put the rain fly on the tent. We fell asleep under thousands of stars. It was amazing.


Hannah July 19, 2012 at 6:25 am

These are the moments that will make your journey all the more memorable. It’s great to have anecdotal disasters to write about and make us laugh – though I’m sure they’re not so great for you experiencing them first hand! It’s the goodbyes and the starter problems and money issues that allow the joy to resonate so loudly in your heart; nothing worth having comes easy, and your life is definitely worth having 🙂


Kim July 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm

The things that suck when they are happening make the best stories in the end!


Wendy July 19, 2012 at 7:55 am

I love you. That is all. oh, and Im proud. Proudly loving you that is what I am.


Kim July 22, 2012 at 9:38 pm

XOXOX Love you too. Can’t wait to see you SOON!


Dalene July 20, 2012 at 1:11 am

You know what will fix that car up right?

A coat of spray paint on the side, writing something snappy. 🙂


Kim July 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Haha- I’m too embarrassed! The fact that we have to bungee cord the trunk is bad enough!


Ali July 26, 2012 at 7:06 am

You should totally spray paint “” and something about traveling the world on the car 🙂


Kim July 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

Haha, I would but the car is going to my sister when we are done with it and I’m sure she wouldn’t be thrilled about it!


Sarah Somewhere July 20, 2012 at 10:05 am

Oh poor Brian, he’s really copping it!!! How hard was it not to say, “I told you so”???? I bet you were ultra diplomatic 🙂 It goes to show that even with a car that won’t start, and a brush with a toothless serial killer (okay, I made that part up), you guys are still content, because you’re following your dreams. Enjoy those stars 🙂


Kim July 22, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I was NOT diplomatic. When the car broke the second time I told him it was his fault! And then our zen friend Jason overheard and said that it was no one’s fault, simply a mechanical error and that what is in the past is in the past. Jason was right, so I just had to shut my trap and pout silently.


Lauren July 20, 2012 at 11:36 am

One question–did Brian soil his pants?!?!?!


Kim July 22, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Oh yeah. That happens all the time.


Ali July 26, 2012 at 7:07 am

The car sounds like a pain, but at least it’s adding to the adventure!


James Trip July 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

Wow this sucks I have similar experiences with a flat tire on a road trip. It is a terrible experience but it kind of makes the trip because it is unexpected.


Kim August 6, 2012 at 10:36 am

Ha, yeah. The bad stuff always makes the good stories in the end!


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