Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adventures With My Car PART I

I bought my car, a 1999 Toyota Corolla, in May of 2003. It has its problems, and they're increasing with age and mileage, but I've taken moderately good care of it over the years.

Taken Sept. 2005, before the paint started to chip.
Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, N.M.

We transported my car to Arkansas because we were unsure how it would respond to a 12-hour drive. Plus, collaborating a road trip like that — ensuring that two people in separate cars stop in the same places for meals, etc. — seemed like an unnecessary hassle.

Since getting to Fayetteville, Jenn has told me that if I wanted to drive her car around town, I'm perfectly welcome to do so. I usually don't do that unless I have to because her car is manual transmission. I'm fine with driving stick shift (my first car was one), it's driving stick shift in such a hilly area that makes me anxious.

Monday night, I was driving to the airport to pick Jenn up. While driving up I-540, I ran into a pretty heavy storm. I could barely see the road and had to slow down to under 30 miles per hour, along with the other cars around me. The rain let up after a few minutes and the traffic picked up some of its speed again. I had gone maybe a mile or two (at about 50 mph in the right lane) when I felt my car drift into the other lane.

I can't really say I remember exactly what happened. All I knew was that I had no control of the car. At one point, I was facing the wrong direction. I was really just waiting for my car to hit something, but it never did. When it stopped, I was facing the correct direction again, halfway in the left lane, halfway on the grassy shoulder. I was fine (physically). My car? I didn't know. I got out to take a look, but I couldn't really see anything. There seemed to be no body damage, but I couldn't really see the tires in the dark. After having a freak-out attack about what had just happened, I started panicking that I would be a sitting duck as the same thing happened to another passing vehicle, right into me.

The traffic cleared long enough for me to get back onto the road. All this happened right before an exit, so I figured best-case scenario, I get off and get to a gas station to see what was up. I got on the road and heard an awful sound. I immediately pulled over to the right-hand shoulder to investigate further. Still couldn't see anything. By this time, I was calming down.

I got back into the car and decided to get off of the highway, if I could. Sure enough, the car seemed to be driving okay, it was just dragging something. I had hoped I wasn't dragging anything important that would fall off during the short drive to the gas station.

As I pulled into the gas station and parked my car, a young man in a pickup truck passed me. I guess seeing someone pull into the gas station with hazards on caught his attention. He turned around and parked next to me as I was finding the source of the noise; the part that holds the muffler in place lost was hanging on one side. After all of that, that seemed to be the extent of the damage my car suffered.

I told him what happened, and he said, "I'm sort of a mechanic, I can take a look," and he got down on the wet concrete and climbed under my car. He emerged to tell me that I'm just missing a some bolts and washers and he would be able to give a temporary fix with a few plastic ties. He did that and five minutes later, he was off on his way.

I didn't know how to thank him, and he seemed totally fine with stammering words of appreciation I offered.

So all was fine, except I still needed to get to the airport and then drive home. It was nerve-racking, but we got home safely. Of course, I avoided the highway on the way back.

Getting the car checked out and fixed has proven to be another interesting story, though less terrifying.

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