I need to do this more often….

So much has happened.

We’ve gone on a road trip.

Our little house is shaping up – it’s really becoming cute inside.

We’re learning how to sail.  We have a little sailboat.

My beautiful Brasiliera wife continues her uphill struggle with our bureaucracy.

Life goes on.

I’m not going to sit here and write about how blogging is a difficult thing.  It isn’t.  You sit down in a comfortable chair in front of a keyboard and put your ideas and experiences in electronic form for other people to see.  Once out there, I have no control over who reads my work.  I’ve had some trouble with that lately, so I have been avoiding blogging.  I’m over that now, I think.

Where to start…..

ROAD TRIP!!

img_22771The plan was to drive in a big circle, hitting my grandfather’s place in Elmira, then going west to see my mom and then heading south to Huntsville to see my daughter, Melody.  We planned on a week to ten days for the trip.  As it turned out, we did it in six.

We were driving our Ford Explorer, hoping for the best.  I had the transmission rebuilt in April, and it hasn’t been right since.  It’s been back to the shop four times, and each time they claimed that they had fixed the problem.  They always kept it at least a week-sometimes two, so it was a real pain to take it back.

About two hours into the trip, while driving up the NE Extension of the PA Turnpike, I notice white smoke behind me, coming from under the car.  Lots of it.  We’ve been traveling at highway speeds for just about an hour, and it seems that that’s how long it takes for the transmission to critically overheat.  Except for the smoke, things seem okay, but I know that we’re running out of time.  We stop at the Hickory Run rest stop, where I take a look under the car (it isn’t good, folks – a rapidly-growing red puddle on the ground and transmission fluid all over the underside of the car).  I shut the poor car down and purchase two quarts of fluid at the gas station – I figure it’s cheaper than a tow….

fordBack in the car with its partially-replenished transmission fluid and we’re headed down the ramp to the turnpike again.  The engine is screaming as we head down the ramp – we’re not getting out of first gear.  On the brakes and into reverse.  We back up all the way into the rest stop parking lot, where I sit for a minute and ponder our next move.  Being a hardhead, I pointed the car back towards the highway to try it again, foolishly hoping that a few minutes in reverse may have helped cure the rapidly-dying transmission.  This time it worked.  Once again, we’re making progress, flying up the turnpike at highway speeds with clouds of white smoke coming from under the car.  I’m aware that this is only a temporary solution to our transportation problem and that it’s almost certain that our trusty Explorer will not finish the trip.  Finish the trip?  How about run another 20 minutes?

What to do??  Fortunately, we love our electronic toys and can even use them once in a while.  I plug the cell phone into the laptop and get on the Internet through AT&T’s packet network.  I Google “transmission repair Scranton” and find the address of an  aamco1 shop.  We entered the address into the GPS and told it to get us there.  As easy as that, we received turn-by-turn guidance to someone with the ability to heal our ailing car.

The people at the Keyser Ave AAMCO shop were incredibly nice.  They took care of our car, called Enterprise for us and even gave us a ride there.  Bonnie was being incredibly cute at the shop – everyone loved her.  She can have these bursts of exuberance when she meets people, wagging her whole body – not just her tail, exploding into a fuzzy ball of cuteness.  Then she’ll go back to sleep in my lapimg_2276 for four hours…

img_23061Enterprise gave us an ’08 PT Cruiser (almost new) for $225 for the week (unlimited miles!!).  We were on our way in just a few minutes, having transferred the luggage and the dog into the new vehicle.  The folks at AAMCO assured me that my car would take less than a week to repair.  I left there feeling good about the car and the folks that I left it with.

Driving the almost-new car was a treat.  It was Chrysler’s Touring edition, so it had the options necessary to make the trip more pleasant (super-adjustable seats, for example).  The car did well on the trip – although I was not impressed with the 25 mpg on the highway.  I expected a bit more than that.

img_2268We made it to Elmira just a little before dark, spending a few hours with my grandfather (he’s almost 90).  He’s a really nice guy and lives by himself in a little house that he built himself back in the fifties.  Back on the road and on towards Columbus, Ohio.  We saw a little snow in the headlights as we drove through the mountains that night – pretty cool.  Since we were coming from the north, we took Route 80 west instead of the PA Turnpike.  We pulled into a motel at about 11pm, near Clearfield.  It had a little bar, and draft Yuenglings were a buck – cool way to end the day.

The next day, it took us about five hours to drive the remaining way into Columbus.  We were guided all of the way my the awesome little GPS.  No more road maps, asking for directions, getting lost….  I can’t say enough about how nice it is to have someone in the car that isn’t ever lost, and that knows how to get everywhere.  I had a previous generation GPS, but the ones we have now are so much better and easier to use.  I am not a complete idiot – we had a big Walmart atlas as a backup.

img_2332We arrived at my mom’s house to a warm welcome, despite that we were not her only house guests.  My aunt Brenda and her husband had just retired and moved from California, arriving just the night before.  Their daughter (and her two children) had been staying with Mom already.  Brenda and Clark towed a nice RV trailer with them, so they had a place to sleep.  Mom gave us HER bedroom and took the spare one (Moms are like that).  I hadn’t seen Brenda in about 30 years, so it was nice to catch up with the family.  We stayed for a couple of days, and then headed south towards Huntsville, where I was planning to visit my daughter and be introduced to my first grandchild.

We head west and south down Route 71 and then Route 65.  Everything’s great except for one thing.  My wife has a toothache – a bad one.  We pull off the Interstate and stop at a Kroger, where I buy some aspirin and Anbesol, and we’re back on the road.  While trying to get back on the Interstate, we wrinkled a fender on the PT Cruiser by changing lanes at the same time as a big ‘ol pickup truck (no damage to his bumper at all).  Doing the proper thing, we called the police and waited for them to arrive and take a report.  It took two hours, and I received a traffic ticket for my trouble.  I also got thoroughly soaked.

We get a hotel room for the night north of Nashville and proceeded to Huntsville the next morning.  Guided by Magellan’s namesake, we made it easily to my daughter’s cute house.  The little one was sleeping, but we met her after she woke up.  img_2354 We went out for a walk, did some shopping and went to dinner.

img_2362Mary Francis is a little doll.  She’s such a good baby!  When she got tired and started to cry, she did this little tea-kettle cry before she would go into full song – plenty of time to get her back to Mama’s arms.  She smiled a lot, and I’m so happy that my daughter has such a nice baby.

We had a nice visit, although a bit shorter than we would have liked.  Problem was, we were continually accompanied by Monica’s toothache.  While driving towards Huntsville, I used my cell phone to try to find an after-hours dentist, but was unsuccessful.  If I couldn’t find one on Saturday, it was unlikely that we would be able to find one on Sunday, either.  We decided to head home the first thing in the morning.  The plan was to drive home non-stop and have my wife’s painful tooth in the care of Dr. Russo the first thing in the morning.

Google Maps says it’s 809 miles and that it should take something less than 14 hours to drive.  We made it just a bit quicker than that, but the day was totally devoted to driving.  Hard-core distance-making driving.  We would stop for gas and get meals and use the bathroom all at the same time – no messing around.  The little PT Cruiser performed very well, except for the growing crack at the bottom of the windshield *sigh*.  Something else to fix….  However. it was almost as comfortable as driving our Explorer.

We arrived home just before 9pm and unpacked before hitting the sack.  Monica was able to get to the dentist the next day – she’s OK now.  The PT Cruiser has been repaired at my expense, but VISA is going to reimburse me.  If you decline the CDW on a rental car and charge it on your VISA with this benefit, they will pick up any damages.  How cool.  I have always charged rental cars on my VISA for that reason, but this is the first time that I have ever used that benefit.

alfalfaAfter seeing Dr. Russo on Monday, we drove back to Scranton to turn in our slightly damaged rental and pick up the repaired Explorer.  The transmission cost just about what I paid in April to the idiots that couldn’t repair it.  I should have considered a chain place like AAMCO in the first place.  I’ve driven the Explorer all over since then – it’s perfect.  I suppose I could sue to get back the money that I paid to Miller Road Discount Transmission,  dude but I don’t work like that.  I know that they’re incompetent and so do they.  In 1996, the Ford Explorer was one of the best-selling cars in the US.  Plenty of them have needed trans work – it’s not that unusual.  In April, THEY REPLACED MY TRANSMISSION, so they bolted this problem into my car, and couldn’t deal with their bad rebuilt trans.  AAMCO also replaced it.  They must get better stuff.

Enterprise said that I put 2400 miles on their car in six days.  We met my Grandfather, my mom, my aunt Brenda (and her family) saw my first grandchild, and made it back with only minor problems.  The bent metal is fixed, my transmission has been competently repaired, Monica’s tooth is better – all is right with the world.  Enterprise didn’t charge me for the windshield or the loss-of-use while the car was being repaired, although VISA would have cheerfully picked up those costs as well.  Wonder why?  All in all, some good stuff and some bad stuff – just like life is, sometimes.  I’m glad that we made the trip.

Greg


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