car trouble

We got a little snow yesterday. It wasn’t very much at all – maybe two inches – and it took all day to fall. I guess the local highway departments didn’t think they needed to bother with plowing or otherwise treating the roadways, and unfortunately, I got to “benefit” from that assumption.

On the way home from Pathfinders I was driving maybe 5-10 MPH down a pretty steep hill with a curve. The car began to slide into the curve and ignored both my steering and my braking. Then it kissed a stone retaining wall embedded in an embankment. That stopped it.


The Damage

The Damage

Not too bad. I was able to back up and carefully drive the rest of the way down the hill away from the curve. That’s about the last place I wanted to be stopped. I went a quarter mile, then parked and inspected the damage.

Pinched Rim

Pinched Rim

The tire still had air in it, but I didn’t think it would hold it over night the way that rim is pinched. I was pleasantly surprised this morning though, as it was still fully inflated. I’m sure I’ll need a new rim though, and it should be aligned as well.

Because of the storm, school was delayed by two hours. I took Beth in in Va’s car. When I got home I noticed her lunch on the counter. She also left her homework in the floor. Mind you, she did not forget her sled! I guess she has her own set of priorities.

I had it in my head that we’d have to go back in a couple of hours to bring her her lunch, but I forgot that school was delayed two hours, so that time was already gone. Va had some errands to run in Concord, so she hustled to get ready, and we got back to the school around noon – just in time for lunch.

I hung around there for a while and Va ran her errands. When school finally let out, Beth got out her sled. It was nice to see her sharing it:



I called the insurance company while I waited. At first they wanted me to drive that car all the way to Manchester (lots of I-93 there), but I expressed concern over that plan. Instead, they are sending an adjuster over tomorrow to assess the damage, and I can take it wherever I want.

Tomorrow we’ll have a price tag on that little kiss.

I’m off work now until the new year is underway. It’s nice to have some time off. On the agenda today was to sleep in, take the recycling to the recycling station, run some errands, and resume the Eternal Attic Insulation Project.

The sleep in part went swimmingly. Once I had checked that box, I went downstairs and had some breakfast. Then I loaded the recycling into my car and backed out of the garage. That’s when Beth told me, “One of your tires is low. I mean really low.” What she meant was “You have a flat tire, Daddy!”

Yeah. I took a turn a little too tightly yesterday and bumped hard over a curb. It felt a little unbalanced on the drive home, but I figured I had thrown one of those balance weights. I had intended to take it in to have the tires rotated anyhow, so…

Of all the days to have a flat tire, I really can’t think of a better day than today. I didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time.

I moved all the recycling out of my car and into Va’s, and Beth and I took it to the recycling center. I really wish we had curbside recycling here, but having no curbs, I guess that’s not likely to happen any time soon. And curbs don’t like me too much this week anyhow.

I took the tire off, threw it in Va’s trunk, and she and I drove to town. We ran errands (one of which was to get the tire fixed). When we got home I put the tire back on. Actually, I didn’t get the tire fixed, I got a new one. When we bought the tires in May, they came with road hazard insurance, and the curb was very unkind to the sidewall. From this we can conclude that curbs are road hazards. I paid $15 for labor (or something), but I am totally OK with that. I was expecting to hand over a Benjamin.

After supper I decided to move a bunch of stuff from the attic to the basement so I would have some room to work on the Eternal Insulation Project.

Well-insulated vs Not

Well-insulated vs Not

This photo was taken two years ago yesterday. You can see that the snow on the right side of the house is deeper than the snow on the left side. That’s because I had insulated the left side of the attic.

Actually, the whole attic is insulated – just not very well. When we had the house built we asked for an open attic with a subfloor and regular walk-up stairs. The plan was to eventually finish it out and use it as extra space. The builder did as we asked, but he insulated the attic floor, not the attic ceiling. That’s not so bad except that the door to the attic is an interior door, and the heat goes right through it, up our walk-up stairs, and out the roof.

So I have been insulating the attic ceiling. But not fast. My goal is to finish that project before I have to go back to work. Tonight all I will do though, is clear out some working space. The nice thing about having the ceiling half-insulated for two years running is that I know that when it is finished, it will do us some real good. I can see it every time there’s snow or frost on the roof. And I am reminded then, that I should really get up there and finish that project off.


Today we had to leave the house early so I could meet a guy who would give us an estimate for electrical work on the church. This is work I am well able to handle myself, but unfortunately, it would not be legal for me to do it. We have to have a licensed electrician. We used to have a member in the church who is licensed, but he moved to Texas last year.

Anyhow, the bid came in at over $2600, which was about double what I was expecting. Ouch. After I showed the estimator around, I dropped my car off for an oil change and tire rotation. Then I walked to the office from there.

My buddy Wayne was having his car serviced too, but not at the same place. He also walked to the office this morning, but from about triple the distance I did. After work Jonathan and I gave him a ride to his garage (but first… we had to walk to mine).

In other news…
I have been hacking together some software to process geocache data that I download from their site. Though it is still very much a hack-job, I was able to use it tonight to add about a thousand geocaches to my Tomtom. I’ve been virtually cruising down I-81 downloading caches in preparation for a trip we’ll take soon.

Today when we were ready to go off to school and work, we found that my car would not start. But it behaved in the most bizarre fashion ever. Turn the key, and the fuel and temperature gauges started dancing up and down, all the dashboard lights began to flash, and the odometer started flashing 0000000.

Release the key, and the “dancing” changed, but did not stop for another five or ten seconds. I’m not a great mechanic, and this seemed pretty well beyond the scope of my automotive knowledge, so we took Va’s car instead. That obligated me to leaving work early to fetch Beth from school.

I called AAA and they sent a tow truck. I had them haul my car all the way to Concord where my normal mechanic’s shop is. AAA covers the first five miles for free, and anything over that is $3.00 per mile. I figure they’ll hit me for about $40 or so.

As it turns out, it was just a bad battery. I could have easily changed that myself had I known, but it’s the had I known part that makes it worth it for me to pay someone else to do the work.

I bugged out of work to fetch Beth, and while I was at the school poked around the network a bit to find out why our provider was saying we had been exceeding our bandwidth cap. According to my records, our traffic has been fairly light. So either I don’t know what I’m doing, they don’t know what they are doing, or they were just making stuff up to get me off the phone. I can eliminate option one with a high degree of confidence, so that leaves the other two options.

Beth and I went back to the office, and I finished off what I was doing. Then we headed home. As I was pulling out of the garage, the mechanic called to tell me it was the battery. They also noted that I was overdue for an oil change and my wiper blades were shot. So I had them take care of that too. I stopped by to pay so I could pick the car up later tonight after a church board meeting.

The guy running the place told me he hadn’t figured up the bill yet and really couldn’t until they finished the work. He suggested I just take the car home after hours and pay them tomorrow. That’s why I like these guys so much. It’s a lot easier to trust someone who trusts you back.

We picked up some Hut cuisine and ate that when we got home. Then Va and I headed back to Concord to attend the board meeting. We grabbed my car first though.

The bummer part is that when they disconnected the battery, it put the car stereo in the “Oh noes! I’ve been stolen!” mode. I’ll hafta take it back in the morning to pay them anyhow, and I’ll see if they can address that then.

As I was getting into my car after the board meeting, I spotted what I believe is a female dobson fly on the roof of my car. Va had already left, and my camera was in her car, not in mine. Boooo. So I fished around in my car to see what I could capture this little lady in. I found a box of screws, and that was the perfect size. I dumped the screws into the console and scooped the Dobson girl into the container. When I got home, I popper her in the fridge. That will slow her down so that she’ll hold still when I try to get a picture later tonight.

It was snowing when I went to work this morning. I guess another inch or so fell since last night, and the roads were worse today than they were yesterday. I fishtailed a little when I was on one of the back roads leading to the Interstate. The Interstate itself was not as bad, except that cars were creeeeeping along. I was late getting Beth to school.

It continued to snow all through the day. About one o’clock I got a call from Va. She had missed the driveway to the church/school and went into a snow bank. She was pretty well stuck. She had been going there early to key in the library card catalog data, and I assume that’s why she was there at 1:00 today. I got in my car and was there in about 15 minutes. First I went down to the Pathfinder trailer to get some rope. I found some 5/8″ nylon and then parked my car near hers. As I was tying the rope onto our cars, a State Trooper came and offered to stop traffic while I attempted to pull her out. But it was no use. All my car would do was spin. I untied the rope and parked in the church lot, and the trooper called a tow truck. Va went in and (I presume) entered card catalog data. I waited in my car and listened to the radio. The truck was there in about an hour I guess, and he managed to pull her car out in short order. Thanks to AAA, it cost me nothing. I parked her car in the church lot and then went in and told Va that the deed had been done. Then I went back to the office.

When I got home, we had about four inches of snow on the ground. I decided it was high time the boys had snowblower lessons. Since I have a new snowblower that is far easier to control and which will stop when you let go of it, I figured they were man enough to handle that. So after supper we went out. I showed them all the controls. Jonathan started the engine and cleared out a little less than half the driveway.

On his last pass he was turning around near the garage with the auger off, but still scooping up snow. David was standing on the sidewalk. I could see this one coming, though neither David nor Jonathan did (or so they say). About the time Jonathan got the snowblower even with David, he enabled the auger, and snow came barrelling out the chute, right into David’s face.

I thought it was pretty funny! David laughed too, so he must have been in a good mood. Jonathan blew a little more and then bravely handed the snowblower over to his brother. David pretty much finished the rest, and Jonathan escaped unscathed. I did want to clean up a little more out near the road, so I took the snowblower from David and they both went in the house.

Now I should be able to call the house on a snowy day and have them clear the driveway before I get home. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to see how well that works.

We’re pretty close to halfway home now. There was only one incident, but that didn’t take too long to overcome. Just before exit 340 on I-40 in Tennessee, the heat shield covering the catalytic converter decided to partially detach from the car. That’ll make a noise. We were dragging it along for maybe a quarter mile before the exit. I got off and took a look. I figured we’d need to stop some place and buy a wrench so I could take it the rest of the way off, so we poked “Shopping” into Tomtom, and it directed us down a switchback to a Walmart in Rockwood, TN.

Before we got to the Walmart though, we came across an auto parts store. I went in to see if they would know what size bolt was holding that thing on, and he offered to loan me a hacksaw. Made sense to me, so I accepted the offer. I went out, and decided there was no way I could get beneath the car sufficiently to operate a hacksaw without a ramp or a jack or something. I went back in and asked for a ramp. He gave me a jack. I jacked it up a bit, and then thought to document my findings:

Heat Shield

Heat Shield

That liquid is condensed water dripping off the air conditioner coil. I left the engine running while I effected the removal of the shield. It was about 90 degrees outside, and the humidity musta been pushing 100. I ended up not using the hacksaw. The shield had cooled enough that I was able to grab it with my bare hand. I worked it back and forth until I induced a stress fracture all the way across the nut hole. Then I pitched the shield in the trash, returned the tools, and we set out again.

Total time elapsed: 30 minutes. Not bad!

Now we’re in Strasburg, VA, two miles short of I-66 on I-81. Google maps said that our first leg would take about 11 hours, but it did not allow time for doing things like eating or removing heat shields. We did the trip in about 13:30 hours by my reckoning. Google says the second leg should take about 10 hours, so I’m figuring another 12:00 to 12:30 for that.

Today Va picked me up for lunch. The plan was that we’d drop her car off at Jiffy Lube, and then duck in next door to Pizza Hut for lunch while the Well Oiled Machine sprung into action. We’ve been doing this for five years now without a problem. But not today.

First, the girl working the computer refused to make eye contact or even acknowledge my presence. Then she started calling the names of other customers who were there before me. OK, I don’t have a problem waiting my turn, but why hadn’t these people already been dealt with?

Then she went back out to the garage and started disassembling someone’s air filter (or re-assembling it, who knows). So I moseyed on out there and told her that I would really like to drop the car off and go to lunch. She did not seem happy, but she went into the office area and took my information. By then, the car in front of mine had been moved out of the service bay, so it looked like mine was next. Good.

I went to Pizza Hut and had an enjoyable lunch with Va, who by that time was wondering if I had been abducted by aliens or something. We finished eating 30 minutes later. When we came out, we saw that my car was still sitting exactly where it had been when I left it, and there was another car in the bay in front of mine.

Va went into the waiting room, and I hung around outside waiting for an opportunity to talk with computer girl. She was in the back lot talking on a cell phone. I cannot imagine what sort of Jiffy Lube business she was transacting on her cell phone. She continued to avoid eye contact, and then I lost patience. I somehow managed to get her attention and asked if my car had been serviced yet. I got the answer I expected. Then I asked when they thought it would be finished. She turned to one of the mechanics and asked “How long before you can start on this guy’s car.” I corrected her. “I don’t want to know when he’s going to start. I want to know when he will finish.” Then answer was “Fifteen or twenty minutes.”

I then told them that I couldn’t wait that long. Forget it. Give me my car back. So they did, though it was boxed in and required some maneuvering. But that evoked no pity from me. They usually have me in and out in 30 minutes, but it had already been 50 by the time I got my car back. Would have been well over an hour if I had let them continue.

I finally got back to the office after having taken 90 minutes for lunch, so I had to work late to make that up. Grrr. Thanks Jiffy Lube!

This morning before the crack of dawn, Va woke up with an upset stomach. Very upset. So upset that she performed that act which has many euphemisms. Needless to say, she did not feel very good either.

I had to get up early because I still had the spare tire on my car, and it’s only rated for 50MPH. That meant I’d hafta take the backroads instead of the Interstate to school. I guess I had it timed just about right, because I got Beth and our riders to school at about the regular time. Then I took my car to Weed Automotive in Concord, a couple of blocks from my office. They agreed to take the car even though I did not have an appointment. Then I hoofed it to work.

Around 1:00 or 2:00 I called Va to see how she was doing. Then we figured out that today was piano lesson day, and we didn’t send Beth to school with her piano books. Oh well. She had her lesson anyhow. That was also when I figured out that Va felt too sick to drive, so it was going to be up to me to pick her up from school. Except that my car was still in the shop. I called a friend whose kids have paino lessons right after Beth to see if she’d watch Beth for a little bit until I could get my car back, but she wasn’t home. I left a message. Then I talked to my friend Dennis.

A couple of weeks ago Dennis agreed to haul all the big pieces of cardboard I had scavenged from work for the cardboard boat to the church in his truck. He reminded me of that, and since I like slaying a plurality of birds with a singular stone, decided it was a GREAT idea. So a little before 3:00 we hauled the cardboard down to his truck and fetched Beth. I was going to show him the canoe, but the piano teacher was in that room giving a piano lesson, and it seemed rude to interrupt. So we quietly stashed the cardboard, collected Beth, and headed back to the office.

I worked until about 5:00, and then Beth and I headed to the shop. When I had talked to them earlier they told me that the sidewall of my flat tire had a massive gash in it, and if you know anything about tires, you will recognize that that means it cannot be repaired. Not even with duct tape. Or especially not even with duct tape! The tread was pretty much spent on all four tires, which is prolly why I detoured off the road yesterday in the first place (it couldn’t have been because I was driving too fast!) so I went ahead and had them replace the entire set.

Just as Beth and I were walking up to the shop, the garage door opened and out came my car. The mechanic was taking it for a test drive. We watched to see where he would park it because sometimes it’s hard to find. Then we went in, paid, and came on home.

In retrospect, I shoulda put off the car repair for another day. I coulda driven Va’s car instead, and that would have made life a lot easier (assuming she feels better tomorrow).

But now I have my car back and all is well (except Va still doesn’t feel so hot).

Yesterday the temperature was in the mid 50’s. We had a lot of meltage. Here in New Hampshire, we don’t really have “spring” – we have mud season instead. The road in front of our property is just almost impassable right now. It has ruts in it every four inches or so, and some of them are over 8 inches deep. It’s a real pain.

Methinks that paving the road in front of my house ought to be a “shovel ready” project, but I seriously doubt that it’ll get funded by Uncle Sam.

So with weather like that yesterday, I was tempted to think that winter was over. But I knew better than that. I guess everyone here does. And true to form, we got some snow today. There was an inch on the ground when we woke up, and it snowed until late afternoon. I guess we got five inches. I kept wondering how the town was going to plow our road when it was rutted like that. They seem to have made a pass at it, but it didn’t really make matters any better, IMO.

I left work today with the thought that I would tap a couple of maples for sap when I got home. I really do love daylight savings. It’s very nice to have some more daylight after work. But that plan got derailed.

I guess I was still about a mile from the house when I took a turn a little too fast. I was under the speed limit, but that was still too fast for the conditions. Yup. Ran the car into a snow bank, and it was NOT going to let me just back out. I called Va, because I figured that if she brought her car, I could hitch to it and pull my car out. Unfortunately, I did not make it clear that I was on Sandogardy Road south of our house rather than north.

A few minutes after I called, a couple in an SUV came by. They turned around and offered to pull me out. I called Va and cancelled her tow. Anyhow, these nice people pulled me out, and then pointed out that my right front tire was quite flat. Bummer.

I thanked them profusely, got out the jack, and changed the tire. Then I limped on home. I guess I’ll hafta take it in and have the tire fixed tomorrow.

There was still light out when I finally did get home, but I still needed to clear the driveway and supper was nearly ready. So maybe I’ll tap those trees tomorrow.

Clearing the driveway didn’t go so well either. With all the mud, the shoes on the snowblower sank right into the mud, and the scoop was gulping in gravel. And of course it only takes one piece of gravel to get lodged between the auger and the scoop to lock it up tight and break the shear pin. And indeed, that’s exactly what happened. First it sheared the left side. Five minutes later, it sheared the right. By the time it sheared the right side, I was pretty much done anyhow. I didn’t feel much like replacing the shear pin anyhow. I guess I’ll do that next time I clear the drive, or sometime this summer – which ever comes first. I’m pretty sure that it will not be warm when I tackle that little job though.

According to my thermometer, it got down to -17°F overnight. It was -13° when I got up, so I guess we had something of a heat wave sometime during the night.

After I dropped the kids off at school and headed to the office, I came across a disabled vehicle on the exit ramp from I-93. The left front tire was shredded. It looked like one of those retreads you see cast from semi-trucks on the side of the highway sometimes, but I don’t think this was a retread. The tread was completely separated from the side walls. I can’t help but think that maybe -17° mighta had something to do with that, but I don’t know for sure.

There was frost on the window sill in my office, but it was warm enough at my desk that that didn’t bother me. Also, I didn’t have time today to think about frost or cold. As soon as I sat down, things got real busy. I had to review all the information we had gathered for the 9:30 meeting, and I guess that went OK. I was only asked one question that I had no clue about, and that was a “when will feature X,” which I had never heard of, “be ready?” My answer was “I have no idea,” and that was good enough. It was a low priority item.

After the meeting I was working furiously right through the afternoon. I called Va to find out what time Sabbath began (4:37), because it looked like I was going to have to work right up until then (I would not have worked past then). I told her I would prolly work until 4:30 then. At 4:00 we thought we had all the problems licked, but another one surfaced at 4:05. I knew it would take more than 25 minutes to resolve, so I promised to come in after 5:00 tomorrow.

Which is a bummer. A bunch of my friends from church are getting together at the Raquet Club about then, and I’ll hafta miss it. I’ll probably drop the boys off though so they can get in some basketball. Then I’ll go right back to the office, and maybe finish off that last problem. We’re supposed to deliver a card to a customer on Monday, and it has to pass all the tests before then. There’s a bug in that last test, so I’ll go in to hunt it down.

I got home right about sunset. Beth ambushed me with her report card, which was pretty good. All I’s and P’s. Whatever that means. (I think P’s are good and I’s are all the way good.) She needs to work on her handwriting and is having a bit of trouble adding and subtracting when that involves carrying or borrowing.

I sat down with her last night with a stack of dimes and pennies, and we went over it. I think that “borrowing” is a really bad term for that particular subtraction operation, and suggested to her that “getting change from the bank” was better terminology. Basically, we were trading in a dime for ten pennies so we would have enough pennies to make change. I think she got that, but we’ll see how she does on her math work next week.

This quarter in Sabbath School, I have been talking about winter animals. I’ve already talked about the black bear and the red fox. Tomorrow I’ll talk about the gray squirrel. I thought it might be nice to bring in a cast of a squirrel track containing both the hind and forefeet, but I don’t have one. So I went out in the yard after supper to see if I could find one in good enough shape to cast. Except I didn’t. There were several tracks, but they were either eroded so badly, or misshapen, that I decided to skip the required effort. I’ll just show them some photos of tracks instead. I might also scout around the church tomorrow and see if there are any squirrel tracks in the vicinity. I’m sure that the kids would love to go outside and look at them if it’s still -17°.

I got word today that our January fruit delivery should happen on Sunday morning, Jan 25. That means I will be teaching Animal Tracking on the Saturday afternoon of the Pathfinder Leadership Training session next weekend.

Last night I started to put together a list of supplies I’ll want to bring with me (including the dog and all her accoutrements). It’s a lengthy list. I’ll spend some time during the week making a slide presentation too, but I think most of what we do will be activity-based, not lecture-based. Also, my intent is to share with the folks there how they can teach the honor to their kids (including tips on casting tracks in the snow). Beth and I will have to leave church as soon as it’s over next week, hop in the car, and hustle over to Portland, ME so I’ll be there on time.

Tomorrow at church I’m slated to tell the children’s story, and I still haven’t selected one. I guess I’d better get on that!

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