Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rabbit Stories Part 2

I worked for Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale California right out of school. They hauled both of our cars and all our belongings down there on their dime. It didn’t matter that the freight bill was more than the cars worth. It was amusing to see the faces of the movers when it came time to load the car.

After a year it became obvious to us that we would never be able to buy and pay for a house in the San Jose area so we made the move back to Utah. I filled a moving van and trailer with all our personal belongings and a 55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille. There was just no room for the Rabbit, we left it behind. I thought hard about getting rid of it at that time since I was fairly confident that it would not make the trip home under its own power. It had a blown head gasket and was overheating.

I was feeling lucky and had a fool-proof backup plan in the form of a 1988 Bianchi road bike strapped to the back (It has downtube shifters how can you go wrong with downtube shifters?). I figured between San Jose and Salt Lake there are no towns farther than around 100 miles from each other and knew if I needed to I could abandon-car, ride to the next town and buy a Greyhound ticket. The perfect plan…

I bought a one way plane ticket and headed out. From the airport I took the train to the station nearest our old house and walked the last few miles. We still had a couple of days on our rental contract so I slept on the floor and woke early to start preparing for the trip. I bought seven gallons of water and a roll of duct tape from the grocery store and a couple new coolant hoses and hose clamps from the parts store. My last stop in San Jose was Taco Bell. I always order a 7-Layer and a bean burrito. I try to stay away from the meat there.

One eye on the road and the other on the temperature gage I made my way East. Slow and steady. I left the cap on the coolant tank loose to bleed off the excess pressure that was blowing by the head gasket and filling the coolant with exhaust gasses and oil. I had to hit the sweet spot on the cap not to tight and not too loose kept the coolant in and let the pressure out. I played a mechanical balancing act with the car until the temp gage approached the red line at which point I would pull over and refill the radiator with the life giving water (approx every 40-50 miles) and resume. It was like we were working as one, I was intimately connected to the car I could feel its pain. I could feel where I could push, where I needed to ease of and when I needed to give it a rest. It was a mentally exhausting trip, instead of listening to the radio I listened to the motor. I refilled my gallon jugs of water at every town as we limped our way through the Sierra Nevada’s and across the Nevada desert. When I couldn’t take any more we stopped at a rest stop and I spent the night sleeping in the driver’s seat.

When the sun rose the little diesel miraculously sputtered to life. I was like Cramer driving on empty; never had man pushed the limits of a machine as far as I did that day. As we passed through Wendover then across the salt flats I got a little misty eyed as the Wasatch came in to view. This is my home and I had been away far too long. I felt whole again, everything was going to be ok.

Tonight prospective Buyer #2 came to test drive the Rabbit, I like this guy, like me he enjoys working on cars and knows and appreciates the beauty that is just a little more than skin deep on this car. While he was out on a test drive I got a call from a lady who found the car on KSL obviously by searching by the maximum amount she could afford. She had no clue what it was. She asked if it would be a reliable 50 mile a day commuter. My response, “Absolutely not, one thing that I can guarantee is that something will always break on this car.” And that was the honest truth. The good thing is that it is cheap and easy to fix when it does and all the hard stuff has already been done.

Buyer #2 returned with a smile on his face. He took it to a buddy of his who is a professional Volkswagen mechanic and told him what I already knew and that it was a JEM worth every penny of the asking price. He is going to come and take it tomorrow.

I think I am going to be ok.

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