Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Braking Bad

So... like... oh more than a month ago now, my sister and I once again got up stupidly early (honestly, what is it with these non-vampires? Gah, morning people) and went off to a show.

It was the same show we went to last year at this time, and in fact was only the second annual swap meet by this air-cooled Volkswagen group.

You may remember that last year's trip to this show was, how shall we say, fraught with difficulties.

Alas, last year's trip seemed to have set some kind of energetic or auric precedent; I mean, if cars have auras and not just magnetic fields. Last year the Bus was running so badly by the end of the trip there that we weren't sure we would get there at all. It came down to adjusting something, the valves maybe, I don't remember. Knowledge of cars, especially old Volkswagens, pretty much gets instantly rejected by my unconscious mind. It was a valuable survival strategy at one point, and I'll not complain now. It leaves room for all those song lyrics it is (apparently) vitally important to remember.

The drive this year started off innocently enough. We mostly took secondary routes, of course, given that the Bus wouldn't go sixty if you dropped it off a cliff; and we left the trailer behind for good measure. We even doubled back to take this picture, after passing these two stores in horror. You know, if I were a wild bird (I'm not) those two next to each other would make me plenty nervous:

Kind of like how I've noticed over the years that funeral homes are invariably within a block or two of hot dog stands. Yeah, that's right. Keep an eye out, and you'll see it too. Sure, it's just coincidence. Sure. In the next town over they are even, unbelievably, brazenly, directly across the street from each other. One is called 'Rogers Funeral Home' and the other is 'Roger's Coney Island Hot Dogs.' And sure, if you asked I'm sure the funeral home would say it's named for the last name of the family who runs it while the hot dog people would say it's named after that great guy Roger Whatshisface who founded the joint but really, we are not that stupid.

Anyway. Horrifying conspiracies aside, we got all the way up into the next state just fine (albeit slowly), but as we were puttering along talking about how the town we were going through reminded us (well, me) of a certain college town in the western part of our state we came to a stoplight.

And the Bus didn't, really, quite stop.

I'll say one thing. I occasionally have nightmares about driving a car with very bad or even no brakes. I assume it is a metaphor for something being out of my control. Those dreams are always absolutely horrible. But faced with the reality of it it was not nearly so horrible. We (well Tara) just kind of did the best she could.

Luckily it was one of those we have the straightaway and they have the shopping plaza intersections (or at least I think it was; my mind is kind of fuzzy now) so there was little to no traffic coming at us (also it was still early) and Tara managed to roll the Bus into a pet store parking lot.

There was remarkably little swearing as I remember, though I may have blocked that out. Tara got out of the car and poked around a bit; she also had me stomp on the brake for her.

The diagnosis was not good. It was pretty much leaking brake fluid all over the parking lot.

Now Tara did explain this to me, but given that a) I did not inherit the mechanic's gene, and b) again, my unconscious immediately rejects car-type things, I don't remember exactly what bit of what was wrong. Something had broken off or come disconnected, and the word 'nipple' might have been in there, but I'm kind of fuzzy on it now. At any rate, though, it was not something that she could fix, really. It needed a whole new part, which she did not have with her.

Actually now that I think about it she was rather irate. The part that broke was one she had bought new and replaced fairly recently. Which is annoying, I'll grant her.

Well then. It was still fairly early on a Sunday morning, but we had passed an auto parts store a few miles back. So off we went back the way we'd come with a lot of downshifting and prayer, because there wasn't much other choice. It was way too far for Triple-A to tow it home, and even if they just took it to a garage who knows how to fix old Volkswagens these days?

It was hairy, no doubt about that. But it was also uphill, mostly, and being early on a Sunday the traffic was fairly light; and so we made it to the parking lot of the AutoZone or whatever it was without mishap. Once inside Tara explained the situation, but they couldn't really help.

Now. Just because they couldn't help didn't mean the guy there didn't know someone who could; and he told us to go across the street to the competitor's and talk to a guy named Jesse. He'd know, he said.

So we crossed the street (it was literally right across the street) and found our Jesse at I think Advanced Auto Parts but I could be getting the names switched. Jesse, it turned out, knew a thing or two about old VWs. He had, in fact, once upon a time had the exact same problem. He knew what sizes things were, and before we knew it he was holding two tiny little parts up in front of us. One was an adapter with a thread that fit into the end of the brake line perfectly, and the other was a plug that fit into that. It couldn't fix the bad brake, but it could at least prevent the thing from pumping all the brake fluid overboard.

Which reminds me: I need to send Jesse a fruit basket.

So back we went across the street and Tara both plugged up the brake line and topped off the brake fluid. Which meant we were only operating on three quarters of the brakes we should have had but it was still enough to get us where we needed to go.

Which was, in case you forgot, another old Volkswagen show. Here are some pictures Tara got once we got there, though she didn't get any of the spread. It was the usual. I imagine you can imagine it, by now.

All else aside, it was a lovely day; and I'll say one thing about morning people--given they start so freakishly early they also finish early, which means we got to drive back in the daylight, which was nice. Tara was of course extra cautious about things but we got home in one piece just fine. We even sold a decent amount, but given the past couple drives (it's a bit further than the other shows) we're thinking about skipping it next year. It does seem to be a bit... cursed.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Another harrowing adventure! I don't know how you girls do it. Your post title and observations about the nefarious origins of chicken joints/hot dog stands have all made my day.

lisa merito said...

I'm watching for funeral homes and hot dog stands now. I think you are correct though and I'm snorttling over it.

heartlandroad said...

I have the car-with-no-brakes dream too. I hate it.

Anonymous said...

My bus used to go past an unfortunate combination of shops - the big sign said "Rentokil Lunch Bar".

Rentokil is a pest control company here in Australia.... there never seemed to be anyone in the lunchbar....

Anonymous said...

At what point does this become your hoard?

Thalia said...

I'm not sure what you meant by that but I'll answer you straight, Anonymous. There are two answers:

One, it is already 'our' hoard, as my father is now dead. Although, before that the house had been passed down to us kids as a bit of legal loophole-exploiting, so technically it's been 'our' hoard since oh 1996 or something.

Two, it is never 'our' hoard, as we are not hoarders.

Anonymous said...

Happy New year to you two--

You haven't noted the house in a while. Are you happy that you cleaned out what you and blogged...or is there still more to go?

I admire the two of you so much!! Taking control of an important issue as cleaning up the yard and garage...what an undertaking!!

Hope your mom is happy...I assume hot water is a norm now!! And, if you have cleaned out the house quite a bit, having space to roam must be wonderful...

just wondering..,
a reader/fan from the NW suburbs of Chicago!

Hev Ward said...

I enjoy your blog. It makes me laugh :)

Anonymous said...

Come back, Thalia and Tara. Your fans have missed you during the past few months!!!

Anonymous said...

I feel like a little kid--sitting at the table with knife in one hand and fork in the other just waiting for dinner....I want more from you too!! Updates now that Spring has finally Sprung...altho it's cold and chilly in the chicago area today!!

More PLEASE....I need my TB fix!!

a faithful reader/fan from Chicago