Monday, August 6, 2018

Panning For Gold to Pay For Our Car in the Motherlode

A few months ago, I retired from my day job at the U.S. Department of Justice. A couple of weeks ago, my former boss sent me three tickets for the Placerville Brewfest as a retirement present. Placerville is a small Gold Rush era city about 40 miles due east of Sacramento, California.

I hopped online and got the cheapest room I could find. We just need somewhere to lay our heads while we're here, nothing fancy. We'll be heading a little deeper into the Motherlode after this quick weekend in Placerville.

So we loaded up the van and headed up north. Because we were going to be drinking and because our motel was two miles from the fest, I brought Tim's folding travel chair with us. That way, we could get a taxi from our motel to the festival, indulge all we'd like, and then take the taxi back later. No parking hassles, either.

With stops, it took about 7 hours. We check into the Motherlode Motel which turned out to be a dated, retro hotel but was clean, quiet, and run by a very friendly and accommodating Indian family. The wife even deployed a homemade wooden ramp for us to get over the lip into our room (it wasn't an accessible room, just needed the two queen beds, room for the wheelchair, and to be able to get to the toilet for this trip).

My wife tells me "there's some oil or something on the back door of the van." I go and look and, sure enough, there's a oily sheen there.  I look around but can find nothing. The van was running perfectly on the way up so I chalk it up to some other vehicle leaking something near us as we were on the freeway.

After unpacking, I go to get some take out for dinner.  I notice several oil spots on the ground near our rear passenger side tire.  I look underneath and see that there's a leak near the brake on that side.  I'm thinking good news it's not the differential...that'd be more expensive than brakes.

I check the brake fluid reservoir. It's full.  Maybe it's a very slow leak.

"I've found the source of the oil," I tell my wife about my theory about the brake fluid leak.

We discuss what to do and decide to show up first thing in the morning at the local Les Schwab Tire and Brake shop down the street to have them check it out because it's the only local place we could find that would be open on Saturday.

It's an early morning but we make it right at 8 in the morning only to find there are already 10 people ahead of us. I check the van in. I tell the guy, "wow...I guess I wasn't the only one to try to get here right when you open the door."

"We open at 7:30," he tells me.

"That's not what your web page says. It says 8:00."

"Yeah...we need to fix that."

Van in the shop, we head to the Golden Waffle restaurant next door to eat then take a walk to downtown Placerville to kill the time.

While Letty is in a yarn shop, Tim and I are in the dive bar next door waiting for her. I get a phone call. It's Chris from Les Schwab.

"I checked your van, it's not the breaks. That was axle grease and oil that was leaking. The entire real axle is shot and we need to replace it."

This isn't good. After some back and forth where it was really recommended that I not try to drive it anywhere. If I didn't want them to fix it, they said it needed to be towed. The closest Ford dealer is 30 miles away in Folsom and home is over 350 miles away.

"Can you fix it today?" I ask.

"We can't even get the part until at least Tuesday," he tells me.

"How about the cost?"

"About $2400."

Oh no...this free beer festival go very expensive, very fast. 

Well, you have to do what you have to do sometimes. I call Enterprise to rent a car. After some false starts, I find that the closest office is also in Folsom. I can't find a Lyft or Uber to take me, so I bite the bullet and call Hangtown Taxi where a very nice and competent driver named Simeon dropped Letty and Tim off at the motel and then drove me down to Folsom to pick up the car.

That was another hundred bucks, not including the cost to rent the car.

So, our plan is to go to the festival later today, spend the night, drive home, and come back up next week to get the van and continue the trip. Les Schwab is understanding and will hold my car for me at no extra charge until we can get back.

This is just starting but let's hope the worst of it is behind us.

Darryl Musick
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