Day Six – Why, Car? WHY???!!!!

I am driving to Los Angeles after work today.  This means driving through rush hour traffic through San Jose and then driving on the evil I-5 through the central valley (one of the most godawful boring stretches of road ANYwhere) at night.  I’m going to L.A. for two reasons:

1. To emcee the first Twilight Tour of 2011 for EFBC/FCC (affectionately known as “The Cathouse”)

2. To take Zhadi, my beloved Saturn, to a trusted mechanic to have him tell me why the air-conditioner isn’t working after having two lines replaced a few months ago.  And to have him give her a general  going over.  Zhadi has over 200,000 miles on her and needs regular checkups to keep her in good shape.   I’m a very good car mom.  Zhadi was my first new car ever (under 4 miles when I drove her off the lot) and I have been diligent about taking her for all the recommended services and for checkups whenever anything feels/sounds even a bit off.  I love this car.  So you’d think she’d behave herself, y’know?

This morning, however, driving to West Portal in heavy traffic, the fan blower on the defroster started fading out along with the radio lights and the engine started stuttering, nearly dying.  I put her in ‘park’ and revved the engine, managing to keep her from dying on 19th Avenue, one of the heaviest traveled streets in San Francisco during commute time.  Gotta be the alternator, right?


Dave took her to a local mechanic with great reviews on YELP since our normal SF repair place of choice was closed and he checked the alternator … which is fine.  The mechanic said that with a car as old as Zhadi, little glitches are to be expected, he could spend hours trying to figure out what caused this particular glitch, costing me a lot of money, and at the end of the day still not know why it did what it did. It didn’t happen again after the incident on 19th.  This has happened once before, a few months back (something I just found out about today).  So two glitches a few months apart.  The mechanic told Dave he felt I could make the drive without worry.  

Just please oh please, Car Gods and beloved Zhadi, do NOT strand me on the I-5, especially outside the Harris Ranch cattle farm and source of most of the methane in the Central Valley…  Actually, please don’t strand me anywhere.  I’ve been a good mom, dammit!  

Sometimes the Outcome is Actually BETTER Than We Expect

Dave and I took Zhadi (my beloved Saturn SL2) into one of the last remaining Saturn dealerships in the Bay Area this morning.  Her (yes, she’s a ‘she’) Service Engine light (and why can’t I get one of those?) flashed on yesterday during one of the infrequent occasions I drove into work and the engine started chugging like the moment in A Little Engine That Could when the reader is REALLY worried the Little Engine can’t.   I made it to work and then on my work related errand later that morning, and then home again, although I had some serious doubts for a while as she lurched and coughed her way up an incline on the 280.

Sadly my beloved Saturn of Colma, an easy 15 minute drive (or tow, if necessary) shut its doors permanently and without warning a few months ago. Research turned up two remaining Saturn dealerships: one in San Jose and the other in Santa Rosa, both about 60 miles from San Francisco.  We chose Santa Rosa because it’s just a much prettier drive going north on the 101 and also because it’s smack in the middle of Wine Country.  The biggest issue was simply whether or not Zhadi would make it another 60 miles.

Well, Zhadi was the Little Saturn That Could and we did indeed arrive safely at the dealership where Dave and I spent about three hours working on our respective writing projects (a car dealership is, btw, a GREAT place to focus ’cause there is just nothing else to do there) and waiting for the news.  I was pretty much expecting the worst. Blown engine, dying transmission.  Upwards of $3,000 juggled somehow on low interest credit cards.  I’d already had my panic attack, so now it was just a matter of ‘how bad is it?’

Jen, the service manager, poked her head around the corner of our little computer cubicles around 11:15 with a big smile. “It’s not bad at all,” she said. “You need new spark plugs and the engine filter is dirty. Oh yeah, one of your brake lights is out and needs replacing.”

All in all, less than $300.  Not a drop in the bucket, mind you, but comparatively speaking, SO much less than I expected!  Happy dances were performed and we were out of there by 12:30, in time to have lunch and do a wee bit of wine tasting before driving the very happy Zhadi home again.  All this and a productive writing day too!

And as a postscript, please go check out my current blog post at Ravenous Romance. It’s PG rated! 🙂