Monday, November 4, 2013
This truck makes me stupid
I love this old truck, even though it's been nothing but trouble since we got it in June. It's not a bad-luck truck. It just makes me do stupid things.
It's a big old stick-shift, so it's awkward to drive and to climb up into. It's noisy, and the passenger's door opens only from the inside. The driver's door opened only from the outside, which meant I had to roll the window down to get out – until I managed to fix it with a bit of wire. But the passenger door is beyond my sad little mechanical abilities. The seat is missing a great chunk of foam where I sit. The seat belt chews into my neck.
It's a good runner, though, and mostly willing. And I like driving it – sitting way up there, downshifting (dugga-dugga-dugga), knowing I can haul most anything. And – most importantly – it was cheap. $650. Yes, I am cheap.
The first incident of vehicle-inspired stupidity (unless you count buying it) was continuing to drive it when it wanted to die in first gear and reverse. I had to keep it revved up, which makes for some exciting driving in tight quarters. We went to pick up a load of goat manure for the garden, up some curvy country road. We pulled up to the house, and the harried goatherd sent us back down the driveway and back down the road. She ran down the hill, removed a stretch of electric fence and sent us into a field among ponies, up a grassy hill, through an obstacle course of trees and alongside a fence. I was supposed to nose down the hill and back up to the fence. I tried. It went badly. I became cranky. I lost all my stick-shifting confidence. I parked the truck alongside the fence and we pitched forkloads of manure over the fence and mostly into the bed. Truck stupid #2: I let the goatherd decide how much my truck could haul. "Half ton? About up to the top of the bed," she said. "Looks good," she said. So we drive off, revving furiously through the ponies and coming to a dead halt several times. Finally, out on the curvy road. It handled sluggishly, but the bed didn't sag. It looked OK. We had about six miles to go. Halfway home, we began to bottom out on bumps. The bed sagged, and sagged some more. I kept driving, wailing, "I'm destroying my truck!" Got it home, unloaded it immediately, the leaf springs rebounded. Whew.
I hauled a big load of old straw for the garden. No problem. I drove the beast to work, and hauled some fencing from the Ancestral Home. No problem. I drove it to work again and it died in traffic and would not start. Managed to get a jump from the saintly security guy and get it into my office parking lot. Got a new battery, and it seemed OK. Whew. Still wanted to die in lower gears. Have to take it in to the shop one of these days.
Truck stupid #3: I let the grandson who destroyed everything when he was younger move it 30 feet. He ran it out of gas and ran the battery down trying to get it going. I assumed he'd been messing around under the hood and was pretty mean to him. (Sorry, KC.) I should have moved the damn thing myself since it wasn't working right.
So there it sat. But I was hypnotized by this truck and knew it would heal itself if I just believed. Or something equally stupid.
Meantime, summer is fading and we need wood. The truck would start right up but then die as soon as I quit pumping the gas pedal. I called the nice fellow I bought it from who had offered to help out if I had any trouble. He'd kept the thing going for something like 17 years, mostly doing his own tinkering. We looked for a loose vacuum line. Nothing. Tried some other stuff. Nothing. Talked to a car-savvy guy at work. He said clean the carb. I took the carb off. I was pretty sure I couldn't get it back on, with all those linkages and tiny parts. But (and here's a big stupid) the guy who hauled my hay said he'd rebuild the carb for me for $50. And he'd put it back on. That's the selling point right there. He'd put it back on. And he'd do it Thursday. That's just a couple of days away. Well, Thursday came and went and I spent the next couple of weeks calling him and calling the hay people he delivered for and asking other folks to call him and he finally showed and put the carb back in. And it started right up, and died as soon as I quit pumping gas. Shit. And fall is here and we need wood.
So I snapped out of it and took action. I got a recommendation for a mechanic from a guy at the next pump at the One Stop gas station. He was driving a Dodge and had a big white hippie beard, which qualified him as a expert in my book. (I bet you thought this was going to be another truck stupid, but actually it worked out rather well.) I made an appointment, and, with help, got the truck there. It took some heroic driving by Richard, who actually kept the truck running and drove it the three miles to the highway, pumping the gas the whole way. Four of us pushed it across the highway late at night, and left it like a big ugly prank in front of the mechanic's shop.
And the brown beast is running again. The mechanic, who actually boiled the carb to clean it, showed me the parts the hay-hauler had busted and installed anyway. "Don't let that guy touch your truck again," he warned. The repair cost as much as the rebuild kit and the hay-hauler's fee. Lesson learned, though: No more backyard mechanics. Duh.
So I've broken the cycle of truck-inspired stupidity, hurrah!
So it’s the first weekend of November, the truck is fixed and we’re going to get some wood! (It’s about freakin’ time.) I’ve got my $4 BLM maps and my DNR permit, and I sit down and match up the closed-to-woodcutting areas on the back of the permit with the blue squares on the map. The locations are listed by township, range and section so it takes a while. This involves muttering. (They could make it easier, but then everybody would be out there getting my wood.) The closed areas on the map get a big Sharpie “X” through them. But the BLM maps don’t show roads consistently, so I pull up the county assessor websites and zoom in on the remaining blue squares, looking for access roads. OK, we have four possibles within about 10 miles of home. I print out scratchy maps on the pathetic inkjet. Saturday morning we load Early into the car (he fights us because he knows all roads lead to the vet but we prevail) and head out in the Subaru to scout.
Out Blanchard Creek Road we find the access road, but it’s gated and locked and there are a couple of fancy pickups parked there. Probably guys after my wood. We park and walk off through still clearings, bright with tamarack needles, and Earl bounds and sniffs with pleasure. And then we’re surrounded by BIG white mushrooms, dinner-plate sized and laid out in a circle as if somebody had set a 40-foot round table for a really big dinner party. Technically, it was a fairy ring. For giant biker fairies. These are lovely bright ’shrooms, four to 20 inches across, fresh and clean and worm-free. White chanterelles, maybe? This is way better than wood! So we pick pounds of mushrooms while Earl frolics. He stays close, though, and comes galumphing back when called. And I remember it’s hunting season and none of us is wearing orange. And those guys parked at the gate? Hunters, no doubt. So we head home for mushroom identification and orange clothing.
Leucopaxillus giganteus, the giant funnel mushroom, I think. White spore print. They are edible, but not choice. C. says they could be Russula brevipes, also large and edible, but not choice. Either way they’re good, but not great. We were confident enough to try a few bites fried up with our own onions. Some folks get stomach aches from the funnel mushrooms, but most do not. They tasted pleasantly mushroomy. No stomach issues.
So Saturday was a bust, firewood-wise. Sunday, outfitted with more bags for mushrooms, a bright pink scarf and orange apron, we head out again, this time without Earl. Note: Obtain orange clothing. There are three or four sections of heavily-forested state land south of yesterday’s destination, but access is unclear. We drive up road after road and fail to find a public way in. On to the next spot, up near Camden, stopping at Boondocks for some hideously orange snack food (to repel hunters?). We head into the next county, so my standard maps aren’t much good and my scratchy ones aren’t, either. We end up taking the looooong way, through the Scotia Valley, past Chain Lakes and then south again. C. grumbles about riding in the car for hours when she should be home with mushrooms and tomatoes. Finally, the access road. We creep over ruts and rocks through the ugly logged area. Yes, there is a truckload or two of firewood here. C. finds some purple Russula mushrooms and we head home to get the truck.
Em buzzes up from town, and she and I head back in the truck for wood! Woohoo! We have maybe three hours before dark. Truck stupid, I have no sand or shovel in my two-wheel-drive truck, but I'm going to get me some wood! We don't bring a backup vehicle. Em has her cell phone, which turns out to be dead. So yeah, the chainsaw quits and we get stuck, all within 10 minutes of arriving. We spend an hour or more creeping up this tiny rise, jamming wood under the wheels to keep from sliding back down. Large snowflakes begin to fall. It is so picturesque I could kill something with a rock. Nearly at the top – so close to pulling free of the mud and slick grass – the radiator boils over and the battery dies. It is dusk – late dusk. The snow has stopped. I am cussing. "It's an adventure," says Em. I give her a black look. We lock the truck and hike the two? three? 40? miles out to the county road, Em's silly wonderful miner's lights strapped to our heads, taking turns lugging the dead chainsaw across the ruts and potholes and rocks. She whistles to piss me off (no – to warn bears and hunters).
On the road, we catch a ride from a nice fellow in a posh truck (seat warmers!) all the way home. He really was great, and we didn't have to shoot him. (We had that going for us.) Footsore and peevish (on my part), we head back out in Em's big SUV with jumper cables and tow chain, drive up and down and around and back on the track that loops through these 160 acres and finally come to the truck. It's safe and locked up tight, and I'd never locked it before so it took a while and some key-wiggling to get it to open up. We jump it, it fires right up and I climb out and take the cables off and hook the tow chain up – and the door locks itself behind me. We're in the dark in the middle of nowhere, locked out of a running truck. I've had just about enough of this particular adventure.
I smash the rear window with a hammer, unlock the truck, and Em, bless her kind, helpful and tolerant heart, pulls me over the top of the rise and we creep out onto the county road and eventually, home.
It's a good truck, really. It just makes me do stupid things.