Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Tale of a Burned Out Clutch

On Thursday I was driving up to Santa Fe to teach a full day set of IRD reading classes at Santa Fe High. I had three scheduled classes, all two hours long: Level 1 (entering first graders), Level 2 (entering second graders) and Level 3 (entering 3rd graders). I left the house early, at about 6:40 AM, and I was planning on arriving in Santa at 8 AM, in time to get a cup of Joe at the Daily Grind before arriving at the High School.

As long-time Ragamuffin readers will know, I drive up the "back" side of the mountains, through the Ortiz and the Galisteo basin to arrive in Santa Fe, via New Mexico Highway 14 and Cerillos Road. (See Driving North on the Turquoise Trail, Wednesday Afternoon Drive, and Afternoon Drives to Santa Fe).

I drove the Focus through silent Golden and up around El Corazon del Ortiz, and down through Madrid, where a few hippy residents, some cowboys, and a couple of guys who look like honest-to-goodness '49er miners were waiting for the Coffee shop to open. (Same crowd every Thursday AM. It must be a regular meet-up in Madrid). I drove through the canyons near Cerillos, where a cement truck turned in front of me. This meant some fancy clutch work as wound up out of the Galisteo basin and through San Marcos. Just at the Lone Butte Trading post, the road makes a gentle grade up, and I once again downshifted, because the cement truck slowed down to 25. But the clutch popped into neutral and would not go into gear at all. I quickly turned on the emergency blinkers and drifted off onto the grass shoulder. Several times I started the car and it would go forward slowly (in neutral!), but would die when I tried to clutch and shift into gear. The clutch was definitely burned. (At 120,000 miles, the car still runs so well that I forget that it is now officially "old."). Damn!

Since I knew I was going nowhere anytime soon, I got out and checked my cell phone status. No service. But if I walked just 10 feet up the hill at the corner of NM 14 and Santa Fe Country Road 44, I could dial out. The first call was to AAA. I told the nice lady there that my clutch went out 10 miles south of Santa Fe at the intersection of NM 14 and SF County 44. It would be 45 minutes for the tow, she said. Double Damn. There was no way I would make my first class. Second call, to my IRD supervisor in Novato, CA. She told me that they would start calling parents, I should focus on taking car of the car. "And be safe! Stay away from the roadside!" she ordered. I had to laugh. I think she thought I was on a California Freeway at rush hour. The San Marcos, NM rush hour meant maybe 20 cars in an hour. Three state cops passed by. Not one stopped. Good thing I was just barely out of the cell phone black out area. Three of four calls were to the Engineering Geek--who was not answering his cell, office or the Solar Tower.

A call came in from A-One Towing. "I think AAA dispact in Arizona made a mistake," their dispatcher said. "We're in Tucumcari. Where are you?"
"Crazy!" I said. Tucumcari is several hours east of Edgewood on I-40, near the Texas border.
A few minutes later, AAA called. They had dispatched another tow truck, they said. ETA 9 AM.
Ten minutes, and it was getting hot, as the sun climbed towards 9 AM in the cloudless, flawlessly, impossibly blue New Mexico sky. I put on my Indiana straw hat.

Another call. This time it was Little John's Towing. "I can't seem to find you on Shenandoah Road," he said. (Santa Fe County 44 is also called Shenandoah Trail). "Where are you?" I asked. South of Moriarity on Shenandoah," Little John answered. He mentioned some road number in Torrance County. That's more than an hour south of where I was. I told him my state and county road coordinates. "Is that north of Cerillos?" asked Little John.
Sigh. "Yes."
Little John tows for AAA in the East Mountains. He doesn't go north of Cerillos.
"I'll call AAA and get you somebody out of Santa Fe," he said.
Thanks. If AAA dispatch can read a map.

Soon after I hung up the Engineering Geek called. Only my phone didn't actually ring. I just got a chirp that meant I had a missed call. This happened for five more calls from AAA, from IRD, and from the EG. When I finally connected with the EG, I told him what was going on. We agreed to have the car towed to Edgewood's Rich Ford, where Les, our mechanic, works. Les told the EG to have the towing done by Little John. But by then, apparently, AAA had finally got it right and called Extreme Towing out of Santa Fe. At just past 9:30, he arrived.
Soon, after a stop at Lone Butte Trading Post, he for jerky, me for the bathroom, and we were on our way.

On the way to Edgewood, he regaled me with stories about the crazy culture of Santa Fe, where you can't get good help, they don't speak English at Wal-Mart, and where aging hippies call the police to report mice acting funny in Hyde Park. This last one was courtesy of his wife, a Santa Fe Police dispatcher. The hippy waited with the mouse, and called back after an hour when no cop showed. He called again later to complain that the policeman was inhumane because he lifted the mouse by the tail when putting it in the cage. Apparently, aging hippies do not know that you kill the mouse to find out whether it is carrying Hanta Virus or Yersinius pestis (that's Bubonic Plague, which is endemic in the central mountains of New Mexico.)

Finally arriving at the Edgewood Ford, I spend a profitably fun afternoon test driving a Focus and a Fusion, the last of what is lent to us. We considered buying the Fusion today, but decided to wait a month.

Storm warning! Gotta go. The lightning is very close!

1 comment:

Retriever said...

Ah, yes, I can relate! In the pre-cellphone days, we drove a succession of cast off cars given us by relatives. I remember coasting down hill in a dying blue (Rambler?) station wagon of uncertain vintage with no AC and the heater on all the time in 90 degree summer heat to keep the engine from exploding. With three children under 4 in car seats in back and simply praying that when we came to a halt we would be somewhere near a garage with a phone. Luckily we came to a halt right outside one of the rare ones in the wilds of NH.

These days, we drive somewhat newer cars as we are frequently driving in places miles and miles from potential help. Our cellphones are frequently useless because of all the deadzones where we mostly visit.

Glad everything turned out alright for you. It is so much fun test-driving new cars. So pleasant to be so well treated by car salesmen and to imagine what one might get.

I am very happy with a 2009 VW Jetta turbodiesel I got last summer that gets over 40 mpg on the highway. Especially now that diesel is cleaner, and finally cheaper again (where we are)than regular. Drives like a dream (we were on a list for a Prius which took too long to arrive, after the old car died, so we got this one)