I’m sitting now in a Denny’s in Selma, California. I did not plan to stop after covering such a short distance, but sometimes even plans as nebulous as mine go astray.
It all started when I bid my gracious Piker hosts goodbye and hopped in the car for a fairly routine trip down the central valley. If things went well, I’d add a couple of hours to the trip to go around Los Angeles. I turned the key and… nothing. The battery was dead, after racking up significant highway miles yesterday. One trip to the auto parts store and a jump start later, and I was on my way. Clearly, though, the months of storage and little use had taken its toll on the battery. Wherever I stopped for the night, it was a safe bet that I’d need a jump start in the morning. The auto parts store didn’t have a battery for a Miata — it’s some kind of mini-sized high-tech thing. I would need to go to a Mazda dealership.
Then the road. Highway 99 south, an easy drive despite fairly heavy traffic. Zipping along, I saw a sign by the highway. Selma Auto Mall. Mazda. Well, heck, I’m going to be buying a battery, so why wait? I pulled off at the next exit and began to work my way back to the dealership. It was not obvious how to get there and I was in a residential area when I pulled out from a stop sign and turned to see a car coming right at me. The girl driving locked up her brakes and slid on the rain-slick pavement, slowly slowing, and right up to the end I was able to hope that disaster would be averted. As she came to a stop the noses of our cars kissed. Ouch. Although a more skilled driver might have been able to avoid me, the collision was, without a doubt, my fault.
We pulled to the side of the road. I’ll say this for the flexible plastic parts at the front corners of our two cars, They really handle this sort of impact admirably. There were some scratches and paint swapping, but everything was fundamentally intact. “I’m going to call my dad,” the other driver said. While waiting for him I gave her my insurance info and whatnot.
Dad arrived, looked over the damage, and said, “I don’t think we need the police.” I readily agreed. Not knowing what else to say, I told Dad that I had already given his daughter my insurance info. “Do you want to use insurance?” he asked. “I know a guy.”
The prospect of just taking care of the repair without taking a hit to my insurance premiums was attractive, to say the least. So, we all formed a convoy, dad in the lead, and drove across town to a backyard body shop just past the city limits. They all exchanged pleasantries in Spanish, obviously old pals, and one of the guys looked over the scratched-up bumper. he named a price, less than what I expected, far less than the hit to insurance premiums would be. Now all that was left was getting to a bank machine for the cash. Dad gave me a lift in his pickup truck, and on the way we had a nice conversation. he used to live in Mexico City, but much preferred the small-town life. He had 40 acres of farmland, and had just been offered $50,000 per acre for it, but he hadn’t sold. Where would he go? He liked it where he was.
Overall, that little automotive bump could have gone a lot worse than it did. It cost me precious cash out of pocket, and time, but thanks to the fact I was dealing with reasonable, friendly people it all turned out OK. Then it was back to the original destination. I was due for an oil change, so I went ahead and had them do that while I was in the neighborhood. Once that is done I’ll hook up the new battery and I’ll be off and running once more. Let’s hope the rest of the trip is without unexpected bumps.
Evening has arrived. The service guys were kind enough to set my clock for Pacific time; it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t experiencing a premature twilight caused by the low clouds. I could have pressed on, worked my way through LA, and arrived in San Diego late in the evening. I chose not to. LA is a big obstacle, but with planning and a little extra time, it can be avoided. Rather than plow through the hellish traffic of Los Angeles, I chose to go around. Tonight I am sitting in a place called Molly’s Pub, poised for some fine back-road driving in the morning.
Tune in tomorrow for: The Road Less Taken!