Tuesday 29th August – Breakups are Hard

Wanting to get driving before the heat of the day set in, I had an alarm set for 5:30am and despite the lack of sleep, I dutifully got up to its ring. No breakfast, just straight out the door, I started driving. I didn’t have anywhere to go, just needed to get through 400 miles to run the tank of fancy fuel through the system to reduce the hydrocarbon levels in my exhaust.

First, I went through the hills of Saratoga and Big Basin. It was very foggy, eerily so, as I drove around the tight bends through the redwoods. It was nice to do a bit of a tour since I used to go riding around here. I got to Santa Cruz after stopping for a Subway breakfast, which was a complete rip off, then drove down the 101. After heading far enough south, I was thinking of returning to the bay along highway 1 through Big Sur but I thankfully discovered that the highway was closed for a short section where there’d been a landslide. That meant the somewhere past Monterey, I just turned around and went back up on the 101. Boring obviously, but that didn’t matter, I listened to a podcast and when that made me sleepy I switched to upbeat music and sang shamelessly.

To try and decrease my gas mileage, I had the transmission in one gear lower than normal in the hope of the higher revs speeding up the process but I was surprised to find it only decreased the economy by about 1-2MPG. Bugger. By the time I got to San Jose, I still needed to burn another 80 miles. I wanted to visit an REI store so I looked for one towards San Francisco that was unnecessarily far away. I found the answer in a big REI store right off the 101 and pulled off. After something like five hours in the car, I was ready to get out and do some shopping. The store was busy thanks to a clearance sale for the long weekend but that didn’t matter too much.

I wandered the store and to my surprise, saw a pair of lone Teva sandals on the clearance shelf that were exactly my size and going for $40. They weren’t the same as my current pair that were near retirement, but they were probably as close as I was going to get. I put them on and wore them around the shop looking for more goodies. I walked out with my new Tevas, an inflatable pillow and some dehydrated food to feed me in Yosemite.

Still needing to go further, I kept heading north towards San Francisco. When I reached the blanket of fog, I felt the temperature drop at least 5* then made my u-turn just before hitting the city proper. It was past 1pm now and I set my nav for Century Automotive. I was near the finish line and there was nothing else I could do except hope. The mechanic was expecting me and as I handed him the keys and slumped down into a chair in his office, I realised how tired I was. I sat and watched as my guy drove the Astro onto the dyno and administered her second SMOG test. I sat there focussing on my baby, willing her to pass, hoping that my seven hours of driving wouldn’t have been for nothing.

As the guy walked back towards the office with the piece of paper, he gave nothing away. “Still couldn’t pass,” is all he said when he walked inside. The results were a little better, but still not good enough by Californian standards. I wasn’t all that surprised honestly, I had a feeling that the fuel additive wouldn’t cut it, but it was still deflating.

The guy was now completely convinced it was the cat converter not doing its job so he pulled out his Rolodex and called his guy down the road at a muffler shop. He had a part to fit the Astro and could do it in the next hour for $260. For the sake of convenience and peace of mind, I went along with it. I drove a few blocks to a strip of mechanic shops where I played a game of tetris to get into the lot and find the guy inside the El Camino Muffler shop. He had a car on the hoist already that would be done in fifteen minutes and said he’d be done with mine after an hour. I parked out front, left him with the keys, then wandered down the road in search of lunch. Jack in the Box was the first option and that was going to have to do. I had my second fast food meal of the day and it was dirty. I listened to terrible soap operas on the TV as I watched the world go by through the window. If this cat converter didn’t do it, I was ready to throw my hands up in despair.

I wandered back to my muffler guy and he told me the old one had been installed in 2005 so it wasn’t weird that it was now underperforming. He took my money and I drove straight back to Century. I had to wait a while this time since there was another car on the SMOG machine, but that didn’t matter. Half an hour later, I had a piece of paper in my hand that labelled the Astro as clean. She was worthy of driving on California’s roads. Bloody hell I was tired. I thanked the Century man, shaking his hand before I exited and drove back to D&Ks.

I was too tired to be elated, behaving perfectly calmly when I met Kylie in the front yard blowing bubbles with the kids. We killed the rest of the day doing some packing with Emma and I took a quick break to put the Astro back together one last time. No more removal of the engine tunnel! I got my first sad feeling when I took the damper baby off my rear view mirror. A small good luck charm from Jon, I’d purposefully left him there for luck with the smog check. He was the last personal touch still in the Astro and by taking him out, she became a new car, ready for adventures with somebody else. The SMOG fails just meant she was pissy because she knew I was leaving her. It wasn’t just her that was down though, it was affecting me to.

After Emma was in bed, I played with Oliver to give D&K a chance to do some more packing. When he yelled out for Mum, I used my secret weapon on him – a roll of toilet paper. It always kept him occupied enough to forget what he’d been crying about. After he’d been put down, I did more packing, making sure all my belongings were inside my pen so that the removalists coming tomorrow didn’t get anything mixed up. We all worked past midnight again, stashing a bunch of D&Ks stuff in my van ready for a run to the new place tomorrow.

After doing all my packing, I figured out I have 84 kg of stuff to my name, not the 57 kg I had allocated to me for my flights home. It would cost me another $150 to get everything home, but I considered that a worthy price since I couldn’t think of anything I’d stashed in my bags that I could sacrifice.

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