Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Moving, part 2.5

When we last left the 19 Minutes household, it was stranded in Gallup, New Mexico, at a Hampton Inn, one parking lot from a Cracker Barrel, two parking lots from an Applebee's, and four parking lots from the Wal-Mart pharmacy that dispensed our amoxicillin (there was a Home Depot three parking lots away, but as we were stranded en route to buying our house, going to Home Depot seemed to be tempting fate).

Friday, 10:00 pm. We were supposed to hear from the late shift at the VW dealer (really) as to whether our car would be finished by Saturday afternoon. We didn't. Regardless, we decided to make plans to head for Albuquerque on Saturday, under the philosophy that another day in Gallup might get us dangerously close to a level of tedium usually reserved for televised bowling or Ingmar Bergman films.

10:05 pm. The Ingmar Bergman mood is suddenly replaced by a Hallmark Hall-of-Fame moment as a friend from Flagstaff calls and volunteers to rescue us with a drive to Albuquerque in the morning, thus sparing me from the surreal experience of a three-hour Greyhound bus ride with an ear infection, followed by a drive back to Gallup, followed by another drive back to Albuquerque. As though the ear issue wasn't making me dizzy enough.

Saturday, 8:00 am. Becky, our Flagstaff friend, phones from the Arizona-New Mexico line to say she's about 20 minutes away. Some quick math reveals this means she left Flagstaff at approximately 5:15 am. She is quickly elevated to Saint status, at least whatever saint status can be bestowed by a Jewish-Lutheran couple.

9:00 am. We load the stuff into Becky's car - a Subaru Outback, which seems less full with our stuff than our car did. We consider either kidnapping Becky for the remainder of the drive, or just "accidentally" trading cars. Approximately 40 hours after leaving Flagstaff, we finally make it more than 150 miles, pulling into Albuquerque at around 11:30.

11:30 am. We meet Robert, the service guy at the VW dealer. He's not 100% sure why our alternator keeps failing, nor is he 100% sure we'll make it all the way to Wisconsin, but somehow, his self-assured Austin, Texas, drawl leaves us with some semblance of confidence, or at least more than we had in our hotel room in Gallup while we were on the phone with AAA. Robert tells us our car "is just about done."

12:30 pm. The service people pull our car out front and are just about to hand us the keys when the shop foreman takes a quick look under the hood. Halfway through the transaction, Robert says, ominously, "Um, hold on just a minute." Now, there are five mechanics gathered around the open hood of our Jetta Wagon. Robert calls me over, and I utter a quick prayer that no one asks me my opinion on anything more technical than the Olympic hockey tournament.

12:35 pm. No opinions are needed. As it turns out, the problem is a blown fuse on the top of the battery, which has charred to a cinder the wire that leads to the alternator. It's unclear whether we even needed our original alternator replaced three weeks before, and it's unclear whether we need this alternator replaced now. Robert suggests we go out to lunch, since it'll take an hour or so to put in the new fuse and wire.

1:00 pm. Lunch at my favorite restaurant on Planet Earth, The Frontier. The amoxicillin isn't doing wonders for my appetite, so I make sure to eat my sweet roll as quickly as possible, so it doesn't have time to register with my brain.

3:30 pm. Our original alternator and our original battery are returned to their rightful place under the hood of our car. It's more than the "hour or so", but they've kept the waiting area open for us, and they performed the repair under warranty, so we don't complain much. In fact, we enjoy our time in the VW service waiting area enough that we buy souvenirs, namely one VW Nalgene-style bottle, and a keychain.

4:00 pm. Check into Albuquerque Hilton. Wife, daughter and aforementioned saintly friend head off to the pool. I either nap or watch Olympic cross-country skiing - it's hard to say. Ear is still plugged but feels somewhat less like a fireplace poker is jammed into it than the previous day, which is also an improvement.

Sunday, 10:30 am. After breakfast (why not?) at The Frontier, we bid adieu to Becky, secure in the knowledge that there are probably a good five or six VW dealers between Albuquerque and Milwaukee, but also that she's less likely to rescue us if we break down in, say, Amarillo. We head east out of Albuquerque.

11:30 am. We're still in eastern New Mexico.

12:30 pm. Still in eastern New Mexico. Stop in Santa Rosa (scuba capital of New Mexico) to buy a cold beverage. I stay in the car, so we don't have to shut off the engine.

1:00 pm. Wow, eastern New Mexico goes on for a long time. I thought I was glad we were avoiding Nebraska on this drive.

2:15 pm. Cross the Texas border. Realize that Texas is in the Central Time Zone and it's suddenly later than I expected. Also, the drive from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City has suddenly become nine-and-a-half hours, rather than eight-and-a-half. I consider the concept of "time zones" for the next 100 or so miles.

Will 20-month old Sylvi stay awake long enough to eat lunch in Amarillo? And if so, will the 19 Minutes household eat at the restaurant that serves 72-ounce steaks that you get for free if you can finish it in an hour? How do Oklahoma drivers handle a half-inch of snow? And where is there to eat in northwest Oklahoma City after 9:00 pm? These, and many other remotely interesting questions will figure prominently in the third installment of the Tosa Move. Don't touch that dial.


Anonymous said...

When I moved from Boulder to Victoria, BC for my first postdoc position, I did it in a very used Volvo station wagon I had bought just before the move. In Bozeman, Montana, the car died on Labor Day weekend, stranding me, my girlfriend at the time, and our two cats. The guys at "Mike's Chevron" had in fact never even SEEN a Volvo before. After two days of living in the motel, we were on our way, the "fix" being that we would have to turn the fuel pump on manually using a switch they had installed near the driver's side door. This worked well enough to get us out of their hair, but not much further---maybe 250 miles, at which point the lights dimmed and the battery and alternator were dead. We replaced those, and limped along for another two days; we just couldn't drive at night or otherwise run any of the accesssaries, without the battery dying again.

I had thought that that was about the worse move story possible, until I started reading this....at least we weren't sick, and we only had to struggle with a couple of cats....

Let me just add, for the record: no matter where you go, there you are.

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