Wednesday, November 28, 2012

even in the year of our lord, 2012, one should do a little vehicle assessment before taking off on a long trip.

remembering back to my youth, i can see my dad checking the oil and fluids, the pressure in the tires, in general doing all he could to assure that whatever wreck he was driving at the time would make it to wherever we were going-- and back.

on the friday after thanksgiving, we were in austin with our son c.  he was driving the wife's suv on our way out to eat when he noticed the check oil light would come on briefly.  on saturday we drove to arlington for the Tech/Baylor game and back.  other than the engine noise being louder than usual, i noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

in fact, i'd not noticed any warning light before, having driven from little a-town to conroe then up to Austin, but when filling up with gas in prep for the trip back home on sunday I checked the oil.  the dipstick came back dry on the first check.  $5 for a quart of convenience store oil later, the dipstick came back dry a second time. another $5 for another quart of oil later-- the dipstick registered "low".  another $5 for another quart of oil brought the level up to where it should have been before we ever left town.

i haven't a clue how the oil level got that low.  the engine is not burning oil that I can see, it's not dripping oil out onto the floor of the garage.  the car was in the shop a while back during which the timing belt was replaced, among other things. perhaps the shop didn't put in the right amount of oil after the repairs. who knows?

what I do know, or what I have been reminded of, is that even with the level of sophistication in our modern vehicles, there is a minimum amount of attention/pm required to ensure that your ride will get you there, and back again.

what was good enough for my daddy in the '50's is the new order of the day here at 7420.  it worked for him and it will work for me, you and anyone. just do it!  no more, stick the key in the ignition and if it starts it's good to go for this old fool.

and, do you know what?  it's amazing what three quarts of oil will do to quiet down that loud engine noise. and, do you know what else?  $15 for convenience store oil is a small price to pay as compared to the cost of a new engine, or worse.  : )


national day of thanksgiving....

                                                                                                                                                                                    most of us know we should give thanks for all we have.  how many of us give that thanks daily, not waiting until the fourth thursday in november to send our gratitudes aloft?  fewer than one might think, i would guess.  certainly fewer than should be.

i plead guilty to being one in the former group but as we bowed our head this thanksgiving day the wife and i have reason to send extra thanks along with our thrice annual, formal prayer of thanskgiving. 

on  the friday before thanksgiving, we were on our way to my sister's house for an extended holiday.  zipping along at the newly posted 75 mph and thinking, as we cleared Gatesville, we'd be there soon.  traffic on i-45 was as you might expect on a friday evening just past six.  the sun had set.  moving into the left lane to go around a semi, of a sudden there began and awful noise, instantly raising my antennae.  the truck was covered by a tarp; i thought maybe what I was hearing was a loose tarp flapping at the speed limit. as we cleared the front of the truck the racket became worse.  it was no tarp flapping that we were hearing  but the sound of a catastrophic tire failure (a BLOWOUT to those of us of a different age).  Somehow, at 75 mph, I managed to pass the truck, maneuver into the right lane and then onto the shoulder of the road without further calamity.

sitting there for a minute to digest what had just happened, to gather jangled nerves, the world continued to race past on the 45, at 75.  getting out of the car to assess the situation i found the right front tire shredded.  a goodyear integrity, with under 7500 miles on it,  that had been rotated to the front just that morning before we set off.  a call to the sister told her what had happened. did we want them to come?  no, we'd be fine and we'd be there asap.

call it esp, or whatever you want, but i had put the emergency roadside kit from my truck in the wife's car before we left.  the caution triangle on the side of the bag alerted oncoming traffic to our plight.  what we did not have was a flashlight. 

I  had struggled for a long hour trying to lift the tire and snag the lugs in the semi-darkness. at last i agreed my wife could hail some assistance.  amazingly a car stopped right away,  at exactly that point, i lifted the wheel onto its mark as a figure began to shine a light on the task at hand.  it was probably 10-15 seconds before i realized it was by b-in-law leaning in to help.  with his assistance the spare affair was put behind us in short order and we were on our way.

i believe each of us has a guardian angel; at least one, perhaps more than one.  i  believe one of ours was riding in the semi that friday night, that somehow he saw the problem i was having and cleared the way for me to make our way from the left lane into the right and on to the side of the road without his scooping us up or me causing our car to crash.  another came along in the form of my b-in-law who arrived just as i was reaching the limit of what is physically possible. 

to both the trucker and t.c., and to our good lord, thanks seems woefully inadequate.  stick around though just in case, but i hope we won't need you again, at least not anytime soon.


Monday, November 19, 2012

i'm spending some quality time with my sister and her bunch coming up to the holiday later this week.  being from the land where the wind never stops, i'm finding the area where she lives outside conroe amazing.

did i mention the wind blows where i'm from.  her place sits on a small acreage off old conroe road.  milling about this afternoon i was struck by the quiet, but more than that, by the still.  the dearth of sound pales to  the absence of any wind, no current of air sufficient to stir the smallest blade of grass. absolute calm.

the quiet is profound, if not absolute, broken only by the distant raucous cry of a crow. in the background can be heard the muted drone of traffic on the freeway, reduced to nothingness by distance and the woods between here and there.

in the early mornings deer, mostly does and yearlings, filter out of the greenbelt behind the house to feed.  this morning a group of eight stood with ears on point, attention focused as one to something they, nor i, could see.  after a time whatever had piqued their interest passed and all began to bed down in the open less than a stone throw from where i stood watching. 

the life of riley, i tell ya'. then again it is late november here with it's coolish mornings and warm afternoons; not june july, august, and september with their stifling heat and humidity.

 i'm having a grand old time.  going back home, to the land where the wind never stops blowing, where the only trees to be found were planted at some point; going back to where spring like weather is long gone and far from a return --  will just plain suck.

i guess i'd better get busy enjoying all this.  I wonder if she takes all she has for granted.  i wonder if all the beauty, the serenity of her country idyll ever slips out of the consciousness like the kitchen wallpaper.  surely not, huh?