While 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo was an adventure in and of itself, it was the journey to GET there that deserves mention. It started in Vermont, where I had been living with my girlfriend, Syd, since September. We left early in the morning the first day in February and arrived 14 hours later at her house in Athens, Ohio. After stocking up on food (thanks Jim and Ellen) and a good night's sleep, we left Athens early in the morning planning to make it to Hays, Kansas (15 hours away according to Google Maps) by nightfall.
The first hint of disaster was when the muffler fell off during a blizzard in Richmond, Indiana. "Mufflers? Who needs 'em?" I told Syd as I threw it in the trunk and we continued on our merry, if somewhat deafened, way.
Then four hours later, the car died. There was nothing spectacular in its death, just some jerking over 60 mph and strange noises. We took the closest exit, stopped at a gas station and watched as smoke exited the top of the vehicle while transmission fluid exited the bottom. I called a tow truck.
When the driver showed up, we convinced him to ignore AAA's instructions and leave the car at the only repair shop open on Sunday, a Firestone on the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri. We found a hotel with a take-out restaurant next door and called it a day.
The next day, Sunday, we spent the morning calling Firestone, the afternoon hearing that "the part was unavailable" and the late afternoon watching them take the car apart to put in the part that Syd had found by walking into an Autozone three blocks away. Then we found out that wasn't the real problem. They referred us to a shop that specialized in transmissions and we went back to our hotel.
Monday was even sadder. We found out that they could fix the car ($600) but once they had done that, I might also need to replace the transmission ($3000) for a potential total of $3600, over three times what the car was worth (but about half of what one of my new bikes is worth). I promptly sold the car to one of the mechanics for $500 then rented a Jeep Liberty and drove to Limon, Colorado.
The next day we drove around Colorado Springs looking at used cars. We met every type of car dealer imaginable from the super-experienced salesman who sold Subarus by the dozen to the saleswoman who scoffed at my $7000 new-car budget to the sleazy new-to-the-area salesman who'd had his license revoked for too many speeding tickets. I was getting pretty depressed and then I found my future car, a standard-transmission 2007 Chevy Aveo 5. It was 12 years newer than my recently-departed Subaru and had 120,000 fewer miles. It cost $7000 and was orange. Perfect.
Unfortunately, it needed a new airbag sensor, rear tire and timing belt, so Syd and I drove down to my house in Taos, New Mexico and hung out for four days while it was being fixed. Then drove back to Colorado Springs, picked it up and immediately drove to Albuquerque so she could fly back to Vermont for school. I continued West and ended up in Phoenix, Arizona a week later than planned.
Which brings me back to 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. I joined a team who called themselves Los Fabulosos Flojos (the Fabulous Slackers) and rode the fastest night lap of the race, got cozy with a cactus and handed out two cases of Santa Fe Brewing beer. Overall, I'd say it was a successful weekend.
And for those of you who were wondering, Syd hasn't broken up with me.
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