Monday, July 11, 2011
So we had this plan......
So we hatched this plan to take 25 days to make a sweeping camping trip across Washington state from Mount Rainier National Park to Kalaloch Beach in Olympic NP on the peninsula to meet my parents, to Anacortes where we hop onto Montana Sapphire again to sail through the San Juan Islands for a week, to Mount Baker, through North Cascades NP and hopefully through northern Idaho to Glacier NP before we needed to be at my brother's wedding in Helena. We even made reservations at campgrounds, which is distinctly unlike us. So as we prepared for our latest trip, Jason went through and replaced things that needed replacing, spark plugs, fuel filter, distributor cap, oil, oil filter, etc... Sylvia seemed to be in ok shape. Four days before our departure date with only the three-day, Fourth-of-July weekend between us and freedom, the passenger rear brake started leaking. Ugh. After a trip to Firestone where they could not fix it, Jason took matters into his own hands and gave it a try. Unfortunately, the brake drum was stuck to the hub and it became clear after many different creative attempts that we, indeed, needed professional help. So Tuesday morning, the day of our scheduled departure, Jason called around to see who could get her in. Long story short we ended up having two different shops work on her Tuesday and we were able to leave town around 6:30pm. Our hopes were to camp somewhere around Missoula (in normal car time,it takes around three hours), which I secretly thought was a bit overly optimistic. We arrived in Butte without any incident, brakes seemed to be working fine.
As we left Butte, both Jason and I noticed a curious tugging sensation every-so-often on Sylvia. We began to worry that she may be spewing out gas again, so we pulled over at the next exit. Jason chose an awkwardly-sloped spot and hopped out to inspect. No gas to be seen. He asked me to rev the engine as he watched, still no gas, but the oil light suddenly came on. Oink! He ordered me to turn off the engine and I protested that if we turned her off she wasn't going to start again and he rebutted that if we didn't turn her off her engine might explode. I turned her off. Jason one, Kirsten zero. Upon checking the oil, Jason found that she was completely full so he tried starting her. She did not start. Kirsten one, Jason one. In enters the insurance company, who graciously sent us a tow truck. After about forty-five minutes, our short, lovable, Butte-Irish driver showed up and hoisted Sylvia up onto the truck bed and back to Butte we went. Along the way, at 9:30pm, he called all of the shops he could think of to see if they had room for us. The tow truck even stopped by one of the mechanic's houses because our driver couldn't remember his after hours number. Alas, no luck. It was quite the tour of Butte. We were on our way to the Comfort Inn where our lovable Butte-Irish tow truck driver could get us a discount when we passed by a KOA where I half-jokingly blurted out that he could drop us off there. Fifteen minutes later, after check-in, the driver deposited us and Sylvia into a campsite. Talk about arriving in style. We asked him if he would like to join us on our trip through Washington, towing all the way. He just laughed. With Sylvia safely on the ground, Jason tried cranking her up and, with reluctance, she started, belching out gratuitous gas fumes. She still wasn't leaking, just running incredibly rich, as the tow-truck driver declared that he hoped that she didn't catch fire, and the leathery, gravelly-voiced campground worker smoked in the background. After pondering what could be wrong with her, our diesel-driving, Butte-Irish hero disappeared into the night.
In the morning Jason promptly started calling mechanics to see who could squeeze us in. As luck would have it, the mechanic recommended the night before agreed to help us diagnose her. She fired right up and we beelined to Car Tunes. After depositing the keys, we turned our eyes towards Butte. I have to confess here that I have never had a high opinion of Butte, home to the Berkeley Pit, the largest superfund sight in the world. I realize now, that after all of the years of ignorance and jumping to conclusions, that I was wrong. Butte reminds us of a cross between run-down Lisbon and South Boston and we now hold a certain affection in our hearts for this place. I'm not saying we want to live here, but it has its rundown charm. It is a place of faded glory. During its heyday, it was one of the richest cities on Earth as it supplied copper to world. Now It feels distinctly dilapidated and stuck-in-time. We wandered through the heart of downtown and followed Broadway, lined with historic homes and mansions. We walked through the Arts Chateau mansion, home to one of the copper kings' sons and toured the Copper King Mansion where the big man lived himself. What started out as, "really? stuck in Butte of all places?" turned out to be a very pleasant and introspective, what-else-have-I-misjudged morning.
Back at the mechanic, we were informed that Sylvia, sadly, did not have pressure in one of her four cylinders and may be in need of a rebuild. Not knowing how long a fix would take we asked if he thought we could make it home on three cylinders. He answered yes and off we limped. We drove her straight to the mechanic in Bozeman, worried that if we turned her off at home, she may not start again. So after lots of unpacking Sylvia while I got to know the mechanics, and repacking it into my car, here we are in Seattle, in a hotel, on take two, of a much-abbreviated, much-less-campy, and revised trip to Washington, while Sylvia continues to baffle the mechanics whose best theory at this point is that she is possessed by demons. Get better, Sylvia, we miss you.