Monday, June 25, 2007

The Road Trip Through the Northern Rockies

Part I - Axel

Our Road Trip was pretty amazing, despite one large hiccup that made for one very stressful afternoon. We got on the road Thursday morning ~ 7:30 am, bolstered by our favorite road trip breakfast (Ladro's double tall lowfat latte and croissant for me, vegan oat bar and grande latte for Jeff). We had a lovely drive north with a surprisingly quick boarder crossing, although we had to dump the bag of apples we'd brought along as part of our massive bag of snacks and supplies. (FYI for those driving to Canada: you can bring non-native fruit like bananas in, but nothing with seeds that is grown locally).

We had a lovely picnic somewhere near Hope, and then hope left us as we found that my car was growing more and more feeble when trying to climb the mountains we were driving through. I'd noticed the problem last month when driving to Vancouver with Jeff's parents, but at the time I'd attributed the car's sluggishness to being more heavily loaded than usual. But as we dragged up each hill more slowly than the last, dropping into 3rd gear in the truck pull-out lane with hazards flashing wondering if the car would make it up the hill, we realized that we had a very significant problem. At this point we were 300 miles from home with 4 nights of lodging paid for and no idea where we'd find someone who could diagnose and fix my once-healthy 2003 diesel Jetta. We found Frank's Auto Repair in Merritt, B.C., a small shop in a one-street town, where Frank took pity on us and replaced the car's fuel filter. "It's only a guess," he told us when we asked if he thought that would fix the problem. "You'll know if it's fixed as soon as you drive out of town." He gave us a few names for shops in Kamloops (the next city on our route, about 60 miles north) in case we still needed help.

We drove away hopeful, but as we tried to climb up the next hill we once again found ourselves going 35 mph watching trucks wiz by us. We started talking contingenies: turn around and get Jeff's car and try the trip the next day; ditch the car in Kamlops and rent something for the trip; give up altogether; that's as far as we got. We made it (thankfully) into Kamloops, and the very nice people at the Visitor's Center gave us maps, hotel and car rental information, and we were able to use their phone to contact the auto shop recommended to us by Frank. We got there around 4 pm and the mechanic we spoke to was able to quickly diagnose the problem - a completely carbon-clogged air intake manifold, something that can happen when a car owner is a bike-commuter and only drives her car a few blocks to the grocery store. It was too late to work on it that day, so he told us to have at the shop at 7:30 the next morning and he'd get to work on it first thing.

Knowing that there was a probable solution to our problem took a huge weight of our minds and we were able to enjoy a relatively pleasant evening in Kamloops along with the passenges from the transcontinental railroad passengers also spending the night in town. The next morning we dropped off the car and took our bikes for a ride along the river while the folks at Axel's Auto Shop went to work. One more mechanical difficulty when my pedal fell off, but Jeff was able to fix that and we did our ride and picked up the car at 11 am: FIXED!! After a relaxing lunch of saag paneer and tandori lamb, we were back on the road in our zippy like-new car, with the new moniker, Axel.

To be continued...


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