Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Volvo Goes Down.

"SERVICE TRANSMISSION URGENT" is apparently Swedish for Sell this Car Immediately. The dire message appeared on the dash of Mrs Elliott's 2001 Volvo S80 sedan. She bought this car used a couple years ago and it has performed pretty well. This warning appeared four days ago so we took it to the local independent Volvo/Mercedes repair shop. They gave faint hope for an easily resolution, having seen this warning before. Our next stop was the local Volvo dealership. The service manager, whose job of course is to maximize repair sales, was even less optimistic: He told us that when they open transmissions on cars displaying this warning they find metal filings. "Sell the car," was his advice.

So Mrs Elliott will be donating the car to a wholesale auto auction which benefits charities, and looking for a replacement car. We are told that a signature sign of the Bend newbie is the presence of a Subaru Outback so naturally we are seeking a good used one. Heh.

The loss of the Volvo changes my moving plans. The day before the warning light appeared I had received a tow hitch and wiring package from IPD USA. I am coming to Bend a few days before the giant Penske truck arrives with all our stuff in order to do some prep work on the house. I was intending to drive the Volvo with our little utility camping trailer in tow. But with the news of the transmission's imminent failure, that plan had to be scuttled and the tow kit returned.

So how to get the trailer to Bend? It's possible that whatever car we find for Mrs Elliott will be a good candidate -- if I can find the appropriate hitch and wiring hardware in time to set it up, but Mrs Elliott is more of the mind to find a car at an auto auction closer to Bend, maybe somewhere along the route, and pick it up on the way to our new house. Or--and here's my backup plan--I can tow it behind "Mellow Yellow," my 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon Westfalia camper. It is already set up with a tow hitch and the needed wiring connector to pull that trailer.

But it's old, my Vanagon. Hauling a little trailer on a camping trip is a lot different than pulling it 1,000 miles in the heat of August behind a 24 year-old vehicle. In fact, I wasn't even planning to drive it to Bend: we had arranged with Penske for a car carrier to haul the Westie behind the 26-foot moving van. But circumstances change and I've needed to re-evaluate my view of this trip: no longer a boring drive in a sober sedan, I'll be making the longest drive I've ever taken in my contrary old camping van. The trip has become an adventure.

I'll load up on cold drinks because Mellow Yellow doesn't have air conditioning--and there's nothing quite like California's Central Valley in the dead of August--and avoid the hottest part of the days. I'll leave late in the afternoon on Sunday, August 10, so I get through can do the hardest climb--where I-5 claws its way up the Grapevine from the San Fernando Valley up to California's Central Valley--in the cool of the evening.

And I'll obviously need to get some suitable paint and write "Bend or Bust" on the van.

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