Before Liz and I hit the road for our Thelma and Louise-style journey to Vineman 70.3, we briefly discussed which of our aging cars to take—my Jeep Liberty won. In an effort to be proactive, I had the oil changed and the tires rotated, but still secretly wondered whether my poor Jeep had (after three cross-country trips and countless Los Angeles-San Diego trips) any more long-distance journeys in her.
The answer, we have discovered, was no, my car does not.
It was somewhere around Stockton, Calif. on Thursday that we first realized that my A/C wasn’t just working poorly—it wasn’t working at all. The hot, nostril-burning smell of cow manure that envelopes the Central Valley was pouring into my car at an alarming rate, and we were powerless against it. Closing the vent didn’t even seem to work. Within a few hours, we found ourselves driving through 105 degree F temperatures, with no form of air ventilation to speak of. I felt embarrassed, the way a parent must feel when their kid is the one in the school play who forgets his one line and picks his nose. My darling, cute Jeep was a speeding stink-fest, and poor Liz had unwittingly signed up for the ride.
By Friday morning, things had become steadily worse. Not only was there no A/C, there was a smell of burning rubber emanating from my hood and every time we turned on a car, the A/C spit out a “whoooooshhhh” noise that sounded like a poltergeist.
We pushed onward, and reached the race hotel by Friday early afternoon. By Friday night, the rattling noise reached a fever pitch that was equaled only by my pre-race anxiety. I cried, squirmed and finally calmed down enough for us to hatch a plan to take the car in Saturday morning to a nearby Pep Boys. Here is a rundown about how that went:
Pep Boy: Yeah that sounds bad, but we can’t fix it today.
Pep Boy: We’re too busy, go up the street to the tire store.
Us: Do tire stores work on car air conditioners?
Pep Boy: Yep.
—–We drive to tire store—–
Tire Store: Yeah that sounds bad, but why did you bring the car to us? We’re a tire store. We can’t help you.
We eventually ended up at a Jeep dealership and after some pity tears and mild whining, they agreed to look at the car. After a $1,200 prognosis, some more tears over that, and a promise by them to have it done by the end of the day, Liz and I set out to hail a cab and make it in time to get our packets picked up and T2 stuff dropped off.
Our first cab driver was kind enough to give us her card, so we could call her for additional rides. The card read: Om Shanti, Taxi Driver, and was decorated with a peace sign and positive affirmations. So was she.
While waiting for us outside of our hotel, she pulled out an acoustic guitar and worked on her lyrics. On the way to the race site I saw her lyrics notebook open on the floor. Scribbled on one page it read: Should I close my Chakras and live with eyes closed? I tried to ponder the statement to calm my rattled nerves, but my chakras was too off-kilter for help.
Amazingly enough, we made it to packet pick up on time, dropped off our stuff at T2, and had my newly A/C-equipped car picked up by 3 p.m. We had some lunch and then decided a nap was in order.
The weather tomorrow will most likely throw us a few curves: chilly and foggy in the morning, tenth circle of hell by the run, but we’ve come too far to turn around now. How much the past few day’s stresses will affect our races is yet to be seen, but we are hopeful. Our wish is that by tomorrow night, we will be a few hours into our drive home, stopped at some Podunk town in the Central Valley, buzzed off post-race celebrations and ready to laugh off our pre-race snafu.