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Looking for a simple brake adjustment.... is that skipping chain driving you crazy.... how about those leaky seals on your suspension fork..... oh you need a wheel built.... the search is over! Mighty Mobile is here to help!

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Gregg Stone
Mighty Mobile Bicycle Repair

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Death Of Darla pt 3

I sat on the couch and took comfort in the sound of absolute silence in my living room as I watched the bubbles rise in a bottle of Racer 5 IPA. I reflected back on how I'd spent the better part of my day I came to the realization that, although I'd been out on the road for the better part of 10 hours, I'd accomplished next to NOTHING. Meh... whadda ya gonna do. Darlas condition "is what it is" and it's time to get over it, make a new plan and move on.

Megan came home from work a couple of hours later and as I unfolded the exploits of my day during dinner we came up with "Plan D" which had us both leaving Truckee early the next morning and heading to Petaluma in another attempt to get a new car. Before we settled in for the night I sat down at the computer and posted Darla on Craigslist explaining the fact that the transmission had its issues, among other things, and would "probably get you home but not much further". I clicked on the "publish", shut down the computer and went to sleep.

You can't even begin to understand how elated I am to say that Tuesday would turn out to be the exact opposite of Monday in every way imaginable. No mechanicals. No white knuckle driving. No wind. No rain. NO WORRIES! We made it to Petaluma in the morning and spent little time looking at, driving and buying a Subaru Outback. I was back in Truckee in the early afternoon and by the time I got home I already had more than a few people interested in buying Darla that would help her move on to the next chapter of her life. The first person who came to look at Darla handed over the cash and drove off in her with his friend following close by in another car "just in case".... smart kid. And just like that... she was gone. Darla disappeared over the hill driving off into the sunset. Within 30 minutes it started to snow and would continue to do so for the next four days. Selling Darla proved to be as epic and simple as her entire life with me.

And now it's on to the next car in my life. I can't help but wonder how it'll be. What kind of epic rides, killer ski days, pick-up and deliveries for Mighty Mobile and other countless missions will it take me to. Well, if day one is any indicator as to what kind of life it'll lead.....

.... it's sure to be interesting. Here's my new car in my driveway the very next day after buying it. Whadda ya think? Looks good huh. Not a scratch on it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Death of Darla pt2

2-1/2 hours west of Truckee lies the town of Vacaville Ca. Vacaville can be accessed by 7 exits off of hwy80 with its most westward option being Red Top Rd. It was at this point in my drive to Petaluma I started hearing some really curious noise coming from Darlas transmission. Enough noise in fact that I immediately abandoned the left lane in an attempt at making the exit. After successfully negotiating my way across 3 lanes of traffic with no haste I pulled off the side of Red Top Rd to have a look. With the engine still running I opened the door and realized things weren't good before my foot even had a chance to touch the dirt in the pullout where we'd stopped. I hunched down and looked at Darlas underside inspecting her transmission. Things appeared normal on the exterior but the knocking, grinding and other strange noises coming from the interior of Darlas tranny were telling me that things were obviously in dire straits.

The only certainty at this point was that Darlas transmission was going to fail but many questions remained unanswered. How long would it last? What would happen once it failed? Where would I be and just what the hell would I do!?!? My first option failed immediately (crying for my mommy) so I quickly put "plan B" into motion. "Plan B" was to turn around and head back towards home realizing that my options for help improved the closer I got to Truckee. As I motored down the on-ramp to the highway the tranny begged for mercy as it cycled up through the gears.... except 4th gear. Hmm. That's strange. Shifting into 5th gear was downright frightful and made me wonder if I should even be on the road. I had a concern that if the transmission failed in such a manner that "locked up" the rear wheels at 70mph in the middle of a busy 3 lane highway there was sure to be an accident. I eased off Darlas accelerator and slowed down enough to downshift to 4th gear which made much less noise for one reason or another. I kept driving while listening intently to the noise/noises coming from the tranny. My mind was racing. As the miles went by I mentally prepared for different scenarios of the "what's, if's and how's". Before too long I was in Davis and stopped by an auto repair shop to have Darlas tranny fluid checked. After 20 minutes the mechanic came out with the news that I pretty much already knew which was the transmission was about the fail. The mechanic (Mark) was super cool and had compassion for my predicament telling me that I didn't owe him anything. I slapped a $20 on the counter, jumped back in the truck, got back on the highway and went all banzai style towards Sacramento with "Plan C".

"Plan C" had me going to Fair Oaks to look at a Honda CRV. Even though Darla didn't really sound interested in a side trip, this one seemed ok as it was only 5 short miles off the highway and was potentially taking me to a car that would be more likely to get me home. The problem with this "5 short miles" was that it was littered with red lights requiring Darla to get herself back up to speed from a dead stop countless times. Inevitably there were always people standing at intersections along this busy section of road and the looks on their faces each time I'd start to get Darla moving from a red light were concerning albeit a bit humorous. I finally reached my destination and saw the CRV in the driveway. Although it was black (not my first color choice) the car looked great from my vantage point from the side of the road. I shut off Darlas engine and just sat there for a minute collecting my thoughts and giving my ears a much needed break from the past hour and a half of very noisy driving. I hopped out of the truck and started walking towards the CRV. I got more and more excited with each step closer I got to the car. I peeked inside the window and the interior looked new. A quick lap around the car showed no signs of damage, the tires were good and the.... wait a minute... what the hell?? I just couldn't help but notice that there wasn't a "4WD" emblem on the rear hatch. Hmm. I bent over to look under the car and my heart just sank with the realization that the only thing attached to the rear wheels were the brakes. No driveshaft, no differential, no power to the rear wheels.... NO 4WD!! In an instant any thoughts I'd had of driving this car home were gone... over... terminated. I walked back towards Darla, opened the creaky drivers side door and just sat there. The gal selling the car was foreign (Armenian??) and we definitely had a bit of a language barrier while talking on the phone. I do remember asking (twice) if the car was "four wheel drive" and getting a definite "yes" as her answer. Well, thanx for nothing. I turned Darlas key and filled my ears with the all to familiar griding, clacking, whirring and other fateful noises she had been making for the past 2 hours and started making my way back towards the highway.

Against Megan's advice to NOT stop at any car dealers on my way home I found myself getting off the highway one more time and drove into an auto dealer that was the size of a small city. I drove around until I saw a giant blue and white sign that read "HONDA" and pulled in. I was instantly greeted and asked how I could be helped. I'll save you the full story of how my half hour was wasted with savvy sales guys telling me that "95,000 miles is NOTHING on a Honda", "buying certified pre-owned is the ONLY safe way to buy a used car" and last but not least being introduced to the used sales manager with the outrageous Scottish accent asking "how can I meet your needs?" In the end, I'd leave Sacramento in my grinding, whirring, knocking, clunking truck with my tail between my legs feeling like I'd been chewed up and spit out by the used car market and drive the rest of the way back to Truckee in a, fortunately, uneventful trip. After getting home and parking Darla in her spot I walked in the house, opened up a beer and sat down on the couch in utter amazement reflecting back on my day. It was 3:30 in the afternoon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Death Of Darla

Part 1 of 2... or maybe 3

I used to have a Jeep. An incredibly crappy, unreliable piece of shit Jeep. I truly think that ALL Jeeps are incredibly crappy, unreliable pieces of shit and I think I have a right to say that after laying down my hard earned money for one and then laying down some more hard earned money in a feeble attempt at keeping my incredibly crappy, unreliable piece of shit jeep (from here on to be referred to as: ICUPSJ) on the road. Ever see a broken down car on the side of the road? Sure you have... and I'll bet more times than not... it's a jeep. No surprise to me. Wait... where am I going with this? Oh yea...back to the story.
In the summer of Y2K, I went to Reno (again) to pick up my ICUPSJ from the transmission shop (third time's the charm) vowing to my housemate in the morning that when he got home from work that night he would NOT be seeing the ICUPSJ in the driveway. I headed to Reno and after looking at and driving a few different cars/trucks I'd finally settled on a 1994 Nissan 4X4 pick up truck which I would later name "Darla".
My experience with Darla was incredible. She was always ready to go and never really asked for much other than some basic care and feeding (oil changes, tires, a new headlight... just the basics). Really, Darlas' only bad trait was that she was a tad underpowered. Hypothetically, if you were to race Darla against all the cars in Truckee you would find yourself only besting older VW vans and probably most jeeps (their actually faster but would probably break down mid-race). Nope. Speed wasn't one of Darlas' best features but what she gave in return was the piece of mind in knowing that she would start and finish every journey... every time. I would wear out my keyboard in an attempt at recalling even half of Darlas' outings which include countless
bike races, interesting road trips, eipc rides , starting Mighty Mobile and much much more. Instead, I'll keep that stored in my memory as just a smidgen of my lifes unique experiences on this tiny little spinning blue ball we call earth.
However, all good things must come to an end and Darla would be no exception. A few weeks ago, I started hearing some excessive and concerning noises coming from the transmission. The noise was different from that of the partially worn throwout bearing noise I'd been predictably hearing for the past 3 years. I didn't know exactly what it was but I did know that it probably wasn't good. I'd always said that I'd drive that truck until I crashed it or something broke and needed repaired but would exceeded what the truck was worth at the time. I'd always wondered about the latter of those two options and if it was an expensive repair... what might it be?? The thought of rebuilding or replacing the transmission wasn't that appealing to me on a truck with shit tons of miles on it. Ya gotta know when to say when. So I started looking around at new (to me) car/truck options. I scanned the internet for used (or "gently loved pre-owned" as their referred to in the industry) cars/trucks and by Sunday evening had narrowed my search down to a short list that I wanted to go and check out. The most promising option was of course the furthest away in Petaluma (3-1/2 hours west of Truckee) with a few others in Sacramento. I felt like my time was limited by some approaching weather that was forecast to start Tuesday evening meaning two things. The first thing was the fact that driving over Donner Pass in a blizzard is probably THE WORST way to start out an already almost too long drive. The second, and more probable, thing is that after almost 6 weeks with no new snow... I'd be skiing!! I figured that if I left early Monday morning and started in Petaluma I could work my way back east towards Truckee looking at and driving different cars/trucks along the way. If I didn't "dally" or otherwise get too sidetracked I'd be home by the late afternoon or early evening leaving me with enough time to do something other than sitting and driving.
The approaching storm was starting to show itself in the way of winds that made the pines sway in a hypnotic non-directional motion high above my driveway. I stumbled out to Darla through the darkness opening the creaky drivers side door, hopped in and brought the engine to life as I sipped on a steaming mug of coffee. As I'd done thousands of times before, I pushed in the clutch, the throwout bearing whirred, I put her into first gear and pulled out of the driveway to start my days journey to Petaluma. It was 5:30 Monday morning.