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.