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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.

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