Adventures with my car driving across Europe
Sometimes I wonder if I am completely nuts. Do you ever work yourself into a fever over some little thing that needs to get done, and you re-order your whole life around this little thing, and then maybe you realise all of a sudden that this little thing is actually totally inconsequential and can be ignored?
I got into a death spiral of this kind of thinking the other day, most of it involving my car. This is a car that I bought on eBay many years ago on the way home from China…literally as I sat in the lounge in Shanghai contemplating how much it was going to cost to bring my 10 suitcases off of this flight and onto a subsequent flight on Ryanair, I was thinking that for what I was going to pay for excess bag fees I could afford a car. And well, one thing lead to the next, and before I had boarded I bought an old Range Rover on eBay using “Buy it now”.
When I landed the next day at London Heathrow, I just popped into a taxi to the car dealer while my wife negotiated the bags and children to our hotel. The car was as described, and a few hours later I was parking at the hotel and joining for dinner. Life used to be like that.
This trusty steed accompanied me on many cross-continental journeys and was a faithful and indomitable workhouse. It is also right hand drive, which is hard to drive outside of Britain, Australia, India, Japan, and the clutch of other African, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean countries that buck this trend. Then one day, it wouldn’t start. It developed a rare disease. A Range Rover disease…two years and two dealers later, the car had not been fixed and the problem was such a mystery that plants were growing from it.
Along came an Italian race car specialist, and he successfully got it back on its feet for far more than I had paid, or that the car was worth. You have to be a masochist to own one of these. Apt. Right?!
Well, he sort of fixed it. He fixed the problem that the car alarm went off every time you started it. But he didn’t fix the short circuit, so the car would die every few days unless you kept it plugged in at all times. And this was stress on the battery, and batteries die, and don’t always like to be resuscitated. And well, a car that you can’t rely on is not a viable solution, so it began to gather dust again.
But with divorce on the cards, and my other useless car stranded on the docks in the US, the need to fix became real again. And no, I don’t scrap things. Objects have feelings and souls and personality too. She’s in with me, and so she deserves the support. I decided to take her back to England where she came from and get her fixed where they really know how to fix these cars.
“You don’t want me to fix this,” the mechanic said. “You could buy a new car for that.”
“But I like this one.”
“You people are all the same. This model, the worst model they ever made, has the most diehard fans.”
“But look at it. It’s the nicest looking one.”
In the end, he gave me an electrical specialist who would work at a different pace, but not charge so much. And that’s what happened. 6 months later, this dysfunctional genius had figured out what was the matter with it, found the fault and changed everything that needed it—door locks, keys, key fobs, onboard computer, circuit boards—all because the key electronics were no longer talking to the car. Pretty amazing. And he was cheap.
But the week before going to get it, he went out and drank too much, and lost his house keys. My keys were attached to his. So he had to do it all over again. Fast forward two months and I was collecting my once-again-working car, and taking it to get its road test.
Unsurprisingly for a car that had been sitting in a barn for 7 years, it failed. Spectacularly. Breaks, exhaust, air bag, seatbelts. Etc. The crazy conundrum which sparked this post was figuring out how to deal with it, and how to find someone in the post-holiday rush who was willing to do it.
Finally, I was on the road. An across Europe drive through the night and the rain which began without incident and great optimism.
A few hours later, the passenger side window stopped working—a problem as that was how I accessed to pay tolls. So I had to get out and walk around. Ditto for the rear window on the same side. So I though I would see if the other windows were also on the fritz. Mistake. Sunroof opened but wouldn’t close. Torrential rain. Torrential.
It didn’t all come in but cruising along at 80 mph with rain pellets hitting your face is a laugh. Especially when you have neither hat nor raingear. I tried to sandwich an umbrella between the sunroof hole and me, but I couldn’t keep it from sliding into the way.
If you know these cars, you will know about air suspension, and how prone they are to catastrophic failures. When that happens, the car hunkers down all the way and practically sits on the tyres, but thankfully you get a warning. All the lights on the dash light up, and you know then that if you turn the car off, it will deflate and you won’t be able to drive. So I kept going, going, and going.
Finally, we limped home, and there she sits, my faithful steed, brought to her knees. Tomorrow, my daily run will begin with a drive to an excellent mechanic who can fix all of these things. It is much needed but will take a good long while. Thankfully I have enough Christmas leftovers to last me quite a while–the fridge is stocked, the house is clean, and filled with joyful thoughts of what’s to come.
Crazy? You be the judge.
Oh, and in the meantime, I wore my new favourite dress everywhere. I love it. I love finding what works, discovering fashion for me. One of my kids even complimented me. Told me it was a nice dress, that the colour suited me, and that it was stylish. That is no small blessing to thank for, that’s a big one. See how tasty life is?