Last Saturday around noon I was about to fire up the lawn mower and mow my lawn for what I hoped was the last time. Unbeknownst to me, fate had other ideas. It had pretty much decided I was going to spend my day under a car in the middle of nowhere.
My youngest son is a struggling musician. He had decided to travel over the mountain to the “Treasure Mountain Festival” in Franklin, West Virginia. He was going to meet a friend of his and they were going to seek their fortune by casting their musical pearls before the crowds.
The phone rang, I picked it up, “Dad, the brakes went out on the van, don’t worry the van is ok.”
“But are you OK?” I asked in my most fatherly tone, calm, considered.
“Yes, it’s in the church parking lot across from Snowy Mountain Road.”
Turns out he was about as far from anything as he could be on this trip. Luckily, there was a parking lot across from the stop sign he blew when his brakes stopped working. It doesn’t behoove a parent to think too much about close calls. Either you would end up constantly stressed up like a violin string, with the accompanying squawks of a novice fiddler, or you just keep your kids at home, safe and underfoot.
My initial inclination was to tell him to wait there, I would come and WE would fix it. Before I could say anything, he said that he had called someone and they were coming to get him. He and that someone have been having a rough patch lately so I figured what the heck, I can fix it.
Now this is a ’91 Astrovan. I swear that in the night, the nuts and bolts in these things swap between metric and English. When I work on these things I can never remember which bit is metric and which bit is not so out to the garage and load ALL my tools in the car, wrenches, sockets, a jackstand, big hammer, little hammer, pry bar, flashlight (in hopes on not needing it), and a piece of cardboard, because you never can tell where the boy has parked (and hence what you have to lay in).
An hour later I arrive. I quickly find where the line has ruptured, which as it turns out is not too bad a place. I don’t think it will be too bad to fix. I even get it apart with less difficulty than I have any right to expect. Fate is toying with me.
The part off, I drive 20 minutes to Franklin, site of the ongoing Treasure Mountain Festival; food, music, Civil War reenactment, and a great parade. A lot of towns in West Virginia are built in a wide spot along a river. A lot of them have one road in, one road out, and no good way around. From the direction I was coming, Franklin was like that. I pulled up to the parade route just as it started. The Treasure Mountain parade is something to behold, bands, dance school exhibitions, civil war characters, politicians, and tractors. There was probably 20 minutes of John Deere tractors alone, and I got to see them all, because all the stores in Franklin were closed for the festival anyway.
The parade clear, I head up the road another 40 minutes to the next town, Petersburg. Sure enough, I see a good sized part store. They should have just what I need. I pull up to a dark store and see that they had closed 20 minutes ago, that would have been about when I saw the Indians in the parade. Well, the Indians were cool, the all shot their guns and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss them. Besides, this gave me an opportunity to practice my organic language skills.
The next town is Moorefield, another 30 minutes or so. There was indeed an open parts store with everything I needed, tubing, tubing flair tool, tubing bender, tubing cutter. I left the store considerably less weighed down by negotiable worldly assets.
The road back was beautiful. It runs a good bit along the river, and with the leaves turning, and the sunset was worth the cost of having to work in the dark, and dark it was. With the help of my blazer’s headlights and a variable brightness flashlight (you could adjust the brightness by banging it), everything went pretty well. For those of you who don’t do auto or house repairs this translates as, I didn’t break anything else while I fixed this.
With everything back together, I put the tire back on and lowered the car. I put away my tools and took it for a test drive. The brakes still need bleeding but they work well enough. I have to leave the van for him to pick up since he’s spending the night with a friend so I threw in the keys and head home, it’s about 10pm. About half way home I remember that I went from letting the van down to putting the jack in the back. I had skipped an important step; I hadn’t tightened up the lug nuts. So, back I go hoping that he hadn’t come to get it, not because the wheel would fall off. I knew where he was spending the night and it wasn’t far, but because I didn’t want to have to tighten the lug nuts in his friends yard. As luck would have it, it was still there and I got away with it.
I finally got home around 11:30, my wife was a little worried since I told her it would only take a couple of hours. I was gratefully wrong. What kind of story would that have been?