20,000 Miles

A Slave To My Car

Making that turn into the parking lot in Utah, I recognized the feeling in my clutch – that feeling of no clutch. I recalled the complete lack of tension under my left foot from the previous occurrence when I made that left turn onto Oak Ridge Road and there was no first gear.  Within moments, second followed.  By the time I reached my destination just down the road, third through fifth were also gone.  That’s exactly how poor Delano felt again this time as he pulled into the dirt parking lot returning from lunch in the red rock canyons.  I knew immediately: my slave cylinder cracked and coated the clutch in fluid that meant a couple thousand dollars in repairs. Thankfully, it had only been a little over a year since the last slave cylinder similarly leaked, and took the clutch and flywheel with it. Coasting down Oak Ridge with no ability to downshift, I navigated precariously, flabbergasted, but this time, I knew.

Unlike most every other unexpected car repair, I dialed the local shop, requested a tow, explained what was wrong, and went unceremoniously about my day. I completed the obligatory phone calls, arranged a ride home (and to work again the next day), and waited for the shop to call and quote me a price.   I felt empowered by the ability to self-diagnose Delano’s ailment, plus I knew the repairs occurred only about fourteen months earlier and might still be covered under warranty.  Harder, though, would be to find a shop in my area, more than 2,000 miles from where the last clutch, et al, were installed to fulfill the warranty.  Gratification and confidence blanketed me when the original shop confirmed the previous repairs included a two-year, twenty-thousand mile guarantee.  Just to be on the safe side, I asked for the mileage.  I expected that might be closer than the time limitation, but since I always drive with my trip odometer, not the full odometer, on display, an outside chance existed that I could have driven that much in just over a year without realizing how many miles Delano traversed.

Not One Mile

What a year or so laid behind me! My travels began a mere month after the new clutch settled under the hood. I metaphorically patted myself on the back that a random spilled fluid brought about the demise of my clutch rather than my standard-transmission driving skills – a small win despite the costly repairs.  As I waited to hear from this local repairman, I considered the first long leg of travel breaking in the new equipment: leaving Florida loaded down on my way to a second summer on the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming.  I camped at the Great Sand Dunes and circumnavigated the cone of Capulin Volcano.  I witnessed the silent brilliance of ghost fireflies in the swampy woods of the DeSoto National Forest and I etched charcoal on paper against my great-grandfather’s name on the Illinois Memorial at Vicksburg National Military Park.

When summer ended, the second leg began carrying Delano to the City by the Bay, and me to destinations across the water. He and I stopped at the Craters of the Moon, drove the loop around Crater Lake, and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. After my excursion to the Aloha State, he sat waiting for me to voyage together to Yosemite Valley, camp in the shadow of Wheeler Peak, and reunite with my superhero aside Elk Mountain.  Eventually we would visit the Dakotas, climb over the Rocky Mountains, and settle into the red rocks of Southern Utah. So when the shop called, I confirmed the current mileage: just over 21,000 miles since the last slave cylinder.  Without skipping a beat, I told them to put Delano back together again.  I regretted not one mile we journeyed together and happily paid the price for every one of them.

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