Swooping down the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada on I 80, I have not a care in the world. The scenery is dramatic, the novel playing from the car sound system is excellent, I am cosy, 3 maybe 4 hours back to San Francisco..
I accelerate to overtake someone who is going even slower than me. No obvious change in speed but I hear the frantic howling of a high revving engine. I look behind and sure enough there is tuned up Japanese sports machine howling past. I am reassured. I accelerate again and back comes the high rev howl. I look at the rev counter – 6,000rpm! I don’t think the engine has been much above 3,000 rpm all her life. The noise is coming from my truck, I am over revving her. There is no acceleration. My engine has become a detached element from the drive chain. Essentially my clutch has busted.
Ouch, bad, bad news!
Lucky as always, this does not happen in one of the remote snow filled canyons where I have lately spent my time, indeed I roll to a stop on the hard shoulder just in front of the Exit 121 sign. I am able to walk off the freeway into the crazy landscape of cheap motels, gas stations, run down malls, liquor stores, fast food restaurants that line the freeway. I get the number for a tow truck from a motel reception and an hour later my truck has been offloaded outside an Auto Shop.
It is 4:00pm Saturday. “Closed for the weekend,” says the tow truck driver, “No idea if it will be open on Monday, nearly all repair shops have closed because of the virus.”
“What can I do in Auburn?”
“Not much to do around here .” He replies ominously.
I check in at a Super 6 motel.
All museums are closed, restaurants only serve food to go. It is pouring with rain. I go to a store, stock up on food and drink and go back to hibernate in my hotel room. I make a bear nest on the bed and snuggle. Saturday afternoon and Sunday pass almost unnoticed as I doze, shower, sleep, eat, drink, read, watch lots of US TV. I thoroughly enjoy myself.
9:00 Monday morning, I am outside Jeff’s Auto Repair. It is open! I explain what happened and Jeff says ”It’s the clutch”
I know it is the clutch and want to engage Jeff on the hydraulic system that pushes the clutch plates, the clutch springs, and maybe a worn plate. He looks a bit confused and reassures me that he can put in a new clutch and seeing as I am stuck he will start right away. I am confronted with US car mechanics. Rather than repair, they just bolt on a new unit. So I am to get a new clutch.
How to spend another day in Auburn waiting for the call announcing the truck is fixed?
There is nowhere to go. There is nowhere to sit down. I have a whole day ahead of me. I wander around the waste land of restaurants, motels, gas stations, clutching a plastic bag. I am a vagrant. The cops move me on. I finally find a bench in a scruffy little mall. I am so pleased. It has stopped raining and I sit on my bench and write this in the sun.
How much longer will I be here? Will I get picked up for being homeless?
Across the scruffy plaza I spot a table and chair outside a bagel place. I wander over and am greeted by Jasmin who says, “Let me look after you.” She thinks I am homeless. She is the best person.
I sit at the table, Jasmin gives me the wifi password. It is cold. Over the next few hours she makes me a perfect beef sandwich, an Americano with an extra shot, home made potato soup and a big smoothie. Paradise.
I finally stumble back to Jeff’s auto shop around 4:30, it is getting dark. The truck is fixed! The old clutch plate is worn down to the metal!
Jeff and Dominic also replace a shot universal joint and re rig my exhaust pipe support. Good guys. I finally make it back home at 8:00. Great adventures and the truck now has a new clutch. I find this very reassuring.