Since we out here on the Left Coast have been getting hit with nigh-on record setting low temperatures—especially where I’m situated, in the Central Eastern Sierra—it seems only fitting that I should launch another new subtopic here, on hallowed “Memoirs” ground: “Tall Winter Tales”.
These will be stories involving automobiles, cold weather, and wrenching—not necessarily in that order, or to the same degree (pardon the pun).
The first involves my good friend, who I’ll refer to from this point forward as “The Mint”. The Mint and I have a lot of car history between us, both before we became friends, and since. Hopefully, I’ll get to make numerous entries outlining our escapades together—many of these describing scenarios where we do a whole lot with very little.
Our subject for the day involves a weekend round trip run from Los Angeles to Golden, CO, in a Bodaciously Beaten first-generation Toyota Van—just purchased from Impound Auction—at the beginning of a January, several years back.
The Mint stops by the shop to show me the new purchase, and enlist my aid in giving it a checkout and in performing the needed repairs. He had done this on many occasions before, but this time he seemed to have a sense of urgency about the whole process. He had, maybe a week or so previously, informed me of an online purchase he had made of one used supersport motorcycle, that it was located out-of-state, and that he was pondering how to get it to LA. He hadn’t yet directly asked me to help him with this logistical dilemma, but as we got ourselves vested in the Van-Project, I was beginning to see the “bigger picture”.
(I often tease The Mint about his minimalist “Need-To-Know” Filter Settings—and the fact that they rarely coincide with mine—questioning whether he may have a substantial amount of Brazilian in his background; as I have found that my camaras from down there have elevated this dynamic into a what is truly an Art Form. He claims to have none—but it may be that I just don’t need to know that at present.)
Finally, true understanding was achieved, and, agreeing to help in this endeavor—caper is probably a more apt description—we now had our “coordinates locked”, and began considering when we’d actually be able to hit the road northeastward.
Surprisingly, the Van didn’t need major work, and I deemed it good-to-go in time for us to get our gear together and join the Friday evening rush-hour “party” out of town—already in progress.
The weather had been stormy, and our calculations, factoring the forecast, had us hitting a snowstorm right about when we reached the I-15 / I-70 split. This turned out to be one of the more accurate weather predictions I’ve ever been party to on a road trip. We were dead on! With the snow accumulating rapidly, we just barely made it off the Interstate for our scheduled gas stop and cable-chain purchase.
Fortunately, we snagged the last set in our size—owing this to the fact that we were among the first on the now rapidly changing scene. We’d have certainly been among the “stranded motorists” that were soon to follow.
So, with straight-through, non-stop plans still intact, we readied ourselves for what would be the critical stage of our journey: through the mountain wilderness of Southern Utah, in the wee hours of the AM, in what would have to be defined as truly hazardous weather—in an unloaded rear-drive twenty-year-old Toyota Van, of somewhat untested mettle!
With all of my foul-weather driving experience, I got the nod for wheeling duties. I live for such opportunities…
Stay tuned for Part Two, next week.
Phil ran a successful independent repair shop on the West Coast for close to 20 years, working over a decade before that at both dealer and independent repair shops. He is presently semi-retired from the business of auto repair, but still keeps his hand in things as a consultant and in his personal garage.