By on January 20, 2013


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.

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6 Comments on “Memoirs Of An Independent Repair Shop Owner: Tall Winter Tales – Extreme Weekend Banzai Road Test / Rally...”


  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I think I saw that Van in the lead photo once. But then it was when I still liked to drink.

  • avatar

    You know I find the minimalist need to know information thing from a friend of mine as well. It has led to several rather interesting capers, escapades and usually something very broken. So far no law enforcement has been involved, and no injuries. But broken motorcycles, stuck Subarus and even a roll over has happened.

    As for the cold here in the Eastern Sierra, it has been bad until the last three days. I should know, I live here too. We had -10 where I am at, and I am not in Mammoth Lakes, but close.

    • 0 avatar
      Phil Coconis

      The Lake Crowley and Bridgeport vicinities have been considerably colder than here in Mammoth Lakes proper. Drove by Mono Lake @ around midday today, and it was about 10 F with a fairly substantial Toolie Fog hovering over the lake and surrounding area. All vegetation was laced with ice. Beautiful, but BBRRRRRR!!

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    That’s one cool van and I hate to be a ‘topper’ but..

    youtube.com/watch?v=32kK7lQZSks

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Oddly , on 1/20 in Pasadena , Ca. it was 46 degrees F @ 07:00 but by mid day it was 98 degrees in North Hollywood .

    Strange weather indeed .

    My big brother has sandbagged me a few times in this same manner on sudden Road Trips , I rather like them apart from discovering in Tennessee he never bothered to check the oil nor inflate the spare tire , I discover this as we clank to a stop in the middle of nowhere after the left rear tire exploded , ripping the fuel filler neck off….

    It’s all part of the fun I guess .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Roader

    You’re braver than I. That stretch of I-70 between Salina and Green River is desolate. As I recall there are signs in either direction: “No Services Next 118 Miles” or some such. And it’s true. Hardly any traffic, no houses or businesses or other signs of civilization aside from a couple of unmanned rest stops with porta-potties. FE-RWD, dark-thirty, snow flying? Dangerous. Altitudes aren’t bad. I don’t think there’s a summit more than 8000 feet on that stretch, compared to 11,000 feet further up the road in CO. But it’s a lonely drive.


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