Memoirs Of An Independent Repair Shop Owner: Tall Winter Tales - Extreme Weekend Banzai Road Test / Rally

Phil Coconis
by Phil Coconis
memoirs of an independent repair shop owner em tall winter tales extreme weekend

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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  • -Nate -Nate on Jan 21, 2013

    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

  • Roader Roader on Jan 22, 2013

    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.

  • SCE to AUX This is not a race worth winning.
  • JMII These would sell better if they came with a service to drop it off (with new tires and brakes) at which ever track you decided to visit per weekend. While its small it still doesn't fit on a private jet and there aren't many tracks close to where your yacht can be docked. 1st world problems here.
  • JMII Its an SUV so I am shocked they don't already offer it.
  • Analoggrotto As we Tesla owners receive our life energy from the greatest son of the gods of all time, Elon Musk; His cherubs and His nephilim may remove whatever they wish from us for unto him we owe all for our superiority above all the rest of humanity.
  • Kcflyer Nice to see California giving NY some competition to be the worst run state in the union.