My Kingdom For A Radiator Cap (And Other Cross Country Automotive Adventures)

This is a just a quick note to update those who are interested in our trip progress.  If you are checking in for my usual brand of writing-related mental meanderings, I apologize.  Things have been busy.  Unfortunately, at this particular juncture, busy equals no time for writing–either the fiction or the blog variety.

But this is not to say that life isn’t going well.  We–Furnacegirl, Muffin, and I, plus pooch extraordinaire Stormy–are safely in Norfolk, awaiting our departure to Sicily by plane on Tuesday.  We are staying with a friend who owns a very nice condo on the beach, so the surroundings are warm and congenial and–except for the stack of stuff we still need to do–we have absolutely no complaints.

However, I do feel obligated to report that our drive up from Lafayette was not completely without incident.  There we were, having just crossed the I-10 bridge into Mississippi, when what should appear from the confines of the engine compartment?  A cheery white cloud of steam and coolant–accompanied by an angry red gauges light and a spike on the temp gauge.

I know what you might be saying to yourself: this guy didn’t properly preflight his vehicle.  Or it’s an old car and the radiator gave up the ghost.  Or he didn’t check his hoses and one blew.  Obviously, it could have been a dozen things.

Nevertheless, if you had been driving down that particular stretch of Interstate 10 on that glorious, semi-sunny Sunday morning, you would have seen a man with eyes bulging, virtually doubled over with dissatisfaction, the only indication that he wasn’t having a conniption being the targeted way he waved his fist at the sky and snarled in some mix of English and Profanity, cursing the Automotive Gods and generally making a fool of himself.

That man, I bet you have now gathered, was me.  :)

You see, all the obvious conclusions above about the poor repair of the vehicle and/or the poor attention paid to it by its owner are false.  In fact, wishing to avoid such roadside strandings in the course of a fifteen-hundred-mile journey, I had done quite a bit of work on the vehicle.  New radiator.  New hoses.  New water pump.  New thermostat.  New tires.  The list goes on.  The phenomenon which I was observing should not, in fact, be happening.  Perhaps it was some strange tear in the fabric of the space-time continuum that was turning the normally reliable laws of physics on their ears.

The obvious cascade of events followed from my little tirade.  Phone calls flew.  The fam huddled in the shade and tried unsuccessfully to hide from the profound Mississippi humidity.  A tow truck arrived.  A tow truck departed.

We rode along to the local Pep Boys–the only shop open on Sunday–where the manager, a woman named Dani to whom we shall always be indebted, took pity on us and had one of her techs look at the jeep immediately.  Nearly two-hundred dollars later, we were back on the road.

The culprit?  The radiator cap.  Yep.  I couldn’t believe it either.  The shop who put in the new radiator decided it would be funny or prudent or downright insidious to replace the ten-year-old radiator cap on our brand new radiator.

We enjoyed a very nice afternoon, reading year-old Sports Illustrateds and Car and Driver magazines in the Pep Boys in Slidell, Louisiana courtesy of a failed five-dollar piece of rubber and metal, and some Corpus Christi mechanic’s lack of judgment.

Back on the road, we sang the hotel song (sung to a melody reminiscent of the guttural stylings of Herman from the Munsters)–

Where’s the hotel?
Where’s the hotel?
(words and music by Muffin copyright 2010)

–and enjoyed the lazy light as it painted the trees and freeway flashing by in phosphorescent oranges and yellows.  The failed radiator cap was a little hiccup, perhaps, but as we are coming to understand, tiny mishaps like this are par for the course when moving halfway round the world, and best handled with a healthy dose of patience and a splash of humor for good measure.

As my dear friend Shakespeare once said:  All’s well that ends well.  Do you have any travel tales to tell, either good or bad?