Auto Parts Excursion Along With a Near Death Experience

My day…tagging along with tugboat man. When you’re the wife of a mariner, even slightly unpleasant tasks become opportunities to spend time together. Even this.

brakes1 Sitting in the car, looking though the camera lens, attempting to locate beauty in spite of it all.

Like this tree. How can it survive surrounded by concrete?brakes2Shapes against an azure sky. It’s about 77 degrees today!brakes3Trash that needs to be swept.


For one of Angel Boy’s birthdays, I think it was when he turned twelve in 1993, he and I went on a celebratory skiing trip to Big Bear, which is about three hours away.

To get there, you have to drive a scary hairpin turn curvy mountain road.

Before that day, I had been totally comfortable with my driving ability and had been all over the country by myself, well at least as far as Colorado.

After a wonderful day of skiing and snowboarding, we followed a long line of cars driving down the steep mountain road.

Halfway down, I noticed a burn-y smell, saw smoke, and my brakes weren’t responding.

I mean, I was frantically pumping them and the brake pedal pushed all the way to the floor and the car wasn’t slowing — NOT AT ALL — instead, it was picking up speed.


There was nowhere to turn and sheer cliffs to the right of us.

Just before I rammed into the car in front of us, a ranger station appeared on the right — the only problem was that I couldn’t slow down, and there was a sharp turn into a small driveway.

I told my son to put a pillow in front of his face. His response? “Why?” My answer? “JUST DO IT. WE MIGHT CRASH!” That’s my Angel Boy, always questioning authority but not really aware of what’s going on around him. (He probably had his head in a book.)

I pulled hard on the emergency brake at the exact moment that I wrenched the steering wheel and screeched over the curb to a complete stop. My heart was racing and I was aware of just how lucky we were to be alive. I still don’t think that my son realizes how close we came to a disaster that day.

Cars pulled over and offered support and comfort, as they said they didn’t think we were going to make it– everyone was talking about the runaway car, and this was well before most people had cell phones.

The ranger station was closed but there was a phone with a direct line to the highway patrol, and CHP arrived in a few minutes to assess our situation.

I was petrified, but not so out of it that I didn’t notice one of the officers was the most beautiful male specimens I’d ever seen in a long time (tugboat man excluded). He called a tow truck and we were towed to San Bernadino. The diagnosis was that my brakes got too hot — that’s all — and least that’s what I remember they said —  and by the time we reached the service station, everything was OK.

Angel Boy and I drove home — very slowly– and on a nice flat freeway. The next day I took the car to our mechanic and had him do a complete brake job even if it didn’t need it.

I always felt that we cheated death that March afternoon.

Ever since then, I become VERY panicky on mountain roads unless hub drives, and I’m too afraid to drive by myself, and I’m a FREAK about my brakes (different car) — he checks them for me all the time, which is how I ended up sitting in the car at O’Reilly’s in Oceanside. While he was away at survival training last week, I felt that there was something wrong and smelled the burn-y odor again. When he checked it out, he saw a real problem with the caliper and the brakes were “sticky” (whatever all that means). Anyway, being the kind of wonderful human that he is, he decided to replace the calipers, brake lines, and brake pads on both sides, even though only the right side was messed up.

Oh, and were you wondering where tugboat man was in 1993 and why he wasn’t skiing with us since we’ve been together since 1991? The company he (and I) worked for decided to expand to Hawaii and my future husband had recently sailed a 700 passenger vessel there from San Diego and was involved in establishing the business in Oahu, as well as doing a lot of surfing.


Wandering to Zion, Part Three

Our road trip adventure continues…only two more installments and then I’ll be back to writing sparkly + snarky commentary.

Confession: I’m a great co-pilot traveling companion. You would LOVE to have me in the passenger seat with you, I promise.

I keep the snacks flowing, conversation is stimulating, and I even throw a few dance moves in with jazz handskitty-jazz-hands at appropriate moments. Jazz hands are the BEST.

Kitty jazz hands are even better, don’t you agree?

We compiled a bunch of music for the road; stuff we both like; Frank, Ella, Nat King Cole, stuff I like; Adele and Christina Perri, and music hub enjoys; Coldplay, U2, Nine Inch Nail, Com Truise.

The next morning we hit the road to explore the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert. We walked pretty much throughout the whole park at every stop and trailhead. The sky wasn’t as blue as the day before so the colors weren’t as vibrant as they might have been.

Of course I compelled my tugboat man to accompany me to a gift shop for local wares, and we chose geodes, petrified wood, and a petrified sand dollar!aquageode hotpinkgeode petrifiedsanddollar petrifiedwood

It’s hard to believe this was all under the ocean a zillion years ago. Evidence of early human occupation (13,000 years ago) is readily visible with petroglyphs and potsherds.

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Our plan was to journey on the Highway 40 — old Route 66 — to Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah, between Hanksville and Blanding. It’s rather remote and not close to other parks so is not so heavily visited. Unlike Arches National Park with over 2,000 classified arches, there are only three bridges here though the monument also contains Anasazi cliff dwellings, pictographs and white sandstone canyons.

But…when we got back on the road, my tugboat man noticed that one of the dashboard gauges indicated that we were losing power.

Things didn’t look good.

We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

Although he packed a lot of tools, the one thing we needed most, something called a volt meter, was still at Casa de Enchanted Seashells.

Lucky for us (unlucky for lots of other cars that must break down on that road) we saw a hand painted sign for Mike’s Auto Repair and took the next exit.

Mike was like a lot of people we came in contact with in Arizona — sorta friendly, sorta not — and all business. He had a volt meter, and he and hub figured that our problem was either a bad battery or a bad alternator — or both.

We gave Mike a “donation” for the use of his diagnostic tool which ensured that our tires remained unslashed, and drove forty miles back to Holbrook, where there was an O’Reilly Auto Parts Store, just like there was in Payson where we had a less urgent car repair issue.

I was nervous the whole way — being stranded didn’t sound like it was any sort of adventure that I wanted to experience.

In Holbrook, we bought a battery which hub installed in a few minutes.

Everyone at O’Reilly (and hub)  thought that would/should solve the problem…and brushed aside my BRILLIANT and soon-to-be prophetic suggestion that we also purchase an alternator “just in case”.

We’ve gone on a lot of road trips and we’ve never had any problems, and so far this was our second mechanical failure in three days. For someone who has absolutely NO idea about what makes cars tick, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on parts that MIGHT break, right?

Can you guess where this is going?

We hadn’t gone more than one mile when the battery gauge indicated a problem in the electrical system  —  again.

Obviously not the battery this time, but hub said that somehow the battery wasn’t charging.


The alternator or the voltage regulator was probably at fault. Apparently, everything decided to fail at the same time. We immediately turned around back to O’Reilly and lucked out that they even had the right part in stock or we might still be there.


There’s a Dollar General on pretty much every corner throughout Arizona and I picked my way between broken glass and plastic bags across a trash strewn empty lot for a little retail therapy while hub was doing his best MacGyver impression. I went up and down every aisle but came away empty-handed; nothing caught my discerning eye. Oh well. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.carholbrook

Once again we settled in for a long ride. Because we had lost most of the day, we decided to change direction, skip National Bridges National Park and forge ahead to the Vermillion Cliffs at the The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah  – wandering ever closer to Zion.

Driving down Highway 40 — Old Route 66 — we both sang along with Nat to “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” I mean, how can you NOT, right?

route661 route662 route663 route664

Along the way, on the side of the road, were a couple of Navajo women selling jewelry. I screeched, “Pull over!!” to hub, and jumped out of the car. The tables were packed with handmade jewelry — turquoise, hematite, juniper beads, and baskets. I asked before I snapped, and got a big smile for the camera.jewelryNavajo

A pretty good haul, don’t you agree? I got a basket too, but forgot to take a pic.navajojewelryArriving in Page too late to locate a campground, we had our worst night EVER at Motel Sucks Six in Page, Utah at fake Lake Powell. Apparently, this was a busy time for Page, as all the hotels were booked. The fact that Motel Six had any room available was NOT a good sign.

My travel tip to everyone is to avoid this Motel Six if at all possible. Especially Room 239. 

You’re welcome.

Next stop: Vermillion Cliffs!



Part One and a Half…Wandering to Zion

Monday, April 14…7:00 a.m.

Coffee, check. Dressed in cute hiking outfit, check.

Ready to take on the day with Chanel and sturdy but stylish hiking boots when my prudent tugboat man decided to re-investigate the source of the squeaks under the hood.

He walked over to O’Reilly Auto Parts, conveniently located next door to this five-star establishment, chatted up the problem with the auto experts, and determined that the sounds are associated with the possibility that a bearing could freeze up and shred all the pulleys and belts and we’d be really in a pickle. (See, I do listen to him some of the time   uh, hardly any of the time.)

Ever the prepared captain, he brought tools with which to perform the delicate repair which means I have an hour to sit in the hotel room and enjoy this fine view.

Comfort Inn, Payson, Arizona outsidehotel

Stuff like this — abrupt changes in plans —  don’t really bother me when I’m on vacation;  I’ll read for a bit, write a bonus post, and re-pack my gear.

What are you guys doing today?


I forgot to include this photos from yesterday’s drive around Palm Springs and Coachella. 

There’s still a bit of snow on Mt. San Jacinto.

Look at all these windmills!. There are thousands of them. It’s too bad so many birds are killed by the wind generating system.

windmills palm springs