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There are only a few things that terrify me on the road. Car troubles is one of them. The others are total isolation, being forgotten and birds. Yes, birds! Listen, they used to rule the planet and they’re waiting for the right moment to strike to take the planet back! The more we fight the environment the closer the birds get to accomplishing their goals!
Car troubles is the fear of your temporary home immobilized for good leaving you stranded and alone somewhere only to fend for yourself amongst the wilderness. The other is long stretches of road with absolutely no milkshakes in sight. And lets be honest, this fear combines all my fears into one horrifying experience.
Usually it’s not that bad. But I’ve had my fair share of car troubles in 7 years of being on the road. From brakes to getting stuck on a snowy mountain (that’s a bit of a different story though) to unexplainable things. And each time I’ve faced these issues, this Indian agnostic considers praying. Maybe it’ll be the moment God shows themselves to me. Doubt it but it’s the thought that counts.
My fiance, Liss and I have been on the TransContinental Tour, for the entirety of the summer, about 3 and a half months. And of course we faced some car troubles on the road. As we approached San Antonio our car’s engine cut it’s power, making it impossible for us to accelerate the car beyond 2.5 RPMs. Google search results called it limp mode. And the cause is literally anything from the air filter, electronic disturbance, oil change to transmission problems all the way to engine death. I could hear the wolves getting ready to feed. Sure we weren’t in wolf territory, but fear based metaphors don’t care what part of the country you’re in.
We let the car cool off, figuring it was just the overwhelming heat of the Texas desert. And then it was fine. We did our show and met some great folks in San Antonio! About a week or so later as we were driving to Albuquerque the car kicks back into limp mode.
“Are you there God, it’s me, the kid that’s been critical of your institutions and your existence in general…”
This happens a few times on a 4 hour drive. Time to take it to a mechanic. We find one that had decent reviews in Albuquerque. Yelp can be your best friend on the road.
Finding a good mechanic on the road can be tough. You don’t know who’s going to rip you off and start rattling off things you need to do the car and until they do, they can’t “legally” let you leave their lot. I’ve had someone say that to me…and I asked to give me my keys before I called someone. I didn’t specify who, but that was enough to get my keys back. I was just going to call my mom and tell her some mean men have my car…
After an hour he ran codes that said our transmission needed to be taken apart to find the problem.
He recommended us to his friend and his friend immediately wanted to tear it apart. I asked him for a quote and he couldn’t give me one. And then recommended we rent a car, leave ours there for a month and then come back for it after he did whatever he need to do to it. Clearly this guy wasn’t familiar with what it means to be a blue collar artist. On DIY Tours, gas station coffee can be a splurge. A rental car will break the bank…all of them. And then what? We’d be in another national crisis because I need my transmission fixed. No thanks. I don’t need that kind of weight on my shoulders!
We moved along to Phoenix where our friends Genevieve and Jeff gave us a great place to rest. Plus the show was in their living room the next day. They are gems in the Phoenix scene! The highlights during this stressful part of the tour was the lovely shows and people we met along the way. That made this struggle a little easier to get through.
“Hey God nevermind. I found something else to believe in. You can go back to your vacation!”
We found out we’d have to replace the transmission and it’d cost $4000! See Nissan, the brand of car I drive, decided to make parts that were specifically made only for their cars. It was a measure to save costs for them and the consumer. Sounds nice but it’s not. It doesn’t allow you to fix anything just put the same bullshit part back in the car to repeat this cycle over again. Capitalism at its best!
At this point my nerves are shot. I sat on the bed in our private room in Genevieve’s house wondering how I’m going to come up with all this money. I now knew how every character in the Mafia movie who owed money to mob felt. I was terrified that I was going to need a necessary element to make a living. So I had a panic attack and basically decided to sell the car, quit Stand Up, get an office job which would eventually lead to me taking my own life…
Maybe I could just fake my own death and live in the mountains somewhere…But then I’d have a learn how to hunt and I don’t if I’m the type of guy who can take the life of another living creature. That options not great either…
Yes, these options were dramatic, but that was panic induced hopelessness and it usually leads to dramatic statements and a significant amount of pouting. Eventually through the help of my fiance and the aforementioned show, the feelings of panic seemed to subside.
Our friends in the desert of Tucson looked at the transmission and found nothing wrong with it. The mystery continues. So we headed to the Pacific Coast. And for a while it was good. No limp mode. Smooth sailing.
Then we go back to the dry arid plains of Idaho, Wyoming and Western Colorado in July. Limp mode. It struck again! What could it be? We did more research and discovered another flaw in the Nissan design. There’s not enough coolant going to the transmission, which overheated, the sensors got confused and then limped the car to prevent further damage.
The logical solution here would be to fix these design flaws. Nissan has not. Just an FYI, there are thousands of complaints on the National Highway Safety Departments website about this issue. Neither has done anything for this problem. It turns out profit margins don’t work on logic but rather exploitation.
Our solution: an after-market transmission cooler that we needed to add to cool the transmission appropriately. Basically what our friend said was the radiator is too small and isn’t sending enough coolant to decrease the temperature of the transmission as well as the engine block. Hence why the transmission needs it’s own cooler to compensate for this.
I mean yeah, Googling helped us arrive to this conclusion. God is no where to be present. Not even one sign! And where was the Nissan corporation on this? Also nowhere to be found. I mean they have a physical address but in terms of being helpful they didn’t do much. I imagine they’re sitting in a dark room filled specific parts, counting their cash and lighting cigars with poor people’s money.
Fortunately our friend Stetson was able to help us out! He got it fixed in an hour. We got to support his business and do some kick ass shows in Fayetteville. Several wins all around!
I have found that when I’m in trouble on the road I’m not actually alone. The thought is there. The one where I’ll die failing to make rabbit stew because I can’t kill the damn thing or get eaten by pack of wolves. These thoughts aren’t what I want to make my decisions out of. The reality is I’ve got people around me that are happy to help and I’m to help them in return. I’m might not be able to fix a car but perhaps share a nice meal or lend them an ear. For the most part I don’t have to be controlled by my fear because people will usually help.