02 September 2008

Vacation Vexation

I am back from a short getaway in Lancaster, PA. It was almost perfect as I managed to avoid being caught in the midst of a shopping spree, three times! How ironic, being in the land of the Amish, who shun technologies and live simple farming lives, and what do most people in my party of twelve did? Of course, they have to shop, shop, and shop some more. Just because some items were on sale at $5 apiece they have to be bought even if the buyers already have x number of such items at home. Sure, just throw something away later to make room for this new batch.

My son did have a good time swimming in the small hotel pool, playing on many rides at Dutch Wonderland, and riding on a real steam engine at Strasburg Railroad. We ate at the famous Miller's Smorgasbord one evening and I had some computer time thanks to the lodge's free Wi-Fi, so everything so far were pluses.

We planned to stop by Weaver's Orchard on the way down but my brother-in-law, who I shall refer to as BIL, in the lead of the two-car caravan, missed the exit because he took a call just then and there. On the last day of the short trip, I avoided the third shopping excursion by going to Strasburg Railroad with my family and a nephew. We were supposed to meet at the orchard and I even beat the other car getting there, relying solely on my sense of direction and a local map, no GPS. Too bad the orchard was closed for the holiday. They sure live a slow life at that orchard, as they even close on Sundays, which should be a day the city slickers would visit to do the fun picking. Heading back to the PA Turnpike, I realized I had to wrestle with the steering wheel to make the car turn. Pulled over and popped the hood, to my auto-mechanic-challenged eyes nothing seemed to be wrong. To BIL's trained eyes, the belt was off its track, some A/C unit was loose thus giving slack for the belt to slip off. Something similar happened before when I was in the city and I was able to strenuously drive the car back to my local service shop, which was probably OK because it was just a few miles. Supposedly with no belt the fan does not turn and the car can become overheated and the engine may die and needs to be replaced. Definitely not what I want to do as I already own this car almost ten years.

We managed to get my bucket of rust to a local repair shop. I drove BIL's car pushing my own, steered by BIL. We happened to be on a hill top so there were just a few rises here and there but mostly it was a downhill roll. I had never done this business of pushing and was scared stiff. What if I push the car into a ditch or worse into oncoming traffic? My junk car does not worth much but there is a human life at stake here. Unlike in the movie, it was all eerily quiet except for the hum of the engine and ambient sounds off Route 10 South. If anything happened it would happened quietly except for the crash sounds, no dramatic music to be expected. I was going so slow BIL had to tell me to go faster, even up to speed limit. I also had to avoid bumping or risk his airbag popping out. Thank goodness for patient PA residents as a few cars at times were behind me but nobody honked or gave me the finger.

After what seemed like an eternity, we actually made it to the Exxon repair shop. As expected, the one person manning the shop and gas station could not do the repair. It was Labor Day Monday after all. I considered myself lucky to have a place to drop off the car. The lone shop attendant took my contact info and got it parked, awaiting the mechanic the next day. The twelve of us squeezed into BIL's minivan, some unneeded stuff left in my Voyager, and back to NYC we went. Per earlier arrangement, we met a nephew's minivan later on on the NJ Turnpike and the rest of the trip was less cramped.

That's it for this old Plymouth Voyager of mine. I will get it fixed just enough to make the 3-hour trip back and no more long distance trip for it. I'll seriously look for another used car, ideally one that is very gas efficient. I have no garage so my car is always parked on the street, exposed to all kinds of threats, including idiotic kids, sometimes adults, who play football on the street. No need to get a new thing just to get it made old in no time. Such is life in the big city.

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