I have to admit that I'm less than patient with cage repairs. I used to love working on my VW Beetles and Toyota Hilux pickup, but I have always hated cars in general and complicated cars in particular. I just don't live where cars live long enough to become vintage, if you drive them year-around. This place isn't called "The Rust Belt" as a joke. It's not funny at all, in fact. Getting the new $30 belt strung looked almost possible, from the start. The new belt is frozen into a tight, unyielding shape that has nothing in common with the Hawking-string-theory mess required to circumscribe the Ford's five pulleys. About an hour into the job and I discovered getting the belt wrapped around the pulleys requires the disassembly of about 1/2 of the right side of the engine compartment, elevating the car to be able to get to the underside of the crank pulley, and fingers twice as long and flexible and hands half as thick as mine. So, now I have power steering oil spilled under the car, engine bits spread out over half of the garage, and I'm no closer to getting the goddamned belt on the car than I was four hours ago. It's cold, the belt won't flex, my fingers are frost-burned from touching frozen metal, and nothing wants to go where it belongs.
While I worked on the POS car, about 6" of snow was collecting on the driveway. The temperature is dropping and I gave up for a day or two. I'm not sure if this job will require patience, more equipment than I own, or just the usual abundance of luck. The damn belt is twisted in the folded-up shape that Gates packages it and it refuses to take the shape required to stay on the pulleys long enough to set the tensioner.
Which brings me to the realization I received this week having done the cost-per-mile calculations for the bikes and car, quickly followed by the misery of working on a semi-modern car. "We gotta get outta this place." For the last 16 years, I've either enjoyed or pretty much tolerated the long cold of the frozen north. Last year was pretty much the end of that. Suffering in the constant cold while I rehabilitated my replaced hip was miserable. Twelve months later, I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital waiting to find out how badly a heart attack has botched up my old ticker. Again, recovering in the cold is a dismal affair. When my wife and explored the Oregon coast this January, I began to think "This ain't the hot setup."
You could bicycle year-around and still take an occasional trip to the mountains for a real winter if the urge struck (I can't imagine that, but it's possible.) I could can the who car-ownership crap and ride a bike or motorcycle for every transportation need I'll ever have. I do that here for 8 months out of the year, but Minnesota mass transit is pitiful and those four months are an overpriced waste of resources. Portland, for example, has a functioning urban rail system and an extensive bus line. The Cities are just now realizing that they and their 'burbs comprise a substantial city and are playing catch-up to the spare standards of the 1970s. I'm not going to live long enough to see a functioning winter transportation system here.
|1966 VW for sale outside of Portland.|
|1974 Hilux motor in all its complexity.|
Most guys would have a serious problem pulling off something like this because of their wives. Not me. My wife has hated winter for as long as we've been married, or longer. When I took my first Minnesota job, she was convinced that I was moving us her to force her to divorce me. She is a west coast lady and would sell everything we don't need, pack up what's left, and be ready to hit the road before I finished saying, "Ok, I give. Let's move to Portland." You can see she's a serious tree hugger and she likes to hug serious trees.
It's also possible that this, too, will pass. Every winter for the last five or six, I've burned out on the concept long before the misery was over. When my grandson quit playing in the snow with me, I sorta quit playing in the snow, too. We are part of a wonderful collection of Minnesota communities that I can't imagine replacing anywhere else in the country. By April, I will have forgotten winter altogether and be happily riding the bike to work every day, blissfully unaware that winter is just around the corner. Again. But I won't have to think about my car problems until sometime in late November and that's almost as good as not owning a car.