Is the Journey really the Reward?
I had a goal: Take our family Pontiac Safari wagon to Santa Maria this year for the West Coast Kustoms Memorial Day weekend show. I also had a problem- The car had a bunch of small mechanical items that needed to be sorted before I packed the wife and kids in the car and safely drove it 500 miles round trip: The radiator core was weeping, a rear wheel cylinder was leaking, and the front wheels had a little play. There was one other problem: I was traveling extensively for work and had precious little spare time to wrench on the car before the trip. In the small window that I was home, I pulled the radiator and dropped it off to be recored, then replaced the hoses, champs and thermostat in anticipation of the reinstallation. New wheel cylinders and brake shoes were ordered, as well as front wheel bearings, which might have accounted for the front wheel slop. When I got back from my work trips, it was down to a day and a half to button everything up on the wagon, pack the family bags, drop the dog off, and hit the road. Radiator went back in first, and fluids were replaced by lunchtime with no problems. Then I realized time was running out to get everything done, and last minute help was needed… Quickly. In a moment of desperation I called a mobile brake mechanic to come over and replace the wheel bearings, swap the back brake shoes and cylinders, then bleed the whole system. The work was done before sunset, and our family could finally start loading up for the Holiday road trip.
In the morning we hit the highway, hoping to beat the epic Memorial day weekend traffic, and ready to create memories and have a fun family bonding experience. However, within 40 miles there was an evil grinding sound that grew into a shutter, and then a series of violent clunks. We came to an emergency stop on the shoulder the freeway and I popped off the wheel cover to confirmed my suspicions- The new wheel bearings had completely grenaded, and we were hopelessly stuck. A flatbed tow was called and I texted the mobile mechanic to tell him it was ‘game over’ for the car show. The text came back- “I know what bearings you need, and I can be there in an hour”. The tow driver arrived within a half hour and took the wounded Safari (along with my entire family) safely to a coffee shop parking lot, rather than all the way back home. We got the kids food and within another half hour, the mechanic arrived with new Timkin bearings in hand. Turns out the first bearings the parts store sent were the wrong ones, that unfortunately fit my car! Within an hour the bearings were swapped and the Pontiac ready to roll again.
Long story short, and after some horrendous Holiday traffic, we made it to Santa Maria safe and sound later that night… All thanks to a caring mechanic, a patient family, and an old car journey with some painful twists. The reward? We managed to have some great moments on the road, laughing, telling stories, and yes, bonding in a 62 year old car. And my kids will have some great stories to tell their kids someday!