The Path of Totality: The Repair Adventure

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Published on The Doomstead Diner on September 3, 2016

At last, customer service!

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Regular visitors know that on my way to experience the eclipse with RE my transmission decided to switch into 'limp home mode' where the top gear becomes second gear and 5000 rpm only gets you 40 mph in a car that can cruse all day at 100 mph.  This happened out of cell phone range at 3 AM eastbound on I-90 three miles into Montana.  But I did not limp home.  Instead I continued in 'limp to eclipse' mode figuring wrongly that there were as many Mercedes dealerships ahead of me as there were behind me.  The human brain is built to deceive.  RE and Brian who RE was traveling with, met me after I could get them on the phone when I once again came into phone range and could tell them I was in trouble. 

They were just a couple of hours ahead of me having spent the night in Drummond MT. My saviors RE and Brian met up with me in Anaconda Montana where Lee a tow truck driver from Butte, trucked my Mercedes away to his lot in Butte MT wearing one of our rare and precious Path of Totality Tshirts for his eclipse weekend enjoyment and we were on our way to Rexburg.

Lee promised to deliver my car to the Mercedes dealership in Missoula after the eclipse and he did exactly that on Tuesday just as he had promised to do. Unfortunately I foolishly assumed that the Mercedes dealership in Missoula would be able to fix my Mercedes. My mistake. How could I be so foolish? I was totally wrong and the only way my car was going to be fixed in less than a month was if I towed it to a real Mercedes Dealership which the Missoula outfit turned out to be in name only. Missoula has the big round Mercedes logo but only one mechanic and one salesman. Both claiming to be overworked. This so called dealership is part of a larger umbrella dealership that serves several other brands. The owner, DeMarois Buick GMC has an impressive website http://www.demarois.mercedesdealer.com/ but if you visit the actual brick and mortar or in this case glass and steel as I did, you find the 'dealership' is a double garage which passes for a showroom featuring just three cars, two small, and a desk next to several other identical double garages selling other brands. A cosmic joke which I had foolishly towed my car to. Had Missoula the time to even diagnose my problem and the time to work on my car, fixing it in Missoula would have made sense and the $350 plane ticket back to fetch it would have been a bargain. Sadly the Missoula Mercedes mechanic is backed up for weeks. If someone wants to be a Mercedes mechanic there is a job open for one in Missoula right nowMissoula might be a place to survive collapse a lot better than other places will. The Clark Fork River valley is beautiful and there could be doomstead possibilities in the area. After the eclipse and my visit to the Missoula 'dealership' I returned to Seattle and rented a car for the week.

Here it is getting gassed up for its return to Sea-Tac airport yesterday.

K-Dogs Rental

K-Dogs Rental

I rented the car and the salesman who sold me my Mercedes a year ago got me in touch with Olga who arranged to have my car moved to Seattle from Missoula. Things would have been great if Olga stayed in touch with me but once she had my info and told me my car would be picked up in Missoula on Saturday she disappeared and would not return emails or phone messages at all. The Russian mafia now had my car and they were not about to meet with me until I had cash in hand and I could exchange it for my car in a remote parking lot face to face meeting at a date a time of their choosing, Breaking Bad Style.

Without knowing this would be my horrorshow future I authorized my car be picked up by phone last Saturday in Missoula but by Wednesday I was calling back tracking it down from the Missoula end. The job had been contracted out to a Spokane trucking outfit and they had my car 20 miles out of Tacoma when I found out where it was and who had it. I also knew what Olga's cut was and figured I was paying her enough for the wheels not to stop moving on this delivery. I also figured that because of the payment issue, cash or money order only, she would not be giving me my car back before Friday as it would take Thursday to pass to her lot in Sumner from Tacoma so she could plan on which remote parking lot to deliver it to me for the face to face.

I jest, the agreement was to deliver it to the Seattle Mercedes dealership and the transaction took place in their parking lot. I met Olga's driver next to the Mercedes dealership in Seattle about noon on Friday. Here is my car on his truck. It has been on at least five trucks to get from Anaconda MT to Seattle WA. He rolled it off and I paid him. Then I drove my car a few hundred feet to the Mercedes service department.

My car about to roll off the last truck.

A work order was filled out and waiting. My experienced changed once the Seattle Dealership had my car. They had the problem diagnosed by the end of the day. They are very helpful. A transmission 'pressure plate' needs to be replaced and this will involve a full transmission service. A part has been ordered. Now that they have my car to fix, Mercedes of Seattle could give me a loaner so I was able to return my rental car without extending my rental contract. I naturally did not want to extend the contract and I was in fear of having to do exactly that after Olga disappeared.

I returned the car rental car yesterday, Saturday morning. So after the week long move of my car from Missoula at about $1.50 a mile I dropped off the rental car at the SeaTac rental car terminal.

 

Rental Car Terminal

Then I walked about a third of a mile to the International Boulevard Light rail station. Facing the opposite direction from the last photo you can see the light rail station. The hardest part of this trip was figuring out how to walk out of the rental car terminal. The normal way to get to the terminal is by car or bus and the normal way to get to the light rail would be to take a bus to the main Sea-Tac airport terminal where there is a builtin light rail station. That seemed foolish. A mile bus ride to get to Sea-tac Airport or a short walk to the next rail station down the line. I chose the walk. It was a beautiful day and not yet too hot. I had to ask how one gets out of the rental car terminal on foot.

International Boulevard – Seattle Light Rail Station

Experiencing the public in their various states of cluelessness caused me to lose some forward momentum yet I made steady progress and at last a train approached. My fare to the 'Stadium' terminal was $2.75

Waiting for the train.

The train is a nice link between the Airport and downtown Seattle. The line is still being built. It starts out on an elevated track for several miles from the Airport but drops down to ground level to pass through some south end neighborhoods. Stimulating the economics of these neighborhoods was part of the overall plan though there are only four stops in these neighborhoods since the route is primarily express oriented. I once lived a few blocks away from the route long before it was built. It rises again to be elevated before passing into a tunnel which seems about a mile long through a hill. In the middle of this hill is a station with elevators 100 feet up to the top of the hill where a main north south street passes by. The Beacon Hill neighborhood. Next the train passes through the SODO (south of downtown) area of Seattle where I got off and walked to the Mercedes dealership to get my service loaner. Through and north of downtown the train becomes a subway, the north end of the route is still being dug. It will eventually go many miles under the north end to a stop at the University of Washington and North Gate, an original old school north end shopping center.

The train.

On the train.

The 'SODO' stop would have worked out better but the Stadium stop is the one I used. It was about a five-teen minute walk to the Mercedes dealership.

At last, customer service!

Once there I showed my proof of insurance, my license, and a credit card as a deposit for damages and I was off and going in my free loaner car. My eclipse adventure is still not quite over but it is now only one car switch and a bill payent away!

Can it really go that fast?

The service loaner.

The observant among you will notice the 1990 300E in the upper left of the picture which we own. If that car were in running condition I would not have needed a rental car or the loaner. Mrs Dog's car is also parked to the left but you can't see what it is.  It is much like my car which is being repaired. Unfortunately we often work different hours so we cound not easily share it and the repair of the 300E is a job in itself.  Yet what do my personal woes have to do with collapse and the Diner other than being a part of the Path Of Totality tripI hope my experience entertains but the Path of Totality trip itself may seem like a contradiction to some. A bunch of people who worry about collapse all burning fossil fuels for apparently no good reason.

I'll jump to the answer. The snarky answer is "When in Rome burn like Rome" but seriously it is important that Diners meet. We can't have any community unless actual face to face meetings take place and physically re-positioning oneself for collapse will be important. This means travel. The irony is that this will require burning fossil fuels.  I also am way past the 'we have to change the world' reaction.  That is a newbie knee-jerk reaction, I had it, but as an experienced Diner I know THE WORLD DOES NOT WANT TO BE CHANGED.  All we can do is connect with like-minded people and figure out how to survive.  Like-minded people, experienced diners also learn, are hard to find and can live hundreds or even thousands of miles apart.  We have to all ironically learn to be mobile so that we can perhaps find a place together where being mobile becomes unecessary.

This trip stressed to me the importance of being prepared for collapse and let me clearly know I am not ready. RE's obsession with boondocking seems very well placed. It is a way to prepare or at least it is a means by which we can understand what preparing for collapse really means.

5 Responses to The Path of Totality: The Repair Adventure

  • EtyerePetyere says:
    • Mrs. Dog says:

      Due to my interest in the 'Totality Experience' before, during and after, I read K Dog's account of his past several weeks concerning vehicles, roads involving several states, Eclipses, collapses, new friends  (shout out to RE) and four wheels.  I laughed throughout.  I clicked on the Youtube link left below K Dog's entry and listened to the entire 20 plus minutes. I suggested that a disclaimer be added to the link, lest someone think Doomstead Diners and AutoExpert hold the same racist, homophobic, offensive thinking. The sooner one can distance oneself from AutoExpert and followers, the better.

      • Disaffected says:

        You lost me with all the references to links and what not, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this little tale of automotive misadventure in the "wilds" of what little remains of the American Pacific Northwest. "Buyer beware" remains the watchword of those who still have money, and "better stay close to home" is even better advice for the rest of us. I have a fairly expensive American/German made car, which I grudgingly put 6K miles/yr on. Works just fine for that and looks real nice too, but an expensive luxury nonetheless. It will be my last.

        • K Dog says:

          You did not watch the TV mini-series 'Breaking Bad' so I lost you with my links.  I have been compared to Walter White the main character by people who know me.  Fortunately an improved version, but you would not know that.  Doing it over again I'd appreciate better that the audience out there, and if your are reading this that is you, has less in common with my own experience.  It is a mistake we all make.

  • K Dog says:

    Update September 9th,

    My Car

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The Car is repaired and here it is in my driveway.  The conductor plate in the transmission was replaced.  A process which requires special equipment to match the plate to the individual transmission.  Software is involved to match the plate with the car.  Not many places can do this repair.  I looked up what the conductor plate is.  All I can say is that it is a strange device which I believe reads data from the transmission and sends it to the car's computer.  I am guessing.  Here it is.

    E350 Conductor Plate

    It was observed in inspecting the engine that a belt was fraying because of a bent tensioner pulley.  That was also fixed.   Ca-Ching Ca-Ching Ca-Ching.

    The rape of our credit cards aside I am very happy to have my car back and working as it should.  In fact it is working better.  I think my ride is nicer than the late model service loaner I had while my transmission work was being done.  Overall they are similar cars.   Perhaps it was because the service loaner was 'bare bones' where mine has lots of options.  Perhaps it was the color scheme.  I don't know, but it was good to drive mine again and have a perfectly functioning transmission.

    Running a car that is usually used only for local trips in a big city on a long essentially non-stop trip such as from Seattle to Anaconda Montana as I did; seems in my experience to improve engine operation.  If true the effect must be temporary but perhaps the new conductor plate is responsible for my suddenly increased gas mileage.  At least in part. 

    Before the transmission failed I was getting the best mileage I ever got in this car, at 27  miles a gallon, but that was fun-fun-fun on the I-90 autobahn.

    Typically I'd go to work and a half a mile from home I'd see 17 miles a gallon bumping up from 16 on the residential streets as the engine warms up.  Now I am seeing 19 bumping up to 20.  On the local freeway which is a mix of flying along at 70 mph or being stopped dead in a total bumper to bumper clusterfuck I'd formerly see 20 mph before the path to the eclipse trip.  Now I am seeing a strong 22 MPG but it is a situation where your mileage does vary. 

    The first day I had my car back I saw 24 MPG for my entire commute to work.  It was rare that I would see more than 21 before the repair.  This improved mileage would pay for the entire shipping and repair bill in gas savings over about ten years. 

    That of course will not happen but I'll take what I can get.

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