Increasingly, traditional New Year’s resolutions seem to be falling by the wayside, supplanted by the practice of choosing a specific word as a focus for the coming weeks and months. The words vary as much as the people choosing them, of course. ‘Kindness,’ ‘hygge,’ ‘organize,’ and ‘persist’ all have been adopted by friends in the past.
I’ve never chosen a single word to guide my year, but I may have found a song worthy of holding onto in the coming months. The story of how that song came into my life is worth a short retelling.
I’d taken a long weekend to visit the Texas hill country in seach of fall color. Not long after I rounded the curve shown in the photo above, the alternator in my car went out. I reached a shop capable of doing the repair, but learned they didn’t have the correct alternator in stock. I’d have to wait until the next day to get back on the road. Still, they promised they could have the work completed by nine or ten o’clock in the morning, and that was fine.
On the other hand, I was stuck in a town I didn’t know with nothing but my wallet, my camera, and my phone; my other possessions were tucked into the bed and breakfast where I’d been staying — thirty miles away. After a good Samaritan overheard me discussing my plight with the shop owner, he put me in touch with a woman who managed local B&Bs, and she found a spot for me only a block off Bandera’s main street.
The auto repair shop was kind enough to provide transportation to my home-for-the-night. Once settled, I walked over to Main Street, sat down in front of a still under construction Best Western, and pondered my options. I happened to have the phone number of a blogger in town, so I called and asked him for dinner recommendations. “I’m across the street from two restaurants: Gringo’s and Mi Pueblo,” I said. “Which would you chose?” Gringo’s, it would be. I picked up a meal, stopped at the Dollar Store for a toothbrush, toothpaste, lipstick, and comb, and headed back to my temporary home.
The next morning, my car was ready to go at 9 a.m. A young man from the shop picked me up, I paid my bill, and headed down the road. After collecting my belongings from the bed and breakfast where I’d been expecting to stay, I was on my way home.
Then, forty miles down the road, every light on the car’s dashboard came on. My Princess coughed, vibrated, shuddered, and stopped. This time, I managed to make it into a parking lot at a convenience store, where I began again to ponder my options.
After a quick internet search, I found another auto shop five miles down the road that was willing to do a quick diagnosis. I called AAA, and in less than two hours their driver appeared, put my car up on his truck, and headed down the road to Bulverde. When we arrived, the mechanics confirmed what two Hispanic fellows in the parking lot had feared: the original repair had been poorly done, hoses had been left unsecured, the water pump was kaput, the radiator was empty, and my overheated engine had no compression. It was, as they say, a brick. “Hey!” one of my new friends said. “You’re going to need a new engine.”
Obviously, things became complicated, quickly. The owner of the shop that performed the original repairs agreed to have the car towed back to Bandera for another attempt at repairs. Homeless in the hill country, I found a room at the Bulverde Hampton Inn, and made arrangments for a rental car. The next afternoon, Enterprise picked me up, and after one more night in Bulverde, I drove back home to begin waiting to learn when my car would be roadworthy again.
Four days later, I was back on the road to Bandera. I dropped the rental car in Kerrville, had a friend drive me to Bandera, and picked up my car. Princess had a new engine (with sixty thousand fewer miles than her old one), a new radiator, a new water pump, new hoses, and a new alternator. The shop owner not only took responsibility for the damage, he wrote a check for the cost of the rental car. As he said, “We were the last ones to work on your car, and you only made it forty miles away from the shop. Our bad.”
On my third attempt to get home, I had nearly reached Rosenburg before the warning lights came on again. No longer shy about asking for automotive advice, I pulled into a Jiffy Lube. Their opinion was that I could make it home, but that I should have Toyota check things out. When I started up again, the warning lights were off, and I had no more problems.
I reached the Toyota dealership twenty minutes before closing time, and promised not to fall apart in their lobby if they’d only give me an appointment for the week before Christmas. They did, and the diagnosis was a single bad cell in the battery: enough to cause the ‘check engine’ light to come on even though the car would start. When they explained the battery was under warranty and I’d be responsible for only half the cost of a new one, all I could do was laugh.
Which brings me back to my song for 2021. After picking up my rental car in Bulverde, I discovered it had Sirius XM. When I clicked on the band and turned up the volume, I couldn’t stop laughing. Steve Winwood’s advice seemed especially apropos, and I decided to take it. The same advice may be useful somewhere down the road, now that I’m rolling again. Perhaps it will be useful to you.