MT4 Day Three: Dropping your tranny

September 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

The service people at DCH Torrance Toyota are so helpful. My wife brought in our cherry 2002 Camry for a check-up, which only has 188,000 miles on it, a few cubic yards of rust and a dent or two. A nice Japanese lady bringing an old car to the dealer to “see if everything is okay” is like bringing a suitcase of cash to an Orange County loan mod company and asking if they can “get your home loan modified.”

A couple of hours after she dropped it off, we got the call, replete with the serious, official voice of someone calling to tell you of a death in the family.

“Hello, ma’am. I’ve got some bad news about your Camry. What with all that high mileage, your transmission seals have given out. It’s leaking fluid and we’re going to have to replace them. Unfortunately that means we’ll have to pull out the entire transmission.”

My wife was frightened; the only seals she’d ever seen were at the zoo. How had they gotten into our transmission? I had more practical concerns. We had just sold our youngest son’s French horn and laptop computer to pay for my new set of Zipp 404’s, so money was tight. “What’s that going to cost?” she asked.

“You’re looking at about $1,800, ma’am.”

The phone was on speaker and she saw the color drain out of my face as I thought about not being able to get the 2012 Ironfly kit and special-edition StageOne bib shorts with matching jersey. “Can we call you back?” she said.

That tranny ain’t broken, sir, but the car sure is a P.O.S.

Next day I was on the phone with Luis, who runs Auto Express, just behind the carwash on Hawthorne and Spencer. “Sure, I can take a look,” he said. “Replacing the seal will run you about $900.” That afternoon he phoned back. “Well, sir, I’ve looked it over, top to bottom, and your transmission is fine. There’s no leak, the fluid level is full, and the transmission is functioning perfectly. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to charge you $90 for the work. But the car, you know, it’s not in the greatest shape.”

I shelled out that $90 so quickly that it gave me paper cuts, and shook his hand as I trembled for joy. I could now tell my wife that he’d replaced the seals, then pocket the car repair money buy the kits, and still have money left over for important cycling goods. It occurred to me that the contrast between Luis and DCH couldn’t be more stark: He worked on Sunday. They were closed. He charged half. They charged double. He supported his business through honesty. Their business model was based on something less noble. About that time I noticed that the a.c. was no longer working.

Your transmission is fine, but the rest of you is not

Day 3 of MT4 is different things to different mantourists. For those who have logged the miles and put in their saddle time, it’s the first day the legs start off a bit heavy. For those who just did the minimum, the legs haven’t recovered from Day 2, and it’s going to be a tough slog. For those whose first hard ride of the year was two days before, the morning of Day 3 brings the nasty, grim, sickening realization that you’re stuck in a hinterland hundreds of miles from home, you’re sore, angry, filled with self-pity and loathing the prospect of looking at another man’s fat, sweaty ass for the next three days.

Day 3 leaves Big Sur Inn straight up a long climb that begins rather hard and quickly becomes intensely painful. Sta-Puf hits the bottom of the gradient and after the first 500 feet begins to sweat a strange, unhealthy looking substance resembling mucous, blood, urine, and beer. Everyone sprints by Sta-Puf so that they don’t get hit by the slime when he explodes. Adding to the humiliation, MT4’s 75 year-old human prune dances atop the pedals, easily outdistancing those who are forty years younger and a hundred times more hung over.

Cheeseburgers, fries, and collapse at Ragged Point

After cresting the first climb, the road rolls up and down along the coast for 55 miles. With steep pitches, short drops, and one long, leg-breaking ascent before the rest stop at Ragged Point, this section of MT4 is perhaps the toughest. So far. The only food items at the rest area are burgers and lard, and everyone is so tired and famished that they bolt first and cramp later.

The dismal group remounts, cold and stiff, and the real slog begins. The problem, people start to realize, isn’t the transmission, it’s the overall vehicle, which is shot. For another forty miles the mantourists push into the wind, sour, tired, cranky, angry at themselves for signing up for the punishment, and angrier at their wives for letting them. By the time the thoroughly beaten contingent rolls into Morro Bay, no one cares that it’s beautiful beyond words. No one cares that some poor bastard had to sit on the front and drag their sorry asses all the way in. No one cares about anything except the heated iron pole that fees like it’s been shoved up their ass, the burning creaks in the knees, the incipient Shermer’s neck, and the horrible deprivation of having to spend seven hours in the saddle without beer. They are so tired they’ve even stopped telling lies about their ex-girlfriends.

“Man Tour” doesn’t mean you can’t whine like a spoiled brat

The filthy, salt-stained, stinking, bitching, whining, dessicated, exhausted mantourists reach Morro Bay in a foul mood indeed, but the beer deprivation part they remedy immediately. Miraculously, the mood improves. Sta-Puf’s ooze turns to ordinary blood. Gonzo’s head sprouts giant redwoods again. Ol’ Prune tells us what it was like as a boy growing up in South Africa, when he was so poor that he had to milk stray dogs to feed his family. By the fifth case of Milwaukee’s Best, the worst of the day is forgotten, and the living hell that will be Day 4 has been put off for what seems like eternity.

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