Sometimes I wonder if my “rig” — a 2001 Nissan Pathfinder now rolling past a quarter-million miles — is sporting the vehicular equivalent of a “kick me” sign that you tape to someone’s back as a joke. Or perhaps it is wearing a target that can only be seen in a part of the light spectrum not visible to humans. Because stuff keeps happening.
I shouldn’t be too surprised. Methow Valley cars and trucks are subject to all kinds of potential indignities that urban dwellers are unlikely to encounter, and the Factfinder — my nickname for the aging SUV — blunders into its share. Or, more accurately, its driver does.
Deer strikes? Check — five so far in eight-plus years. Animals living inside? Check — under the hood, making nests out of things that the truck probably needs to operate. And something ate the power bars in the glove box. Cracked windshields? Check — the glass repair people and I are on a first-name basis. Ditch encounters of the snow-skid variety? Yes sir, a few, but not in recent years. The truck has no learning curve, but I’m trying to maintain one.
Like most owners of vehicles in the two-decades-of-service category, I’m spending more time calculating the cost-benefit ratio of keeping the rig running. Efficiency is a factor, as are comfort, reliability and safety, all of which come with a price — usually quoted by a mechanic, tire dealer, parts retailer or insurance agent.
I can quibble about how much oil it uses, or how badly the radio performs, or why the dashboard clock doesn’t work any more, or why the security alarm goes off for no apparent reason, or about the mileage figures that would make Greta Thunberg glare at me the way she stared down President Trump. But the Factfinder has been generally reliable, and it’s a good set of wheels for the valley’s challenging weather conditions. Plus, I can haul a lot of things around, when haulage is called for.
And, it’s been looking pretty good lately, thanks to a recent overlong and over-expensive stay in a body repair shop. The most-recent deer damage required a fair amount of work — which would have been fine if it had been limited to “fair.”
Repairs that were originally estimated to require a few days at a seemingly reasonable cost turned into two weeks in the shop and a bill that was more than three times the original estimate. Parts had to be ordered (they didn’t come). More damage was detected (of course). Explanations and estimates of a completion date were friendly but, after a week, unreliable.
The inconvenience was, well, really inconvenient. At least I wasn’t footing the bill. My insurance deductible is only $100. But my insurance company may wonder if they should have just declared the truck totaled, and might take another long, hard look at my coverage rates.
When I finally reclaimed the Factfinder, it looked great. It had been completely detailed, and was cleaner than it’s been since I drove it off a used car lot in 2011.
Then came Saturday.
I was headed to Winthrop on Highway 20 when something smacked my windshield with such force that it made me flinch, and left one of those little craters in the glass that will likely mutate into a crack. Probably a rock. Because I would hate to think it might have been a bullet. One more thing to take care of.
This week I’m having some mechanical work done, because it’s needed and I’ve put it off too long. But somewhere out there between now and 300,000 miles, I suspect there’s a day of reckoning coming for me and the Factfinder. I just hope at least one of us can stay out of trouble until then.
Play your part!
I stopped thinking, a long time ago, that it was beneath my dignity to use this column to ask the community for help. So here I shamelessly go again.
I am having a great time in rehearsals for the upcoming Merc Playhouse production of the psychological thriller “Rope,” which I’m directing — except for one thing. Despite relentless efforts to find a willing thespian, we still have one cast opening for a 20-something guy. It’s an attractive part, but doesn’t have a ton of lines to memorize. I can’t offer bribes or your name in bright lights, but our wonderful cast would welcome someone to join them and share in the fun. Me too. I know you’re out there. Don’t make me beg. All right, I’ll beg. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 997-7011 if you’re interested.