Snake eyes


I love an adventure, but I’m beginning to think that I’m just plain too old to be rollin’ the dice like I have with cars, boats, trucks and motorcycles. I have been extremely lucky on purchasing these things online and sometimes traveling great distances to get them. Florida, Louisiana, California (twice), Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and plenty locally. There’s a challenge in buying a $500 truck more than 3,000 miles away and driving it home alone, spending every other night sleeping in it at rest areas. There are the people I’ve met, the roadside repairs and folks who stop to help, and the sights and sounds of places I’ve never seen before. I’ve only had to call AAA once, and we were almost home with one of my cheap treasures.

Back in February I bought a 1993 Volvo 240 from a guy who got it from a lady in Princeton, N.J. It is rust free, runs great and is fun to drive. I love this car! Imagine my surprise when I saw one on my favorite online site that was nearly identical. I figured if one was great, two of these gems would be awesome, and everyone bidding on it was nickel-diming it, so I knew I was up against a bunch of cheapskates. Sure enough, when all was said and done I paid more than the cheapskates wanted to pay, but I still got it cheap, cheap, cheap. I mean, throw away cheap. All I had to do was go to Silver Spring, Md., to pick it up. No problem.

My fiancee and I readied ourselves for a road trip. I made reservations at a hotel in Newburgh, N.Y., because we were leaving on a Friday evening and had an engagement to attend first. I packed some tools, a gallon of motor oil and a gallon of antifreeze, a pair of walkie talkies and some Gatorade. We made it to Silver Spring around lunch time the next day. The owner turned out to be a decent sort and we followed him to the place where he had the car stored. It had been sitting for a while but started right up. I hooked up the GPS, set an intermediate destination designed to keep us off the interstates for a while to see show it ran.

It seemed to run OK, but it had an oil leak that I knew about before purchase. I wanted to try some stop leak, so we stopped at a Pep Boys in York, Penn. When I got back to the car it would not start. I fiddled around with the distributor cap, shot some starting fluid into it, and she ran ... for about 2.5 miles, just past the Harley Davidson Factory. This time we ended up having to go back to the parts store in our Subaru to get the one thing I did not bring, a set of jumper cables. We got back to the car, hooked it up as traffic whizzed by and got it running. I drove it gingerly for about 50 miles, and at a stop light in Temple, Penn., it pretty much died for good. A great young couple who were in the local Fire Department and Rescue Squad stopped to help, and proved invaluable at getting us out of Temple.

Long story made a lot shorter, I ended up deciding to cut my losses and make for home. We didn’t get back home until 3 a.m. In that time we talked it over and made the decision to let the tow company have the car and call it good. The cost of going down with my car trailer, and the time it would take made it well worth it to let the Volvo go. Sometimes you just have to know when to fold ‘em. So what did I take from this experience? You can play the odds just so many times before you get burned, and this one just didn’t work out. I’ve had fun doing this sort of thing, but the long car trips are getting old, and the huge adrenaline dump that happens when you are scrambling to keep a car going in an unfamiliar place is just too much. So you roll the dice and you take your chances, and this time it was snake eyes.

Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.


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