My van, circa 1970, is 40 years old this year. I wouldn’t have thought of celebrating the Old Lady’s oldness, but when my sister came out to visit last weekend, she insisted we go dig her out for some mid-winter fun. Of course, this birthday romp wasn’t all fun—especially when I accidentally shifted into fourth gear instead of second while going up the steep mountain road to Bachelor Gulch (as shown, at right).
I flooded the engine—smoking carburetors and all. At this point, my sister turns to me in the passenger seat and asks: “So. Should we call for a tow?” No, no way, I’m thinking. We were just getting going, and I wanted to spend the day skiing, not dealing with a cranky old vehicle. So I put on the flashers for a bit and gave the problem some serious thought.
We eventually got the Old Lady going again by popping the clutch, a suspect maneuver performed while letting a vehicle coast backwards and then letting out on the clutch, engaged in a forward-motion gear. Problem solved.
That little glitch overshadowed a series of smaller glitches that punctuated the morning’s activities. When I showed up at the place where I’ve got the van parked for the winter, two other vehicles were blocking it in. This necessitated a hidden key search, which turned up nothing:
So, the mechanic who owns the lot simply hooked a tow strap to both of the impeding vehicles and pulled them out of the way. Finally, the great fun of driving this vehicle up to Bachelor Gulch for a day of skiing at Beaver Creek erased the memory of these small difficulties in getting going (The Sister, cheering at left; yours truly, at right, trying to keep an eye on the road):
The highlight of the day probably involved the all-around excitement when we pulled up to the Ritz Carlton at Bachelor Gulch and asked that the Old Lady be valet parked. For me—someone who either rides the free shuttle to the ski hill or parks within walking distance to a lift—valet parking is a luxury. Period. So this was an exciting moment, and others at the Ritz Carton seemed to be having a good time with it, too.
My sister decided to do a video with commentary of the Old Lady’s retrieval, which turned out to be quite hilarious:
Maybe it’s just me, but I thought that the Old Lady, next to all of those other “luxury vehicles,” looked like she was holding her own.