I grew more confident every day and allowed myself to drive a little faster, following the flow of cars, instead of keeping a steady 65 MPH like I used to since I left Montreal. That didn’t cause any issues, until we hit the Rocky Mountains from the west side.
Since the speed limit over there is 80 MPH, I kept a constant speed of 70, on cruise control, not thinking about how steep the climbing actually is and how hard it can be on an engine. I kept an eye on the gauges, making sure the heat stayed down, and it did.
But something happened coming down from the summit. There was a strange pull in the transmission, like someone was holding El Capitan back. Stupidly, I just stepped on the gas, hit the kick down and kept the pedal to the floor until the hill was over. It seemed to work. I did it again on the next climb, and again and again.
|Steep gets... steeper|
I lied down under the van and looked at everything. The transfer case was fine and nothing was leaking from the engine or under the transmission. Everything looked all right. I climbed back in and started to drive again. It went OK for a couple minutes, but the shaking and loss of power started again. I pulled over.
I couldn’t find anything wrong. We were getting closer to our destination, Boulder, but we still had 25 miles to go. I carefully drove back onto the highway, and hoped for the best. Not 5 minutes later, the whole thing started once again.
I was freaked. El Capitan was undriveable and I was on high nerves. There was a heavy silence and I was running out of options. I thought of calling the AAA, but what good would it do? I decided to drive as slow as I could, in late-day traffic, to try to reach my friends’ house in one piece. Upon reaching Boulder, I gave up.
I parked by the curb and gave my friend Dan a phone call. I asked for a reliable garage I could pull in, and he gave me an address. Chan’s on Folsom, he said, is an honest family-owned garage you can trust. I was just a couple streets away, so I decided to try and make it there. We did.
I pulled over at Chan’s, and walked in one of the bays. A woman walked out and came to me, sking if she could help. I told her about El Capitan and what he was doing. She asked where I drove from, and when I answered, she gestured for me not to worry and said “Your transmission overheated. Happens all the time.” She couldn’t take El Capitan in, but she said I should be able to drive a couple more miles.
At that point, my engine had been shut off for about 15 or 20 minutes overall. When I started the van again, it sounded way better. I carefully drove out of the parking lot, and things seemed better. I decided to drive to my friends’ house, and made it all right.
Upon getting to the house, I inspected my tires. They were not only badly worn out, but at an angle. El Capitan never was really well-aligned, but I’d pushed back the garage work to the next time I would get in and get new tires. Well, it seems that time has come.
|My new Khumo tires|
I got on the phone and a calm, quiet voice on the other side told me there might be room later in the day, to just drive in and ask for Dave. So I did. I got to Alpha & Omega on 49th and Pearl, pulled in and talked to Eric, the mechanic. I left El Capitan to their good care and walked away to get some lunch.
Two hours later, I walked back to find my van neatly parked and a smiling Dave in the office, finishing off a sandwich. He gave me a detailed analysis of El Capitan’s symmetry, adding “This kind of offset will sure chew your tires out”. I smiled, and said “It sure did”. He explained to me in detail the work that had been done, and I noticed the bandages on his left hand. Turns out he’d sawed off two of his fingertips a couple days ago, and didn’t want to spend the time and money at the hospital, so he just had them cleaned off and bandaged, and simply went home!
|Happy El Capitan at Dave's Alpha & Omega|
One thing’s for sure; anytime I’ll be in Boulder and need some mechanical work, Dave’s my man.