Some adventures are less fun than others


… but it is always an adventure.

Friday, we went to Capitol Kia, where Jacky bought a red Soul+ (mine is white). The dealers swap cars on demand, and they had to get this one from a dealer in Concord, so even though Jacky concluded the transaction today, the car wasn’t instantly available to drive home. No problem; we can go pick it up Sunday. Sunday, because I want to go out for a long hike on Saturday.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

I was driving up to Grant Ranch when I blew a tire. Entirely my fault: It’s a narrow road, and I let a wheel go off the edge of the pavement on a hard right turn. My previous car, a Subaru Forester, would have just laughed at that, but when the Kia came back up onto the asphalt, the hard edge of the pavement compressed the tire against the rim and that was the end of that. I considered the Kia for my new car because the Forester was clearly overkill for the kind of driving I need to do… but maybe it wasn’t that much overkill after all!

Much of Mt Hamilton road offers no option to get out of the traffic lanes, but as it happened, there was a convenient pull-out just ahead. So I got the car safely off the road.

Unfortunately, the Soul+ does not come with a spare tire. There is a compressor and a can of goop, and you are supposed to be able to seal a nail puncture well enough to at least make it to wherever service is available. But the sidewall was badly damaged in two places on the lateral surface, and very likely two more places on the medial surface, and nothing less than a tow truck was going to get me back on the road.


Well, Kia offers no-charge roadside assistance for this kind of thing. But there was no cell coverage, and my cell phone was already showing low battery. Not good.

After a few minutes of irrational optimism about a patrol car maybe coming along, I donned my backpack and started walking. I thought I might be able to use a phone at the entrance station to Grant Ranch park. After a mile and a half, I came to a roadside call box at the Quimby road junction, so I called from there. By then it was about 9:30.

I had recorded the 800 phone number of Kia’s roadside assistance people in my cell phone. The operator patched me through to that number. I read the Kia support operator the VIN from my insurance card, he confirmed that I was eligible for a tow, and told me that D&M towing would have a vehicle there within the hour. The Kia operator also asked for my phone number, and I gave it to him, after warning him that it was useless — no signal and dead battery. I told him I would meet the tow truck at the call box.

An hour passed. Moomph. Another half hour passed. No tow truck. I used the call box again. A different call box operator patched me through to the CHP, who told me they didn’t show any dispatches for D&M towing at the moment, but they would check. I again confirmed that I would wait at the call box — this is the only place I have any kind of communications capability whatever.

Another hour and a half passed. No tow truck. I got on the call box phone again, to of course yet a third call box operator, who connected me again to Kia roadside support. Just as we began that conversation, a CHP officer pulled up in his black-and-white.

He didn’t know anything about Kia’s contacts or contracts with towing companies, but told me he could order a tow on his own behalf, and I could argue with Kia about who pays what later. The current situation was certainly not productive, so I said okay. I rode in his patrol car (there’s a first!), front seat, and we drove back up the road to where I had left my car.

It was gone.

Somewhere in the process, the fact that I was expecting to meet the tow truck at the call box got lost. They picked up the car and disappeared.

The CHP probably couldn’t just leave me out there in the boondocks, but he certainly could have taken me no further than the nearest bus stop down in San Jose… instead, he drove me all the way to Capitol Kia. At speeds I associate with air travel (takeoff and landing), rather than road travel, but who’s going to stop him? No complaints — it was very nice of him to do it, and I told him so.

And there sat my car at Capitol Kia. They have just started opening their service department on Saturday, so I was able to talk with the service manager, and maybe get back on the road, even though it’s a weekend. He sent his parts man off to see whether they had a tire of the right size in stock. He also told me they sell a mini-spare tire kit that fits into the Soul. Definitely something I want. Did they have one in stock? The parts guy would go find out.

While waiting, I went out to my car, connected the USB charger from the dashboard to my completely dead cell phone, and tried to call Jacky, just to let her know what was going on. No answer at the home. That’s okay: she could be shopping or at the gym or whatever, and it later turned out that I didn’t have her current cell phone number in my contacts list.

While I was doing that, Jacky’s salesperson Elizabeth came past, completely coincidentally, and recognized me from yesterday. She thought I might be there with Jacky to pick up Jacky’s new car. I told her I was not there to pick up Jacky’s car; I had just been towed in and was not having the best day of my life. Moomph, moomph, moomph.

The parts guy: they did have a mini-spare tire kit, but they didn’t have a tire to replace the damaged one. They could order one, but it wouldn’t arrive until Monday. Still, if they install the mini-spare today, I can at least drive away.

At this point, Elizabeth returned with the service manager. Keeping in mind that we have bought two new cars in the last two months, they wanted to be sure I was happy, or at least no more unhappy than necessary. So they offered me the mini-spare tire kit at no charge. Well, moomph, moomph, mumble … well, ahem, that’s exceptionally nice, thank you very much, and maybe today isn’t as bad as I thought. Certainly beyond the call of duty!

And just to put icing on the cake, because they didn’t have a replacement tire for my car, they suggested I leave my car there until Monday and offered me Jacky’s car as a loaner. (I couldn’t just take delivery of it then and there because Jacky still needs to sign one more piece of paper, and my offer to sign on her behalf was not good enough.)

When I got home and told Jacky about the day’s adventures, she called Capitol to see if they can order a mini-spare kit for her car, too.

It is always an adventure. Some adventures are less fun than others. At the end of the day, it turned out far better than it might have.

Oh, and by the way: a shaggy dog story is one in which an infinite sequence of minutiae lead up to the punch line, and it turns out not to have been worth it. You get to decide whether this is a shaggy dog story.

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