It all started with my breezy "I LOVE rain!". I said it to the clerk in the motel 6 in Mojave as I handed her my key (I recommend the motel. Clean and inexpensive and even more inexpensive online). She made a face and I headed out the door at about 7:30 in the morning yesterday. I figured I'd stop for coffee and food in Arvin or even later, depending on how I felt. As it turned out, I had to grab what I could and make up for the lack much later in the day.
Normally the windmills are quiet in the mornings. Not yesterday. The rain was accompanied by wind, and a large electronic sign graced the highway warning of the high winds. My little car felt it, believe me, and I think even the trucks did. Still, I was managing well when I entered highway 223, the little cutoff that goes through Arvin from 58 to 99. I felt some relief on that smaller road, for some reason. Highway 58 is the site of many accidents even on good days, I learned later from the tow truck driver.
I was sailing down the windy road and started to see fallen rocks. I avoided most of them. Then I ran right over one, one that I thought was not all that big. It flew up, hit the bottom of the car, and immediately the oil light and the check engine light came on. My brain didn't gear up immediately but I knew I had to find a safe place to pull over. I started to notice that smoke was coming out of the exhaust. There just wasn't a place to pull off on that narrow road. I didn't think of turning off the engine but I did think of letting it head downhill without acceleration, in the hopes of saving the engine. I finally found a place, about a mile before Arvin. I didn't feel I could push it and get all the way into the little city. It wouldn't have mattered that much anyway, considering there are few services there.
Then I engaged my brain. Which to call...Auto club first. I called, they said a truck would be out in less than twenty minutes. I then hunted around for my insurance info and called the claims office. I got a claim number and instructions to call back when my car was in the shop. Then Mary, to tell my sad story. My heart was racing, mostly, I think, because of the many unknowns. What is wrong with the car? How much will the insurance pay for? Is there damage done to the engine? How long will it take? I started to think about possibilities. I called information, got the number for the nearest Honda dealer, called them, told them my car would be headed their way. The clerk told me they had 70 cars lined up to come in that day and they may not get to mine. That didn't sound so wonderful, but I still felt it would be better to get the car to a dealer who knows about hybrids, not to mention civics.
I called Elsa at work, told her what had happened and that I might even be spending the night in Bakersfield. Of course she was wonderful, sympathetic, and said she'd let everyone else know.
The tow people called, said their guy was hauling a car out of a ditch, would be there as soon as possible. ASked if I wanted a ride into town, and I said yes. Soon after, a small truck came, driven by a young woman. She said I could come into the warm cab if I wanted, so I did, and we talked a bit. She warned me that the tow truck driver was "a talker", but she obviously liked him. She was right about that! She didn't drive me into town but that didn't matter.
The tow truck driver showed up, lifted the car up on his flat bed (I liked that, for some reason, not having the wheels on the ground), and we started off for Bakersfield. During this trip I learned of his twenty-four-hour day (went to bed, got a call at 11...Mexicans drinking and having an accident...got back to bed, got another call at 1:30...and so on), learned of his wayward son and the son's wife (she's the one who's abusive, he said; hit his son with a telephone, scratched his chest all over). He said he told his son to file for custody of the children and if he doesn't do it he (driver) will. Can't take care of them today because his wife is away and he can't find a baby sitter, but he will find one. The son woke him up, one of the calls, because of another dispute with his wife, driver picked him up and brought him to his house, told him he needs to call for his social security disability benefits, his doctor have better have said he can't work yet, or else he'll throw him out, the lazy bum....
Then he launched into Wal-Mart. There is a proposal to put a Wal-Mart on the edge of Bakersfield but there is a lot of opposition. He blamed it on environmental impact reports. Traffic. Let the people have the shopping they want. You can't force them to shop somewhere else. The groceries in the area are funding the anti-Wal-Mart drive because the super store might hurt their business.
I managed to make noises that were generally noncommittal at this point, although I did say I knew of a Wal-Mart where the traffic had not been managed and it is a nightmare. Actually I know of two, one of which is in the process of being fixed now.
He was rather classically the guy you'd expect to meet in Bakersfield, and I knew I would be happy not to have to spend a whole lot of time with him.
The Honda dealer was stacked up with cars waiting to be checked in for service. The driver let me out and went around back to drop mine off, and I went to see "my" service guy. He said he would do his best to expedite service on my car, and in fact he did. They found a destroyed oil filter and damaged frame, he told me later, said they could fix the filter and I could drive home and get the frame fixed in SLO. So at about 12:30 in the afternoon I got my car back. In the waiting room there was coffee (sludge, actually), donuts, and a packet of hot chocolate. I had the hot chocolate and got a bag of Chex mix from the vending machine. Breakfast at last. After I left the dealer, not terribly put out financially, I stopped for coffee and more water, got on highway 99. Took the highway 166 exit, speeded along to highway 101, all without incident. Not only that, the rain was clearing and it was so beautiful. I stopped a few times to take pictures.