Friday, February 24, 2012

Limping home. Time for a new van.

Well, we're home.

We got home yesterday and I was too whipped to think about posting on the day's adventures. I think it's a better idea to tell the story of The Black Pearl and her experience on this trip...

OK, first, she's old. The friend who sold her to me warned me not to put any real money into her. I didn't have another choice, though. I had enough cashflow to keep her patched up, but not enough to replace her.

Well, this trip is making me consider the potential cost of NOT replacing her. Here's how it went...

We replaced the brake pads and got to the show. All was well. Not so much as a hiccup all the way down. Yeah! As I arrived in the parking lot of the hotel, the rearview mirror fell off. It's done this before and I have been able to just glue it up.

As I was leaving the show, I had a friend take me to an auto parts store for a mirror regluing kit. I tried it, but the glue just wouldn't set. The button is glued permanently to the back of the mirror and there was no way to hold the heavy contraption in place while the glue set.

I had to deliver the bedspread, though, so I drove for a while without a mirror. As soon as I had a chance, I went to another auto parts store to replace the whole mirror. I got it, glued the button into place and though I'd be on to my next errands while I waited for the glue to set. The van wouldn't start. AAA came out to test it and told me that the year-and-a-half-old battery was completely dead. It's not the alternator. It's the battery. OK, I carry that charged spare battery to run my booth power in places without electricity, so I could just pop it in. But not right then, because AAA jumped the van and told me to drive to wherever I wanted to be for the night, just in case it was more than just the battery.

So at the height of San Francisco's rush hour I got onto the most congested bridge, currently under construction, to drive to my friend's house in Oakland, while still waiting for the mirror glue to set. It was pretty horrible. I had to ditch half of the errands that I wanted to run in San Francisco and just tell myself that I'll do them next year. Ah, well!

The next morning the van started and ran with no problem until Wispr and I stopped for a couple of hours by the ocean. It wouldn't start again so I swapped out the battery and everything worked great for a few hours.

Until we got to Red Bluff. You saw the results of that yesterday... I thought it was a water pump gasket that blew steam from under the hood and caused us to stay the night while we waited for the mechanic's shop to open. It was just a loose hose clamp. The mechanic reattached it and we were on our way.

All was well for a few hours and then, about 30 minutes before arriving at home, the van started wobbling and vibrating pretty badly all of a sudden. We pulled off and saw that the driver's side rear tire had a pretty significant bulge and looked about to blow out. Grrrr... We were so close!

So, I placed the third AAA call in two days and had them tow me home. Today I'm replacing the tire and thinking long and hard about how I need to respond to all of this. I wouldn't even do that much except that she's the only functioning vehicle here in the collective for the next 10 days.

On the one hand, it has worked OK to keep this van propped up good enough to do shows. I was lucky that all of the problems were minor and fairly easy to fix.

On the other hand, I'm taking a lot of risk by continuing to drive a beat-up old vehicle. What if this happened on the way to a show and I besmirch my reputation as a vendor while missing an opportunity to sell $5,000 in merchandise? There's the tangible risk of losing that income, which would have just about paid for a new (to me) vehicle, but there's also the intangible risk of hurting my reputation with show organizers. I know that they talk to each other and I'll never know for sure just how many shows will lose faith in me if I am not able to follow through on my commitments to another show.

So, it looks like I'll be selling Pearl and using the money to help pay for a new van. I'd prefer to go through a dealer and make sure that there's a warranty.

With my show schedule, I've got two weeks to find a new van, deal with the financing, registration, insurance, and more in order to use it on my next trip. And all of this has to happen while producing the merchandise for the next show, preparing the loom for the next batch of cloth, and finding new sources of yarn for my upcoming projects.

Spring is here!

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