Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - July 4, 2008

Cars and vans and trucks - oh my!

Everything was set. My nephew's wife Rachel and her two little ones were visiting from Dallas for a week at my brother Dave's place in Salina and the Manhattan contingent of the family was heading over Saturday to make a day of it.

About 10 a.m., the six of us - Mom, sister Gaila, nieces Gabriela and Larisa, youngest daughter Katie and I - climbed into Mom's Cadillac and headed out with Gaila at the wheel.

We had barely started when Gaila noticed that the car seemed to pull to the right and we all noticed that the ride was none-too-smooth.

"It's probably a tire," I said.

I called husband Art - my Mr. Fix-It man - on my cell phone and asked what he thought we should do.

"If it's veering off to one side very much, it's not wise to drive it very far," he said.

A string of other questions followed. 'Had Gaila noticed it the previous time she had driven the car? Had she hit something hard such as a curb recently?"

Gaila answered "no" to the questions.

"Stop and check the tires to make certain none is low," Art suggested. "If one is, it could mean something is stuck in it. If not, the car might be out of alignment. In any event, you could ruin the tires pretty quickly."

We drove to a nearby tire shop to have it checked. The man said the tires still had plenty of tread and were inflated properly, so probably there was an alignment problem.

I called Art again to see if we could take his Cadillac instead.

He hesitated. It had just been returned from the shop Friday and, although he thought it would probably be OK, he wasn't keen on the idea of us taking a just-repaired vehicle any distance without him having a chance to check it out first.

The next option was my van. I had left it at the repair shop on Friday to get the air conditioning checked. Saturday was a pleasant-enough day and I thought we could get to Salina without any of us dying of the heat.

So Gaila drove back to Mom's, put her car in the garage and left her and the girls for a bit while we retrieved the van. We took Mom's pickup to our place to get the extra set of van keys and a seat from the garage as I only had five installed in the van.

We drove back into town and Gaila dropped me at the shop to pick up the van.

But when I started it, a strange sound came from under the hood. So I stopped by Art's work to see if he thought taking the van was a good idea. Again, he hesitated.

"I don't know," he said. "The tension pulley could be what has been making the noise we've been hearing. If it fails, you could lose the serpentine belt and you cannot run the engine long without it."

"Sheesh," I said. "You'd think with the multiple vehicles we have that we'd be able to come up with some solution, wouldn't you?"

"If it were me, I think I'd stay home," he said. Then he grinned. "Oh, wait . . . I AM staying home!"

"Not helpful," I replied.

He suggested we could rent a car for the weekend. I called Gaila and gave her the latest news. She began looking for a rental, but she couldn't get anyone to answer at the car rental place.

Now what to do? Mom, Katie and I had seen the Texas crew in April and I knew we'd probably see them in the fall when they come to K-State games or at least during the holidays. But Gaila and Larisa would be in Bolivia and Gabriela would be in college in St. Paul and would have only this one opportunity this year to see them.

"Gaila, the pickup is running fine, the tires are good and it has air conditioning," I told her. "You and your girls take it and go."

And what did I get out of the day? Well I got this column!

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