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Study Abroad Blog

Trip to Texas

Posted on August 30th, 2008 by Matt Brattin

I finally made it. I’ve been saying it for years now – that I wanted to move to Texas. Had never actually been, only heard real estate was cheap and jobs seemed aplenty. Well, here I am, I finally got my wish. We made our way here, as I mentioned in my last post, via a long road trip. The days leading up to the trip led me to believe someone was encouraging us not to make the voyage, as we had multiple, consecutive, uncharacteristic car problems – one after the other – but we persisted.

It all started three days prior to our leave date. Cruising in the car one afternoon on our way to my in-law’s place and what-do-ya-know, the AC just isn’t cooling the car at all. In the lovely 100+ degree Fresno summer heat, this is quite a noticeable and un-enjoyable realization to make, but there was no denying the lack of cool air spewing from our vents. Not willing to jeopardize our comfort throughout the sure-to-be toasty 1700 mile road trip we were about to embark upon, I immediately made some calls and setup an appointment to bring life back to our Civic’s AC.

Given the abruptness of the AC’s uncooperative antics, I was concerned there was something very wrong that a simple Freon refill wouldn’t remedy – thankfully I was wrong and the following morning our problems were solved for $78. We learned there is a small leak in one of the hoses that will likely lead to future refills if not fixed, but given our time constraints I didn’t opt to fix the surely expensive hose at this time.

So now we were cruising, right? Packing had begun, AC was working, hotel reservations were made and our move-in date was set for our new apartment in Austin – it’s all downhill from here, right? Not quite. The day before we were set to leave, I go to fill up the tank so we wouldn’t have to do so in the morning and I’m already itching to get on the road. Tank is full, hop in the car, turn the keys and what do I hear? *click* What was that? I’ll try again…*click* Um…no…please no…why won’t my car start?

I jumped out of the car, popped the hood and just stared in disbelief at what was going on…surely this is a prank or something, why in the world would this car, this 2001 Honda Civic with 95k miles on it with nary a problem, choose today, the day before our journey mid-way across the country, to call it quits? Well, at least the battery did, cause it was done and I had to get a jump just to get it the block and a half home, but not before all electric accessories, including the speedometer, tachometer, etc ceased to function. Excellent.

Pull up into the driveway, slap a charger on the battery and go online to locate the nearest Autozone so I could get my battery and alternator checked out. Run back outside, get the car at least running and cruise the three miles to Autozone without any sign the car was running from the inside, that battery was toast! Go ahead and get a new battery for $85 (I’m sure I could have done cheaper, but I wasn’t in the most sane state of mind at this point). Slap that puppy in there and have them give the ‘ol alternator a test and I’m told “It’s not showing bad or good, but it is pushing 12.6 volts so it might be ok.” Me being a novice to car electronics accepted this answer and headed back home to check online at what a normal civic alternator should put out and read, somewhere, that the “normal range should be between 12.5-14.5”. I saw higher ranges on other websites, but chose to accept this one, as I knew mine was putting out a voltage in this range and I was content…so on with the show!!!

Sunday morning – the day of the trip. All packed, Civic loaded with the essentials and I am feeling strange that “my life” could be packed into the back of a Civic…then again, I had it previously packed into two suitcases, so I was ok with that. Head on over to the in-laws again to pick up the other two party-goers accompanying us to Vegas as a sort of anniversary/end of summer trip and arrive a tad late, as packing our final few bits required more strategy and grunt force than was expected. Gather up the other half of our two car caravan and hit the road – next stop, Vegas!

Cruising fine, music jammin’, AC cold, we’re on the road and begin typical conversation about how it’s gonna be a long trip. Things going well, get a phone call from my dear amigo Evan at just over an hour into the trek and maybe two minutes into the conversation I notice something that makes my stomach sink…speedo, tachometer, gas gauge….all no longer functioning. Crimony!!! All I could think was that brand-stinking-new $85 battery was already used up and we just got on the road! There is no question now that the alternator really is shot, now I just need to find some way to not make the new battery go kaput.

Pulled into a gas station off the 99 somewhere just past Tulare (small towns) and after speaking with some locals, learn there is an Autozone back about ten miles that should be open. I whipped out my toolbox, tore out the battery, threw it in my sister-in-law’s corolla and now there are four of us cruising back toward Tulare in search of a charge, an alternator, and a place to get it installed…on a Sunday!

Guys at Autozone weren’t very helpful. They sold me a new alternator for $180 and at least they charged my battery, but they had apparently no means of contacting anyone from the outside world (not even other Autozones) to find where I could feasibly go to get my new alternator installed. I had to call friends and have them Google shops and finally I just decided to go back to pick up our deserted Civic, which contained all of my belongings, throw the now charged battery back in and hit the road toward Bakersfield in hopes of finding a shop that was open and willing to do the swap.

An hour later, we arrived in Bakersfield and, like a mirage on the horizon, we found a Pep Boys and got the car in just before a mob of other people showed up needing work done, and we headed off for a leisurely lunch while the car got fixed. Came back, only waited about another half hour and finally…yes, finally for real this time…the car was in good working order, with a new battery, new alternator, and a cold AC, and the total damage was somewhere in the ballpark of $500. This amount certainly wasn’t in my budget, which made me be a little more stingy than normal while in Vegas, but we were thankful that my brother-in-law gave Blanca a monetary gift of just about the total amount we ended up spending on the car, so we essentially broke even and I’d like to think we got a slightly more reliable car out of the deal; even if I really, really hated the car at that moment.

Vegas was fun, and the rest of the road trip was uneventful. Met up with a friend and ESADE classmate who gave us a place to stay in San Antonio. Made our way to Austin on our move-in date, and felt a little strange signing all the papers and handing over a check before ever even seeing the apartment. We had a number of problems right after moving in, but they’ve since, for the most part, been remedied and we are settling in nicely now over here. I have slowly begun to master the often-confusing highway system here, and putting up with the untimely public transportation is quite enraging at times, but I’ve wasted so much time putting this post together I will go ahead and save my school impressions for the next entry. My apologies, as always, for taking so long to post yet again, but now that I’m settled down at least for another short while I’m hopeful I’ll get back on track.

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