As I mentioned here, I’m traveling around the state a lot, repairing jukeboxes and pinball machines, probably much to the demise of my car. I’ve been racking up the miles.
A recent trip to the western slope didn’t go very well.
The first thing that went wrong was that I had left home without the contact info for the people I was visiting, no phone numbers or addresses. I was nearly an hour away when I made the realization. I had no choice but to turn around and go back home and fetch them. Those senior moments are getting more frequent.
Four hours later I was in Aspen, Colorado to work on a pinball machine from 1965. This was probably the highlight of the trip. I got that working nicely, rewarded myself with one of my favorite restaurants in Carbondale, El Horizonte (a Mexican/El Salvadoran seafood restaurant), then spent the night in a motel in Glenwood Springs.
The next day I went to Fruita to work on a jukebox. The jukebox was being restored cosmetically, but needed some electromechanical work. That didn’t go very smoothly. While I fixed a lot of things, by the time I left 8 hours later, it still wasn’t working. I was tired and hungry by that point, with a 5 hour drive in front of me to get back home.
The weather forecast was for light snow in the mountains. Well, east of Glenwood Springs, it was heavy snow, the kind of snow where maybe you can see 25 feet in front of the car and the edges of the highway are not very defined. Throw in some truck convoys and you’ve got a white knuckler.
I made it through the heaviest of snow. At 10 pm, it was still snowing lightly when the engine died. It was like someone turned off the key while I was climbing towards Vail. I was able to pull to the side of the highway. I opened the hood hoping to find an electrical connection that had come disconnected, or maybe snow accumulating someplace where it shouldn’t. Nothing. I tried to restart the engine, which would sputter for 20 seconds then die again.
I called 911 and told them of my predicament. About 10 minutes later a State Patrol car pulled up behind me with his lights flashing. He stayed in his car. About another 10 minutes later, the tow truck arrived and loaded me up.
It turned out the next exit was only 100 yards up the highway, but with the snow, I hadn’t been able to see it. I was towed to the gas station located at the bottom of the exit. For that very short trip, I was charged $130.
Being late at night, there was no mechanic on duty. So I had no choice but to stay at the Holiday Inn another block away.
For those not familiar with Colorado, Vail is the second most expensive place in the state, behind Aspen. It’s where the one-percenters go to hang out and ski (Aspen is for the 0.1%).
The Holiday Inn was the least expensive place to stay, and that was $180 per night. By comparison, I spent $45 for the motel in Glenwood Springs the previous night. After some pleading and sharing my predicament about the broken down auto, the kind man behind the counter reduced the rate to $110.
The next morning I met the mechanics at the West Vail Shell station. Rude they were. All probably related and all from Russia or the Ukraine. They refused to work on my car if I was anywhere near it. It was parked outside in the lot, where the tow driver left it. There was no place else to be, no waiting room, etc. I almost punched one guy when he got up in my face about it. But they had me by the balls and I bit my tongue. It’s not like it would have been easy to take my car someplace else. After several hours, I finally got an estimate for $550. It was the fuel pump. It had to be ordered from Denver, wouldn’t arrive until mid afternoon, and wouldn’t be replaced until early evening.
Well, at least I didn’t have to spend another night there. Besides there were no rooms available.
One of the slightly friendlier mechanics suggested I spend the day and go skiing or shop and dine in Vail. I didn’t laugh in his face, but I was laughing inside at the absurd insinuation that I could afford any of that.
I moped back to the Holiday Inn where I had already checked out. I needed to kill about 6 hours. I asked if there was a movie theater around, and was told “yes” and to hop on a shuttle which would take me to Vail Village.
The movie theater in Vail is not just any movie theater. Each seat is nearly 3-feet wide, comfortable with a dining table attached to it (like a very deluxe version of a school desk/chair). The protocol is to arrive early, order drinks and dine while watching the previews and some short featurettes, with the goal of finishing up by the time the main feature starts. So I had the Cobb Salad and watched Lincoln.
After the movie, I walked around Vail. Lot’s of high-end stores for furs, jewelry, skis, clothing and home decor. I rode the free public transportation back to the west end and overheard many conversations of the locals. The woman next to me on the bus was on her phone trying to get into a dinner and was claiming she had $7,500 for it (probably one of those fundraisers). All of the wasteful materialism, snob shop keepers, contrasted with my financial struggle, my broken down car, and snotty mechanics, left me feeling very empty.
On the bus, I got the call that my car was ready. And not unexpectedly, those lying sacks of shits (officially AST Mechanics, Inc.) charged me nearly $700 for the repair, quite a bit above the estimate.
I got in the car without even taking the time to buckle my seat belt. I couldn’t get out of Vail fast enough.