Driving Experience

This summer I’ve driven at least 9 different vehicles. 3 trucks, 2 vans, and 4 cars. 4 owned by the Cullers family in some way, 3 owned by Highland and 2 owned by other Highland employees. 4 of which had cruise control (2 of which I used it on), 2 were stick-shift. I also drove a trailer for the first time, and went 4-wheel driving on several occasions in the two trucks that were 4×4-capable.

Mark’s car I drove very briefly, and found it to be very heavy steering for such a small car. It was also jerky idling. Other than that it was problem-free, despite it’s reputation for poor performance. It was a Ford Mondeo, I believe.

The blue camp truck was a stick shift, and a rather menacing one at that. A 1987 Ford F-150 (2-wheel drive, long wheelbase), I drove it on a couple of occasions around camp, and then out on the trash run. It was evil to begin with, but after driving Randy’s truck as well, the skills applied back and forth. The clutch was a long way out, and near the end I stalled it multiple times trying to find it. It also had cruise control buttons on the steering wheel, though I never got it to work.

The red camp truck was awesome, a 1997 Chevy 2500 with 4×4 and automatic transmission. It was this that I towed the trailer with, as well as 4-wheel driving some. Being a camp truck, something had to be wrong with it somehow. I can think of 2 things, the first being part of the connection for the electric brakes didn’t work (though that may have been trailer-side), and 4-Low didn’t engage, and if you could get it to, it didn’t engage the 4-wheel drive. Cruise control didn’t engage below 25mph, but it proved useful on the trash run when we got it out onto the long 55mph stretch.

Randy’s truck was also a stick, but not quite so menacing. A 1983 Ford F-150 (4-wheel drive, short wheelbase), I used it to commute to camp a couple of times. I took it up the 4-wheel drive track a couple of times when needed, and it performed really well. The clutch is a lot closer to the floor, and I don’t stall it nearly as much. It’s also the Gilbert-mobile until we buy a new car.

I also drove Gordy’s car (maintenance guy at Highland) when the other vehicles were in use. A Toyota Tercel wagon, it did the job assigned.

I drove our 1999 Ford Escort until it died last week (see last post).

I drove the green camp van on one occasion during the last week, when I needed to go to the tab and pick up some large items and the two trucks were in use. Didn’t really drive it long enough to get a feel for it, but it seemed nice enough. It was a Dodge or a Chrysler.. not sure which.

I also drove the Culler’s van to Harrisonburg and back tonight to drop off Marsha for discussion group, and got to use the cruise control – much fun. Pretty sure it is a Dodge..?

Lastly is the ’91 Chevy Corsica, Matt’s car now (was Randy’s long-time vehicle until he bought the Explorer). Not much to say for it, it does its job well enough. I’ve driven it several times, mostly to Harrisonburg and back for various things.

This is a much unneeded rundown of the vehicles I’ve driven this summer, but I felt like posting something.

What have I learned from these vehicles? Several things.

  1. 4-wheel driving is fun. Vehicle doesn’t make a huge difference in terms of fun-factor – it’s more about the driver.
  2. Vans aren’t as bad as some people make them out to be.
  3. Stick-shift in trucks, while not awesome, aren’t really all that bad – they just take a little getting used-to and some practice.
  4. Cruise control is also really awesome. I look forward to inter-stating with it, rather than 8-hour drives to OBX in a vehicle without it 🙁
  5. Driving with the park brake on is not advisable.
  6. Check you know how to engage 4×4 before setting out. Some older 4×4’s require the hubs to be locked 😉
  7. Driving with a trailer is pretty easy. Backing with a trailer is slightly harder than normal. I was able to turn the consist 180 degrees in a space about 6′ wider than the truck and trailer in about 5 points.
  8. Always consider that other people with different habits may have driven the vehicle before you. Check the park brake’s position, and that it isn’t in gear, for example, before beginning your normal routines.
  9. Listen to those who have driven the vehicle before and know it’s quirks. Especially when you’re learning about a vehicle. This happened twice for me, once in the blue camp truck (stalled several times with Gordy beside me trying to help me hill-start it), and once in Randy’s truck, when Randy was explaining the intricacies of starting and driving a carburetor-driven vehicle.
  10. Find out where the keys are before you set out. It saves a lot of time in getting to the vehicle, not being able to find the keys, only to find out that a) the owner still has them, or b) they’re in an obscure hiding place that you didn’t think to check.

Enjoy my experiences. Or ignore them. Whichever.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I’m told bad things always come in threes. Well, yesterday the third one finally showed up. (Locations censored until the right things go to the right places).

I’ve been sick since Friday night when I finished my last paid day at Highland for the summer, and am still recovering with headaches and congestion – we’re getting there. The second thing was that Kelly is supposed to start her new job at the day-care on Monday and has been called up for jury duty Monday-Wednesday. The employer is fine with it, but it’s annoying.

The third one is big though. We drove from Broadway into Harrisonburg yesterday, about 15 miles all up, to get some paint and (Kelly was hoping) some wallpaper for a dresser we bought really cheap at Goodwill a couple weeks ago. The car has been doing some strange things when started cold recently. It’ll violently shake until it gets up to temperature (and then it’s fine). It did that when we left Broadway, was fine by the end of the street. Was fine all the way to [Censored], where we got paint. Couldn’t find wallpaper, so we went over to [Censored]. They don’t carry wallpaper either, it’s all special-order now. So we leave and get in the car, turn the key and.. vroom-vroom/click-click/vroomclickvroomclickvroomclickvroomclick. I shut it down, thinking there’s something stuck in a fan blade or something (that’s what it sounded a lot like). Lift the hood, find nothing obviously out-of-place, get Kelly to start it again, and the whole engine is vibrating, and it seems to be in sync with the vibration as if it is the engine that is knocking something, although I couldn’t see what. Shutting down again, I checked oil and transmission fluids as last resorts, and both are fine.

We resort to calling Randy, Kelly’s dad to see what he thinks. He and Kelly’s mom come in to Harrisonburg in the van and he takes one look (and listen) at what it does and says he thinks it’s misfiring (at least) one of the cylinders and that we will have to leave it overnight and get Sonny (his mechanic of choice) to tow it in the morning. So we removed everything of value, and leaving a single key hidden inside and the drivers door unlocked, we let [Censored] staff know that it was there to be picked up in the morning, and rode home in the van.

Kelly called Sonny this morning, and he was intending on picking it up and looking at it, and would contact us and let us know what we were looking at in terms of damage and cost. We’d decided earlier in the summer that a second car was needed sooner or later, both because of break-downs as well as our needing to go two separate directions in motorized vehicles (and Randy’s truck isn’t always going to be available).

We basically came to the conclusion that if it’s minor engine, we’ll consider it. If it’s major engine, we’ll probably get another car and get it worked on over time, if it’s transmission, we’ll get another car and consider options. Kelly has a real attachment to Juanita, as it was her first big purchase on her own, and for that reason I’d like to keep it going as long as we can. We’ll just have to cross-match the desire to keep Juanita vs. the economics of maintenance.



I had a call from Kelly around lunchtime. She’d heard from the mechanic. Juanita is toast. This is makes decisions easier.. We’re looking for a new car. Anyone who is aware of a good-working Sedan, Station-wagon or SUV for sale in the Broadway/Harrisonburg area (or up to a reasonable distance away) for up to $5,000, please let me know.