Dead Battery in Elgin

12/18/2003 8:17 PM

I will never get used to being stranded because of car problems. My Toyota pick-up truck left my possession with 220,000 miles and was reliable up to the end and I never had so much as a flat with it. I did leave my lights on a few times in a McDonalds parking lot near my work but that was it. Being here in Texas I still feel like a stranger sometimes.

There are several small cities east of Austin that I am starting to visit quite frequently for business and shopping. They are Bastrop, La Grange, Elgin, and Giddings. Each city has their unique character and a purpose for my visits. For example Bastrop is closest to Austin being 30 miles from the city center. It is the county seat of Bastrop County and is 20 miles from the ranch. I like going there for groceries because it has a Wal-Mart super center and a really nice new HEB for food. I go to Giddings to check up on the shop and I go to Elgin because that is where the HQ for Total Access is located. It was on one of my visits to Total Access that I had the chance to meet some nice folks in Elgin.

I had a meeting with Karol and got the keys from Jack for the Giddings shop and I was returning to my car to drive to Giddings. I put the key in the ignition and turned it on and there was silence. I took a long deep breath and tried again with the same result, the engine was silent. I quickly looked at my lights and they were off, so I knew I did not run the battery down because I left them on. I sat in my car for a few minutes and thought about being stranded in a town that I was not familiar with in a state that I had just re-located. I was 30 miles from the ranch and felt like I wanted to hit the car with a sledgehammer.

Well I decided to get out of the car, walk to Main Street, and see if there was a repair shop near by. I walked two blocks and saw the chamber of commerce and when in. There was a nice woman working there with a strong English accent and I asked here if there was a repair shop near by. She gave me a list of shops and said that one was just up the street. I love trains and had photographed the Elgin train station that is now a museum and asked her what this building was as it was right across the street from the museum and near the tracks. She told me that the building was the freight station and the other station was the passenger station. The inside of the building was beautiful and had a large meeting area in the main part of the warehouse. I thanked her and headed off to the repair shop.

I walked into this repair shop that had a big waiting room with two old sofas and smelled like cigarette smoke but there was no smoke visible. There was a door ajar at the far end of the room and I slowly walked in announcing myself with my usual loud ‘Hello!’ By the time I got to the ‘office’ door I met a young girl that looked about 20 with dark brown hair and heavy eye makeup. She had on blue jeans with holes in the knees and a big gray sweatshirt with a plaid shirt underneath. I told her that I had a car problem. She said follow me and lead me to the rear of the building where I met a man about 50 that was taking a bowl of chili out of a microwave. I could tell that he was hungry as I explained my problem. He said that he would help me after he ate lunch. I went back to the waiting room and wrote my name on the blank business cards that I had been given by Karol of Total Access.

Another young mane in a sharp purple and black jacket came into the waiting room and went into the office. He later came out and along with the older mechanic who had finished his lunch walked to a truck and dove to revive my car. During this time I was explaining to them the short history of my problems with the car and the fuel injector problems. They gave me a jump and tested my alternator. I decided to take the car back to the shop for them to test the charge and to clean up the posts on the battery. After the batter posts were disconnected and cleaned the mechanic was connecting the battery when the car alarm when off. I had forgotten about this problem. When I purchased the car the previous owner did not know how to deal with the alarm. Another mechanic that did some work on the car for me did not know how to deal with it either. The older mechanic at this shop when to get another mechanic and he went right to the button that controlled the alarm.

Wow I said thanks a lot for showing me that alarm button. I told him the other problems with the car and he said that he knew exactly what was wrong. He had owned a Celica that had the same engine it and he experienced the same problems that I had on wet damp days. The car starts fine on dry days but if it is damp it is hard to start and runs rough until it is really warmed up. He said that the plugs needed to be checked and the deep holes that they are in need to be dried out. He also said that the distributor cap was a cheap on and needed to be replaced. He also said to change the timing belt every 60,000 miles no matter what. He likes this year of Toyota and said that he has several customers that have them and they have put 300,000 miles on them. I told him that I would consider brining the car back to him later to correct the problems.

So what did I learn from this experience? I have only written a fraction of the stuff that went on in my head today. There have been several times here in Texas when I thought I was in an unfriendly place. I am not use to asking for help and I am usually in surroundings that I am familiar with. Being in Texas and dealing with people has opened my eyes to the real Texas that you cannot see on the news or read about in books. I know that the whole world has places like the small towns in Texas but for me these experiences are causing a revelation in me because I am not use to dealing with strangers in strange places. I am good at just diving in feet first, but I always get the butterflies in my stomach before I leap.

I wish that I could go back and photograph the people in the repair shop. I know that it is not always cool for a stranger to just walk in and take pictures. I guess that is why I need to start sketching stuff right after I see it. I still have several ideas for paintings in my head of the girl in the office and the young guy in the purple and black jacked and the older mechanic with the bowl of chili.

I have a new battery in the trunk of my car. I will install it tomorrow and return the old Costco battery for a little cash on the warranty. The old battery was a 72-month battery and it is leaking at 36 months.