Curse of Twain Harte

ready to tow

Journey interruptus

There is something about Twain Harte doesn't like a Mercury Sable.

The first time I drove my Sable to Twain Harte, right after I got it three years ago, I could not move the shift out of Park when I got in the car to come home. After fumbling about for a while, and after consulting the owner's manual, I found a way to bypass the interlock between the shift and the brake pedal so I could drive it to the dealer in Sonora to have the defective relay replaced.

Yesterday we piled into my car to drive to the golf course for a round of golf only to discover that the Sable would not start. Cranked just fine. Had plenty of gas. Just wouldn't start. Wouldn't even attempt to start.

The good news was that this was a mother lode for the mining of nuggets of jokes and humorous speculation, and an excuse to tell apocryphal stories about "the time I called AAA and they didn't show up for  x  hours!" The bad news is that the Sable still wouldn't start today. (As if waiting 24 hours would give the car time to reconsider its rash and inconsiderate behavior and heal itself.)

Within the promised hour, Jason from Vic's Towing showed up in a big yellow tow truck to see what he could do. (It's that J-generation thing — tech support is always named Jason.) Jason listened at the gas tank for the fuel pump; it could not be heard. He checked the fuses in the Electrical Distribution Panel under the hood; the one for the gas pump appeard to be OK. He turned the key; it almost started. What?!?!

Mind you, I was fully prepared for the solution to the problem to be something really simple, something any idiot could have done. Unfortunately, there had been no qualified idiots in our weekend party. But Jason hadn't even pushed a button or found a disconnected wire!

Turn the key again. It started! But just barely. The motor ran really rough and black smoke poured out of the tailpipe. Jason's judgment was unequivocal — it would have to be towed.

ready to tow
Why me? Why me?

mouse ears for brake lightsI backed the car, huffing and chuffing, out of its parking spot and into the driveway so it could be hitched to the tow-truck. It looked so cute with its Mickey Mouse brake light ears.

under tow
Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, off to the shop we go!

So off we went to Hammond Ford in Sonora. By the time we arrived, Johnna, the woman at the service desk, had figured out that I was the same hapless traveler whose car had had to have emergency service three years ago. She greeted me jovially: "What's up with this? Do you break down every time you come to Twain Harte?" And by now she had become a little more optimistic: "Well, we might be able to get to it today."

So, I sat down, opened my laptop, and began this article.


Ouch! The verdict is in — the Sable needs a new fuel pump and a new fuel pump relay. Which is just what Jason the AAA guy said it probably was.

And because of the holiday, there may be an issue getting the necessary parts. Which is another way of saying that my car will be sleeping in Sonora for at least two, possibly three, nights. So much for planning.

And I'm sure Mark Twain and Bret Harte (Twain Harte, get it?) are doubled up with laughter in their graves.