The other day I was headed home from a quick run to the grocery store and, because it was just after 5:00, I decided to take "the back roads" home. This sounds more dramatic than it is. I live in a small city, so it's not like I'm avoiding a highway or anything... I'm just deviating from the "main" route that I'd normally use 99% of the time.
As I was crossing the railroad tracks, I had a flashback that hit me like a punch in the gut...
I had moved my mom to a facility on the coast in September of 2016 because she required a level of care I could no longer provide. At this point she still recognized me, so my visits every-other-week were especially painful. In my heart I felt like I was abandoning her every time I left even though my head knew that it was the only option available. After making the two-hour drive home from her birthday dinner in December, I saw that snow removal was happening on the "main route" so I turned to take "the back roads" in the hopes that I would get home quicker.
As I was crossing the railroad tracks after sundown, the right side of my car fell off the road and dropped between the tracks below. Turns out that when they plowed the street they plowed way too far to the right, so the road I was driving on was not actually the road, it was just snow pack. Snow pack that could not support the weight of my car, so down I went. It was such a sudden and unexpected jump that I remember biting my tongue.
In the photo above, it doesn't look like much of a drop, but when you look at a photo from the opposite angle, you can see it's quite a height to fall...
It was a drop I had no way of seeing because it was plowed even to the road, everything was white, and it was dark out.
At the time my financial picture was dire. I had to come up with a significant chunk of money to get my mom into her new place and I didn't have two nickels to rub together... let alone have money to pay for auto repairs. I remember sitting there behind the wheel with my car off the road feeling utterly defeated. My mom's health was declining. I was overwhelmed with work and having to travel. And my credit cards, which I had worked so hard to pay off, were likely going to build up again because there were just too many expenses piling up.
My car is front-wheel drive, so I was pretty much stuck. Trying to slowly back up just caused my tires to spin out in the snow. So I got out and took inventory of everything in my trunk. I had kitty litter, which I sprinkled under my left-front tire for traction. I also had a bundle of rope and some blankets, which I gathered up and stuck under my right-front tire. Then I
"Well that sounds expensive" I said out loud to nobody.
In the morning I backed out onto the driveway so I could try and see what was dragging. All I could tell was that it wasn't the muffler because the noise was coming from the front end.
Turns out it wasn't quite so bad as I had feared. Because cars are cheap crap now-a-days, it was a big piece of plastic which, apparently, was there to shield the underside of the motor from getting splashed by road grime. At first I tried to just rip it off the car but it was too well bolted on the back-side. My solution was to use zip-ties to pass through the holes in the plastic shield where the bolts had ripped through, and basically fasten it back to my car's frame.
It worked just fine and cost me $3.00 cash money.
A couple of years later I was driving down the highway when the zip-ties finally fell apart. So there I was all SCRAPE! SCRAPE! SCRAPE! again. This time with lots of people around. Fifteen minutes down the road I pulled off to an Auto-Zone so I could buy another bag of zip-ties to get me home. Though this time I spend $5.00 so I could get the industrial-strength version.
Those zip-ties are still holding my car together to this day...
And since it seems to be working, I guess I won't bother paying to have the plastic repaired or replaced... though I probably should at some point. Having people stare at me as I go driving by while my car is going SCRAPE! SCRAPE! SCRAPE! is enough to make me want to die from embarrassment.
And if I were to die?
Guess it only takes an 8-inch fall to kill you, as unlikely as that may seem.