I have spent the past year carpooling with my wife to our respective jobs. We have two SUVs: a 2009 Escape that we drive regularly, and a 2003 Explorer Sport. Feeding those beasties is not a cheap prospect. In fact, it is the main reason I bought a motorcycle that gets 50 miles to the gallon. Michelle had been working as a teacher and her school was in the opposite direction from my office, but then she changed jobs to one close enough to carpool. It saved gas and wear and tear on the bike. Both the Sport and the bike have had an extended vacation this past year while we have car pooled. Now that Michelle has a new job as a school librarian (Yay Honey!), it means our carpooling days are over and I will once again be riding the Shadow through the HOV/managed lanes to the office. Except when it rains. Like it has done a lot lately. Cold rain. Freezing rain. Weather not fit for a motorcycle. At least not one ridden by a sane person.
So, on Monday, I had to take the Sport for the first time in a long while.
It didn’t want to move. It didn’t even want to wake up. If it could have, I’m sure it would have groaned, grabbed the covers and rolled over with a “just give me a half an hour more sleep!”
I put the key in the ignition and turned. The dashboard lights lit up, the radio came to life, but when I turned the key, the starter ignored me. It didn’t even go “wrrr wrrr wrrr” or “buzzz clacka clacka.” Nothing. I figure, ok, I’ll just pop the clutch. The battery has been sitting for a while; perhaps it just needs a refresher charge. I put the car in gear, release the parking brake and let it roll down the incline then pop the clutch. “Snap, stop.” No joy. It didn’t even catch a spark. At this point I’m worried that something serious might be wrong, since I have pop-started it before. Being the troubleshooter I am, I grab the jumper cables from the Escape and hook them up. Again, no grind, no turning, no nothing. This car just didn’t want to go anywhere. I got my tools and did a battery transplant from the Escape to the Sport, certain that this last-ditch effort would similarly be in vain. Surprise surprise, it turned over.
Time for a trip to the parts store for a new battery, which, of course, I procrastinate until Sunday. I knew the storm is supposed to hit Monday, so I would have to have it running in time to go to work Monday morning. Fortunately, the parts store down the road had the battery in stock and I got it installed and it started right up. I figure I’m good to go. No need to worry that the inspection sticker had expired three months ago during the time it sat battery-killing idle.
So, Monday morning, I got in the car and drove to work. In traffic. Well, to be accurate, I sat in traffic that bore an amazing resemblance to a parking lot. I have not missed this. When I was carpooling, we would just zip right on by in the HOV lane, just like I did on the bike. But all alone in the SUV, I must trudge along with the masses, stopping and going and wearing out my clutch (and my clutch leg) cursing Houston traffic as I spy motorcycles zipping along in the HOV. It had not started raining yet and I was telling myself that I would appreciate the commute when the rain starts. I have been caught on the bike by a storm; it is a painful experience I wouldn’t wish on my enemies. Well, maybe my enemies, but no one else. Except maybe politicians.
After what seemed like a year and a half, I finally got to work (seriously, I had not had to drive the main lanes in like two years) and when it hadn’t started raining by lunch, I was cussing my luck, certain that I had wasted a chance to ride the bike and sat through an hour of traffic for nothing. Fortunately, it did start raining and raining hard. It kept it up as I left the office and all the way home. So even though I had to wade through the main lanes going home, at least I didn’t get soaked. I even managed to get the vehicle inspected.
Flash forward one week. Wednesday morning, I’m about to mount my bike to go to work when Michelle called me to tell me that the Escape was at a gas station and wouldn’t start. I drove the Sport down to the station while Michelle had a coworker pick her up to go to work. The Escape was sitting where she left it at the pump. I got in and put the key in and listened to the alarm pinging before turning the key. It gave a wrrrrr wrrrrrr clackity clackity click click.
Typical sounds of a dying battery. I hooked up the jumper cables that failed me last week, and they worked this time. I drove the car to the side of the building and told the station manager that I’d be back in the afternoon to pick up the car, while silently cussing to myself. This meant another trip to get another battery. Two batteries in a week. At $140 each, these batteries are not cheap. What a way to eat into the tax refund that I haven’t gotten yet.
I did find out that car batteries are supposed to last three to five years. The Sport’s battery was bought in ’06, so it was 7 and the Escape’s was the original from ’09 so it was 5. I figure they lasted pretty good, but that they went within a week of each other reminds me of those old couples that can’t survive without their spouse.
So now we both have vehicles with reliable batteries. I can now trust that if I need to take the Sport, it is ready. At least the weather is supposed to be fantastic the rest of this week, so I can ride my bike and avoid everyone in the main lanes, provided the Shadow’s battery doesn’t give out (knock on wood).