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Monday, September 28, 2015


I love my Toyota Highlander. It has 150,150 miles and has transported me on numerous adventures throughout the western United States. It has been fabulously reliable -- until this weekend.

I took it in for an oil change last week and the mechanic noted that the "battery was a little weak" and that I might need to replace the battery ... eventually. However, the mechanic failed to mention what might happen if the battery light came on. So, when the battery light came on this weekend I made a mental note to call the dealer as soon as they opened on Monday and I didn't think too much more about it.

Sunday evening I decided to go to Pittock Mansion, one of Portland's tourist attractions and a favorite of photographers because of its location overlooking the city. Clear weather in Portland coupled with a convenient viewing time should have made for perfect conditions to photograph the lunar eclipse. I arrived early and was able to get a perfect viewing spot in the front row.

I wasn't the only photographer hoping for a shot, and, as usual, my equipment paled in comparison with some of my neighbors . . .

We settled down to wait for the moon to rise but were disappointed when the rising moon was obscured in the haze. It wasn't until later, when the moon was already higher in the sky that we could get some better shots.

The night was getting colder so I decided to leave at 8pm to beat the traffic. When I started the car, I was alarmed to see several dashboard warning lights flashing on and off. Uh oh. But the car started OK and seemed to run alright. I waited in the snarled traffic creeping down the one lane road, listening to an interesting program on the radio. And then the radio quit working. Uh oh. As I drove east through downtown Portland the car started losing power and felt like it was going to stall. A few blocks from the Burnside Bridge I began to worry that the car might stop dead on the drawbridge which spans the Willamette River. Uh oh. I pulled off into a side street and parked the car. But before shutting off the engine, I called my brother Phil in Colorado. Phil is a wizard regarding all things automotive. He carefully listened to the symptoms and then patiently explained what was probably wrong with my car. He also confirmed my decision to leave the car before venturing over the bridge.

Fortunately, even though it was a Sunday night, I didn't have to wait long for the #20 bus which dropped me off right around the corner from my home.

Hmm, I wonder if it's too late to join AAA (American Automobile Association)?!  I checked the website and enrolled online and then went to bed planning to get up early before the parking meter police had a chance to ticket my car.

This morning I woke up early, had breakfast, and took the bus back downtown to find my car. Once there, I picked up the phone and called AAA, armed with my brand-new membership number. After confirming my membership and answering a few diagnostic questions concerning the condition of the car, I was relieved when the agent said "We'll dispatch a Road Assistance truck right away." Whew.

I then spent the next hour nervously watching several homeless people camped just a few feet away from my car. Some of their bicycles looked awfully new . . . .

Finally, my rescuer arrived in his shiny orange truck. After a couple of futile attempts to jumpstart the battery, he maneuvered into position, installed extra wheels for the rear axle (you can't shift the Toyota into neutral unless the engine is running and AWD vehicles make the process even more complicated . . .) so, I got to ride along while my car got its first (and hopefully last) tow.

 Yep. The dealer just called and told me it would take 24 hrs and $492 to replace the alternator. Next time I won't wait if I see that battery light!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

September 7th

I spent September 7th sorting, packing and removing the last of my belongings from my former home in Boulder where I lived until my divorce in 2008.

As I sorted through the boxes, I came across souvenirs from September 7, 1968: