Saturday, August 15, 2015

VW Syncro

I've owned a 1991 VW Syncro since new (bought and serviced at the dealer from the beginning outside of a few repairs at a local VW van shop), and over its life it's been reliable and durable, until it's not. In short, it's great until it breaks, which isn't very often.

But this last week has been the worst of it's life with more stuff to come. And it makes people ask, "So, why do you still own and drive it?" Remember, it's my sole vehicle so I have to keep it in running condition or I don't have transportation short of renting.

It started Monday when I went to Seattle for the appointment with the spine specialist (just south of the University (of Washington) district. I drove to Bremerton to catch the ferry downtown, then drive through downtown to I-5 to the university district and the clinic.

While going up University street in downtown about two blocks from the on-ramp the throttle cable snapped and the accelerator when flat to the floor. All I had was idle, and then only granny gear to get me up the hill, across the intersection to a red zone parkng (only parking I found).

The cable snapped at the motor end, so there's nothing to do except make some phone calls, to the clinic, "I ain't coming.", to the VW dealer, "I'm on my way.", and to the towing company, "Here I am and here's where I want to go."

While waiting the cop (they ride bicycles downtown) to ask why I was illegally parked there. I explained the situation and showed him the broken accelerator cable. He said, "You have an hour, otherwise, I'll call for a tow truck." The tow trucks showed up with 10 minutes to spare.

We got it to the dealer, but they couldn't get the part until just before the mechanics quit for the day, so it will be fixed Tuesday. There's an Enterprise Rental outlet about a mile walk from the dealer, so off to get a car and drive home.

They called Tuesday afternoon to say it's ready to pick up Wednesday morning. I did the same with the rental I did Monday with the van, turned the car in, walked to the dealer to get the van, made a few stops, and then drove home.

Thursday I drove the emission testing place in Tacoma. Washington requires an emission test alternate years from 5 to 25 years of the vehicle, and the van being 24 years old, was due for its last emission test and then it's free of them for life.

While waiting in line the radiator fan began making a loud noise. It's an electric fan you can't turn off except pull the fuse, which I found and removed. That done, the van failed the test by 1% over the hydrocarbon level at idle. It passed all the other tests except one (reading 405 versus 400 for the pass/fail level).

Really. They wouldn't give a retest sinc it took them 3 tests to get that one reading, or sign off a waiver as ok. Yeah, third time wasn't a charm this week. You're required to have an authorized emission specialist examine and diagnose the problem and either do the repairs or sign a waiver everything works but it's too expensive to repair.

The State requires you spend at least $150 for the specialist to diagnose the problem. It's extra if they make any repairs, like a new $300+ catalytic converter, tuneup, etc., or nothing if they sign off as unrepairable.

Remember it's its last emission test. I have an appointment Tuesday for the emission specialist. In the meantime I've been searching for a radiator motor/fan assembly (dealer can't find one in their global inventory) to take the van in for repairs.

So the van has two appointments, one for the emssion specialist then to go for a retest and to either pass or get a waiver by the testing company, and one for the radiator when I find all the parts. Fortunately, the van doesn't need the fan for cooling as long as you're moving and don't stop for too long to overheat.

It has a good cooling system so the fan rarely comes on except when it's stopped, turned off or it's hot out. It also needs two new rear tires, so that's on the list at the same place as the specialist. But now I have to find a radiator fan (ordered a new motor), so that's on the list, stop by local shops.

Anyway, that's the tale of the van this week. Overall the Syncro cost less than most new cars with payments, insurance, gas, etc. The difference is payments versus parts and repairs. The insurance is probably less being 24 years old, so it's a trade-off and just a personal choice of what you want to drive.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Saving Grace

As much as I live on a very restricted diet and often consider food my enemy, I've come to also realize it's my saving grace. Really, food is a double-edge sword that can make me sick and keep me well. Yes, really.

The trick is that after reading an article in the Sunday newspaper (read four of them, Washington Post on-line, and the New York Time, Seattle Times and Tacoma News Tribune in print because I like sitting down with big print newspapes) I realized an extreme food sensitivity has advantages.

The author was writing about the loss of real flavor in food with the food industry using some many tricks to make packaged food taste good but often not real. I realized I rarely eat a packaged food product anymore because I can't.

That's because almost every food in packaged food, and restaurant food for that matter where I rarely eat anymore (about once a year), have foods or ingredients which at best will leave me mildly sick overnight and at worst moderately to seriously sick for days.

My diet consists mostly organic or natural foods, including meats (ham and turkey), vegetables, fruits, etc. and the rest are organic or natural packaged foods with few ingredients, like mayonaise, peanut butter, preserves/jam, etc.

In short I don't eat the foods the majority of people eat. I have a simple diet which I stay with along with occasional "food experiments", which are foods not on the list to see if they're still off the list or they're on the three strikes they're out list.

When I get a bad reaction to any food, I don't eat it for awhile, then try it, and if it still makes me sick, I wait longer and try it again. If it makes me sick a third time, then it's, yeah, three strikes you're out (off the list indefinitely if not permanently).

But sometimes food experiments are foods, such as meat, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, etc. which are on the off list (FODMAPS or other rules, eg. "Nothing green or leafy") which I know provoke a reaction, so it's more to reaffirm what I already know.

Anyway, the point of this is that while the list of foods I can eat can be written on a 4"x6" postit note and almost all other foods are my enemy, my diet is my saving grace protecting me from industrial packaged foods, fast foods (yes, those too), and 99% of snacks, candy bars, drinks etc.

My food sensitivities are what's keeping me alive but also saving me.