This morning when I left for work my Jetta had a flat tire. Well it's not actually mine, it's just the car I'm driving as a demo from work (car dealer group) right now.
Walking outside in a pre-coffee stupor, I didn't even notice the flat until I heard that dreaded thumpa-thumpa sound as I made the left turn off my street. By this point I was only a few hundred feet away from a service station, so I just limped the car there at a jogging pace. Of note is that the TPMS warning light wasn't on.
It's the type of service station you don't see too often anymore. Not only do they have a full-service lane, their shop is actually a shop (not a store). Three service bays, garage doors up, usually occupied by muscle cars or malaise-era land yachts in various states of disassembly. It's owned by a guy named Phil, whose name adorns the sign. Phil is exactly who you'd expect to find at a place like this- a grizzled old mechanic with permanently dirty hands and his name embroidered in script on a patch on his stained light blue shirt.
Phil let me use his air hose for free, and even let me borrow his tire gauge. Figuring that the leak was a slow one as the tire took all night to deflate, I just filled it back up and proceeded to the dealership where my office was located. I actually needed to go to one of our other locations today, but this one was the closest of our stores to my house. Half a mile from the service station a cheeky "ding" sounded to alert me that the TPMS warning light was now on. After I'd already refilled the tire. Thanks for the warning!
I kept waiting to feel the car pull to the right as the tire deflated, heralding a lengthy wait by the side of the highway. It never happened. Success!
The showroom wasn't scheduled to open for an hour. I flipped on the lights and checked yesterday's sales log, looking for a fresh trade to drive, something where I wouldn't feel guilty about messing up our detailer's handiwork by driving on wet roads. And then I spotted something that caught my eye- a 2012 Chevrolet Cruze, 1.4 turbo, 6-speed manual. Not that a Cruze is a Jalop's dream car by any means, but how can you go wrong with a small-ish car equipped with a turbo and a stick?
It'd been a rough morning so far, but coming next was the part I'd been looking forward to. The dark cloud's silver lining, the lemonade from lemons.
The fastest route to the store I was supposed to visit is this:
15 miles, all country roads. Yes!
I fired up the Cruze and made a beeline for the turn off the main road that leads to hooning heaven. I'm a bit disappointed in the Cruze turbo, though. The Dodge Dart with a similar 1.4 turbo is nice and peppy when it starts to boost. This one is just... blah. There's a slight increase in power but nothing dramatic. It's okay though, as I still had fun throwing it through the first few corners, including one that's just a few degrees shy of a hairpin. "At least this makes up for the flat tire BS," I thought.
And then I rounded a corner and ended up behind a moving truck.
The moving truck slowly ambled through the corners, heaving and rolling like a ship in heavy seas. I think we hit 40 at one point, but most of the time rarely exceeded 25.
Fortunately this torture ended after about seven miles. "I'm home free!" I thought.
A quarter mile later, my happiness turned sour as I saw the detour signs.
My favorite road was closed.
And not only my favorite road, but my favorite part of my favorite road. The best of the best. This part:
A short straight leading to a hard 90 degree left, followed by a gradual 90 degree right, then two 90 degree lefts leading into a steep uphill straight that's followed by a sweeping uphill right hander, then another gradual left, short straight, high speed right, then more straight. Nope, not yours. Not today. Detour time!
I'll cut out the details of the detour, and just leave it at this: I saw enough of the rear end of a slow-moving beige Buick to last me a lifetime.
I finally approached our other dealership. Google says the drive should take 30 minutes. My best time is 21. Today it took 45.
As I rounded the turn to pull into the lot, the Cruze emitted a plaintive "ping" noise. I looked down at the dash. The TPMS warning light was on.