Cynthia had a mammogram. They found "an irregularity" and asked her back for another one. The second one confirmed the irregularity, so they scheduled a biopsy for September 8.
Labor Day Weekend (Sept 3-5 for you non-'Mericans), we drove up to Arkansas to visit my MIL. There was construction on I-40 through Oklahoma, and the highway was down to one lane, so people interpreted the highway number as the speed limit, even though the speed limit was 65 in the construction zone. We puttered along at 40mph until we got to Arkansas, where construction ended and the road opened up to 3 lanes. When I gave it gas to speed up, the car started shuddering as if it was driving on a washboard road (it wasn't). I then noticed the check engine light was flashing, never a good sign, so we pulled over. We checked the manual and discovered that a flashing CEL most likely means a problem with the catalytic converter, and that it was ok to drive it under low power to a mechanic. So I started it up, and we limped it the 5 miles to my MIL's house. The strange thing was, the more power I gave it, the smoother it ran. Under low power it shuddered worse than under high power. Once there, I immediately called the local VW dealer to see if/when they'd be able to check it. At that point it was about 4pm. The dealership was still open, but their service department had closed at noon, and wasn't going to reopen until Tuesday. We had to be back in Dallas on Tuesday, so that wouldn't work. I asked if they knew of a mechanic who might work on it, and he gave me a number, but no one answered when I called (it was Labor Day Weekend, go figure).
Meanwhile, Cynthia was trying to contact Enterprise Car Rental to see about renting a car on Monday so we could make it back to Dallas, with the plan of the dealer working on the car on Tuesday, and we'd come back up Wednesday in the rental. I decided to see if the local auto parts store had a code reader to see exactly what the problem was, so I called them. They said to come on over, they'd check it. When we got there, he checked it and (mis)read the code that I was misfiring on 3 of the 4 cylinders. He went back in, as we stood outside & wondered what to do. I went back in and asked him if he knew of anyone who worked on VWs. He said, "Yeah, this guy does," and pointed at the customer standing next to me. I asked what his name was, and when the employee said, "Chris," the guy (Chris) turned and asked what was up. It turns out that Chris has his own auto shop, and was there buying parts for a job. He went out & popped the hood to see what was up. He suggested that it was probably the coil boots. He said he had to go have dinner with his wife, but that we could come by his shop in 30-45 minutes and he'd work on it for us. He gave us directions to the shop and left. We went back to my MIL's and had our late lunch.
If you've never driven through rural Arkansas, let me tell you about where we went. The highway was two lanes each way, with a grass median. The "frontage road" was a dirt road. The "businesses" along it were very blue-collar, and most had their address number spray painted on the side of the shed, if they had a number at all. We eventually found his shop. It was an steel shed with concrete floor & hydraulic auto lift. His wife was working on the engine of a pickup, and happened to be missing about 1/3 of her teeth. Chris moved another truck out of the way and had me pull the Beetle up for him to work on it.
As he worked, he explained what he was doing, and also gave me some of his history. At one point, he said that he doesn't usually work on "little" jobs like this, his usual job is rebuilding engines, specifically VW engines & transmissions for drag racers. I figured if he can rebuild an engine for a drag racer, he can surely fix mine. Here's what it looked like while he was working on it:
He tested everything, in order to find out exactly what the problem was. It turns out that it was misfiring on 1 of 4 cylinders, not 3 of 4. We needed 4 new spark plugs, a small hose, and an ignition coil for cylinder #3. I told him to take his time, that we were planning on being there until Monday, and to just call me when it's ready. He said it'd be ready that day.
We went and ran errands, and 2-3 hours later he called. I asked how much, and was told $180, parts & labor included, cash only. When we arrived, I handed him ten $20 bills, and didn't expect change.
So Cynthia & I went to her biopsy on the 8th, where she was told that they'd have the results some time the following week. I had made plans months earlier to go to Austin for the weekend of Sept 9-11 with friends for a bachelor party, and told her that I'd cancel it if she wanted, but she said to go, so I did.
It was supposed to be 12-15 guys in two suites at the La Quinta (spanish for "Next to Denny's") in Downtown Austin. Due to guys being flaky, it ended up being 6 guys in one suite at the La Quinta. The Best Man, Groom, & Maid of Honor's boyfriend drove down in the Best Man's truck that Friday morning, while two other guys and myself drove down that afternoon in another car. That weekend was a UT home football game, against BYU. We'd planned on hitting 6th street (the college bar scene) to people watch & drink, and when we did, it wasn't as crowded as we'd expected, until we figured out that everyone there was a UT fan, that the BYU fans weren't there, being Mormon and all. During the planning stages of the weekend, having a theme for the weekend was discussed. One suggestion was a Pirate theme, because Paul, the groom, liked pirates. That got shot down pretty quickly, because no one wanted to walk around Austin dressed as a Pirate. Someone suggested we all wear fake mustaches. Someone else said, "we're guys, we can grow them." So we did. Except we didn't tell Paul. Everyone had a mustache except Paul & the MoH's boyfriend. Our significant others were not worried about us straying at all, because they knew our chances of getting laid with the mustaches were slim & none, which pissed off the one single guy in the group. To make matters worse, the single guy looked like a cop.
The following week, the results of Cynthia's biopsy came back benign.
The next event of note was in November, when Paul got married. We took the train up to the venue, which was great because they had an open bar. The train ride home was a little scary, but worth it to not get a DUI.
We both took the week of Thanksgiving off to drive up to Wisconsin to see my family. The last time I'd been up was 2009. The last time Cynthia had been up was 2006. We rented a car because we didn't trust the Beetle to make it. We'd reserved a Hybrid, but I got a call the Thursday before we were to pick it up that they didn't have any, and that we'd get an equivalent standard car instead. I did my research on what cars they said they carried, so that I could make an informed choice as to the best one to get, gas mileage-wise, to keep our trip costs down. One of the aspects of Enterprise is that we'd have unlimited mileage within Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana & Arkansas, but if we left those 5 states, we'd get 1500 miles per week and 200 miles per day for the duration of the rental, and additional miles would be billed at $0.25 per mile. Since we were going to have it for 9 days, we'd have 1900 included miles, and 200-400 additional miles. When making the reservation, I asked how they'd know if I went out of those 5 states. I was told that they wouldn't know, that they'd assume by the mileage that we had. I said that it was possible to drive from Dallas to Amarillo to Midland to El Paso to San Antonio to Corpus Christi to Houston to Austin to Tyler to Dallas, hitting one city per day over a 9 day period, never leaving the state of Texas, and thus never leaving the unlimited mileage area, and still rack up 2300 miles. She said we'd get charged overages in that case. So I said it's not unlimited then, is it. Her response: "It's unlimited to a point."
Anyway, we ended up with a 2012 Chrysler 200 sedan. It was ok. The fuel economy wasn't anywhere near as good as I'd have liked, and it wasn't as comfortable as we'd hoped, but it had tons of room. And when I went to turn it in, they never asked if I'd left the 5-state area, and I didn't volunteer it, so we weren't charged mileage.
We drove up to Arkansas on Saturday, arriving in the evening. We stayed overnight at Cynthia's mom's, then headed out the next morning. It rained through most of Missouri, so our average speed wasn't as high as I'd have liked, and we arrived in Madison around 11:30 on Sunday night. We spent Monday & Tuesday night with my brother, sister-in-law & niece. Monday we just hung out with them, went out for lunch, had dinner at their place, & drinks at a bar. Tuesday I dropped Cynthia at church near my dad's & I headed to his house until she called to be picked up. We then went back to his house to chat. They took us out to lunch, then back to his place to hang out for a while. We went back to my brother's & went out for dinner with them. Wednesday we had breakfast with them, then headed up to Wisconsin Dells to see my Mom. I'd arranged to go out for drinks with some HS friends that night, but only one showed up, the principal's daughter. We had a blast. I never knew she was as wild as she was. Thursday we went out for Thanksgiving dinner with my mother's side of the family. We'd decided to head back to Madison after dinner and get a motel room for the night. Cynthia was burned out from visiting my family, and wanted one night with just us. We stayed at the Red Roof Inn near the mall. When we got checked in, she realized that she'd left her purse at the restaurant in Baraboo. Luckily it was connected to a hotel, so we were able to retrieve it that night. She wanted to get a new Nook Simple Touch on Black Friday. We drove by Best Buy at 11pm to see how long the line was, since they had the nook on sale there. There were at least 1000 people in line, so we went back to the room & took a 5 hour nap so that we could hit Barnes & Nobel when they opened at 5am. I stood in line for the Nook while she shopped for a cover for it. We were in & out in 45 minutes. Back to the room where we slept some more. We reversed the route on the way back, except we stayed over Friday & Saturday night at her mom's, before heading back to Dallas Sunday afternoon.
Monday, December 5th Cynthia woke me up at 6:30 because the car wouldn't move. It would run, but it wouldn't go into gear. Trying to put it in any forward gear caused the car to creep forward. The only gear it'd go into was reverse, and doing so would cause it to lurch backwards & stall. This was with the clutch fully depressed. We called roadside assistance for a tow, and were told to get it out of the garage. I coasted it down 6 levels of spiral ramp to the street. I then went to Enterprise to rent a car so Cynthia could get to work while it was getting repaired. The only thing they had was a 2012 Ram 1500 Crew Cab. It was HUGE! It was fun to drive, but we didn't want to try to park it in our garage, so she traded it out for a Corolla later in the day. It turns out the clutch was burned out in the Beetle. They wanted $1100 to fix it. It's an 11-year old car with 160k miles on it. We told them to hold off on the repair while we considered our options. We spoke with our Credit Union, and they told us they would be able to finance an $18k car for us if we did two minor things to our credit report, that we could do with in a couple of days. They also wanted a Proof of Employment letter from her employer. She asked them for it Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday morning her boss called her in to the office & fired her, because "it is no longer a good fit." So we ended up getting the car fixed so that we weren't locked into a loan we couldn't pay, and so that she had a car to drive to job interviews.
She's had a few good leads, and been on 4 or 5 interviews since then. Our lease is up at the end of February, and we're moving out to a cheaper place then. We just have to find it. We've been looking in South Irving, and have found a 1000+ square foot 2br/2bath house for $750/month. Living there would cut our rent in half. We could almost afford to live there just on my income. Almost.
It seems I've written a novel.
- Been busy.
- Cynthia had a cancer scare, but it was benign.
- Car needed two repairs, one in Arkansas, one in Dallas.
- Took a trip to Wisconsin to see (most of) my family.
- Cynthia is unemployed & looking for a job.