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Gilroy: Land o’ Garlic

Died on the Fourth of July

How Rob spent Independence Day with 100,000 bikers in the Garlic Capitol of the World

My new travel rule is to never travel on a holiday.

It was my own fault, naturally. I was so busy fretting over my new kitten that I didn’t leave until the following morning.

Bikers riding on the shoulder of the freeway

Bumper-to-bumper? No problem!

Things went pretty well, up to the point where I was leaving Mountain View. Then I noticed the bikers.

It turns out there was a major gathering of bikers occurring in Hollister, a small town along the route I was planning to take to Los Angeles. At the time I did not know this, nor would I have cared since they were only adding to the traffic nightmare on Interstate 101.

I should have taken it as an omen to what was to happen next; instead, I gawked and stared like everyone else on the freeway.

I mean, they were everywhere! Traffic was locked dead (at the point where I took the photos the freeway collapsed from three lanes to two, guaranteeing a jam-up) and they were zipping along between the cars like they weren’t there.

At first I thought that it was one large gang, but then I noticed that the jackets had different logos on the backs, many originating from out-of-state. Obviously something was going on; I guessed (incorrectly) that they were on their way to Los Angeles or San Diego.

Broken-down sports car

Tough luck…

The only other interesting thing I saw along the San Jose-Gilroy route was a rather fancy-looking sports car in distress by the side of the road. I chuckled to myself and said, “Glad I have a dependable car.”

(Insert foreshadowing music here.)

Things got interesting (in the Chinese sense of the word) when I got onto Levesley road. The last stop for some time (in fact, until L.A.) was a stop sign at an intersection. My engine suddenly died. When I restarted it, it started knocking loudly. “Bad news,” I thought and turned back towards a service station.

While the engine wasn’t idling, it sounded fine, but when I slowed, it complained. I was getting worried and decided not to chance trying to get all the way back to the station. I thought I saw a phone by a school on the left side of the road and pulled into the turn bay.

Stuck in the middle

Trapped in the left turn bay

Dumb idea. The engine died and refused to start again. There I was, stuck in the middle of a very busy road. What could I do? The only thing I could do: turn on the emergency lights and abandon the car. I rationalized this by noting that few people would be going to the school on a holiday.

I called Triple-A and they sent over a tow truck in a surprisingly short amount of time, never mind the fact that they sent him to the wrong street and I had to go chasing after him.

The tow truck operator towed the car to a filling station. He listened to the engine and said that it was probably something serious. “Great!” I thought. “What a day for something serious!”

With nothing better to do (and no rides back to Mountain View on the horizon), I hoofed it over to Gilroy, getting a bad sunburn in the process.

Rom’s Auto Shop

Doing a booming business thanks to idiots like me

I found an auto parts store that was open and asked inside if they knew of any mechanics open today. Amazingly enough, they did. And he was only a few blocks away.

Once there, I called the tow service to have the car brought to this place. The poor tower was so overbooked, with being the only one open at the time and people were breaking down all over the place. (The 152 is a popular place to break down, it being both remote and steep.) While I was there waiting, I watched all the bikers drive in and out of the motorcycle shop next door. It was at this time that I learned about the Hollister congregation.

Car is towed

♬ Tow, tow, tow the car, gently down the street… ♬

We had to stop for gas first, then had to make a minor detour to help someone who locked themselves out of their car. Of course, the moment we got there, they managed to open the car. I don’t know who was more upset, the tower or me.

So, we finally got the car to the shop, Raul (the mechanic) took one look at it and said the two words I did not want to hear:

Head gasket.

Turns out I overheated, but the temperature gauge didn’t show it. The problem was serious: I gave up all hope of taking the car home tonight. Minimal price of repair: $800.

If I’m lucky and it’s only a head gasket.

If I’m lucky.

Bus Stop

CalTrain doesn’t run on holidays

So now I’m trapped in Gilroy, no car, no friends willing to pick me up. I have to get home. Since the car won’t be ready for some time (the mechanic won’t even begin working on it until Monday, he is so swamped), I decide to return to Mountain View. Which means taking the bus.

To go forty miles takes me over THREE hours. Also, since it is a holiday, none of the direct routes are running and I have to transfer like crazy. The nearest stop to my house is five blocks away; I take it, because at this point I have done so much walking I have nasty blisters on my feet and I don’t care anymore. (I did the next day; the broken bone in my foot was complaining loudly. I still can’t walk very well.)

I get home at nine, ten-and-a-half hours after the initial stall. I call everybody to tell them that I’m still alive, then crash into my bed.

So don’t expect any more roadtrip photos and pages — at least, not until the car has been repaired and tuned.


So, What Happened?

It turns out that my mechanic failed to replace the water pump in my car when I took it in for its 60K maintenance check. In many ways, this is a good thing, since I also was about to lose the timing belt.

(I have been told that the timing belt is not as critical in a Toyota as in other models, but I would not like to have chanced it.)

What happened to the water pump is beyond words, so here are some pictures:

Photo of the broken water pump Photo of the broken water pump Photo of the broken water pump

(The third photo is the inside of the lower half of the pump. The shiny “O” is the result of the pump blades scraping against the inside metal.)

The main spindle cracked and seized, stopping the flow of water through the engine and causing it to overheat. Surprisingly, the only damage was the #1 head gasket was blown and the ring on #3 was tweaked. Unfortunately, the latter problem was only discovered after the engine had been reassembled. It runs, albeit roughly.