A Little Rattling

It’s been a few days, but things are going good. I’ll fill in the details later. We’ve either been without internet or too exhausted to update anyone lately.

This morning, we hung out in Vegas for a bit and I bet my customary dollar, winning five in return. I know when I’ve got a good rate of return, so I took my newly acquired, but nasty, Abe Lincoln and ran.

We skedaddled onto the highway to see how far we could make it. We’re both a bit road weary and seeing how it was at least nine hours from Vegas to Santa Clara, we opted to drive as far as we could today, have a good rest in a hotel, then finish the drive to our new apartment tomorrow.

Once we hit Bakersfield, we were thinking about calling it an early night when there was a rattling noise in the engine, previously heard a few times in the last couple days for a second or two at a time. This time, it wouldn’t quit. We parked and revved the engine and it was only audible when in gear or in neutral. Like any good husband, I popped the hood and peered around, pretending to know what I was looking for. All I saw were a bunch of nondescript hoses and whirling black rubber bands, greasy iron doodads and whatchamacallits humming and vibrating along as I have come to expect from that black box under the hood. The rattling was out of place.

Thank science for smartphones and GPSes. It was just after five and the first repair shop I called had closed for the day, but the good folks at Bears Mountain Auto Repair stayed a little later while I drove through rush hour traffic to get there. The Jeep was off for a few minutes and the rattling wasn’t there when I started up. Shortly down the road, it began again. This time, I figured I’d either get to the repair shop, or blow up trying.

That rattling sound got worse and worse and its frequency matched that of the engine. Hopping on the highway, it got so loud and high-pitched that my Jeep sounded more like a dirt bike. I thought, this was it. At its peak, the noise suddenly vanished. No change in driving or feel or anything. Just normal old Jeep.

The guy at the repair shop checked it out and plugged it into the computer, but all was well. He couldn’t find anything wrong and we all speculated as to what it could be. After a thorough on-the-spot check, we were resolved to a I-don’t-have-any-freaking-idea-but-it-looks-just-fine diagnosis. He recommended we head up I99 instead of I5 so that we’d be close to cities along the way.

Jen and I both agreed it’d probably be better to blow up the Jeep sooner than later, in case we need to find alternate travel accommodations to our new digs in Santa Clara, so we headed out on the highway. We’re now hoteled up somewhere south of Fresno, and the rattling has not returned.

I recently watched the last part of the Twilight Zone movie on Netflix. You know the one, where John Lithgow sees a creature on the wing of the plane, ripping the engine to shreds. My unfounded hunch is that we had one of those gremlins in the engine, but he was caught between the big metal whatsit with the pistons and some other thingy, like the exhaust doodad. When the engine got hot, he expanded enough to cause the rattling. Bakersfield was in the upper nineties, hotter than it had been on the rest of our journey. My guess is that, when we kept driving on the way to the repair shop, it got too hot and the vibrations were so intense, that the little bugger just burst into pieces and the rattling stopped. I bet that if I look hard enough, I’ll find little pieces of gremlin guts splattered on all the funny gizmos under the hood. Such is my hope.

Until then, we’ll keep driving. The Jeep didn’t drive any differently while that little guy was screwing with our engine, and hopefully he didn’t make any lasting impression. I think the rattling’s gone, but who knows how these things operate? Perhaps, when little gremlins blow up, they only make a million littler gremlins, large enough to still cause damage but small enough that they won’t get caught in between engine flimflam. Time will tell.

On a positive note, we’re finally out of desert. All week, we’ve been traveling through Moab, the Grand Canyon, Vegas, and what I assume is the countryside they filmed Tremors in. It’s been an unbelievably fun time, but the landscape has been rather bleak. North of Bakersfield, it started getting a little country. The smell of cow manure was a welcome odor, and there are actually big trees and lots of grass in the place we’re staying. What a pleasant change of scenery. Tomorrow, we pick up the keys to the apartment, given a happy and compliant Jeep. It’ll be nice to unpack and unwind.

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