I had an excellent trip to Sydney (other than moderately annoying work stuff), and had excellent fun hanging out with damned_colonial
, who is a tour guide par excellence. Expecially considering she's only been living there for a couple of months. We did some shopping for meaty electronic gadgets (vicarious gadget shopping is excellent
), and my wee vee-hickle came in handy for transporting the swag. We got a ferry to Manly beach, and I got to inhale tons of salt air, which made me feel more "myself" than I have felt for a while. There was also a successful Hornblower pimping exercise, so I'm looking forward to reading some nice juicy slash with a finer appreciation
of the characters involved. Yay!
So, I toodled off home a couple of hours later than I was expecting, no problem, around sunset. That was when the (heavy irony alert) "fun" really started. In Sydney, on the main highway from the east, you pay tolls coming and going. So, going, I got to the toll gate, paid the nice lady my $3.20 and attempted
to put my car into first gear so that I could drive off. The attempt failed. Oh dear. And continued to fail; I could not move the gear stick in ANY direction whatsoever. This particular car has a 3-speed (+ reverse) gearbox, mounted on the steering column, so driving it is normally pretty fun. Not today, alas.
After quite a bit of cursing and bashing (well, a couple of minutes' worth), I told the nice lady that I would attempt to get out of her lane and go to the carpark on the left. I was stuck in third gear, thank god, not neutral, so there was motive power available. Luckily there was only one other lane to the left of the one I was in, and there was no problem stopping traffic through there for a couple of seconds. Even more luckily, there is nothing wrong with the clutch, so after much revving and clutch-riding, I was able to manoeuvre to the parking space.
I sat and ruminated on things for a wee while (as one does), and considered the fact that getting a tow somewhere in Sydney would mean that my car couldn't be fixed for at least a few days (tomorrow being a public holiday), and there is no way in hell that I can afford to have a couple of days away from work with our Exchange rollout beginning next weekend. I also considered the fact that, after the toll gates, it is entirely highway all the way to Canberra, my flat is one block off the main road into Canberra, and there are only a few sets of traffic lights on that route, on a flat stretch of road, thus no need for anything resembling a hill start.
With all those ruminations done, I thought "what the hell" and drove off. Now, the nice thing about these cars only having three gears is that it is entirely
possible to drive the 280-odd kms from Sydney to Canberra only using one
of them. I could start off in third, and of course, top gear is also third, so I was quite happily tootling along at about 110km/h all the way back. If I had been stuck in first, well, that would have put paid to my plan, since there was no way I was going to drive back at 20km/h, while burning out my gearbox in the process (leaving aside the fact that I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to get from Sydney to Canberra via back roads, if they exist). Granted, being in third meant that getting from 0-110 took a minute or so, but I wasn't racing on a dragway.
The challenge began when I reached Canberra, where there is one of Canberra's famous roundabouts (roundabouts are great, but really, Canberra specialises
in them). Luckily, there was no-one else on the roundabout, so I was able to cruise through there about about 40-50km/h (a little fast, but really, I wasn't caring so much then). I had almost a clear run with traffic lights, by some miracle; I only had to stop twice, and both stops were on a slight downward slope. Turning into the side street into my house was a similar situation, and I decided that the Give Way signs were really "slow down and hope like hell that no-one decides to come now", which worked. I arrived in one piece, and while my clutch was smelling hot, it isn't burned out.
So, well, despite the fact that the car is so old made this mechanical failure more likely, I am glad
that I was driving such an old car. There aren't many modern cars where, say, fourth gear has a long enough ratio where you can comfortably negotiate a set of traffic lights from a standing start within the required time. Or that third gear is comfortable enough to drive at around 100km/h for three hours. I'm hoping it's a reasonably simple case of the gear levers heading into the gearbox getting their knickers in a knot, in much the same way as old typewriter keys did if you mashed a whole bunch of them at once. If it's the innards of the steering column, it's bound to be a more costly exercise, although I could get them to renew the steering bushing at the same time, since the steering in general is somewhat loose (and I've been kind of putting off getting it done).
So, that is my excitement for the weekend, it's been a good'un!