Posted By on August 27, 2008

“Travels With The Blue Beast”

.: For two years I lived with twins, Sammy and Diego, at an apartment several miles from campus. The year before I lived with my sister at a much nicer, much closer, and much more expensive location. During my freshman year I lived in a dorm first by myself and then with a roommate. For my fifth and (hopefully) final year I’m living with Amy, who happens to be the girlfriend of my good friend Hunter. This marks the second time I’m living with someone who’s romantically involved with a friend of mine.

.: I began moving last week and finished doing so two days ago. I’ve since concluded that the only people who can conceivably enjoy moving are those who enjoy throwing away a good chunk of their possessions, because this is invariably what one must do. I used to pride myself on the small number of things I owned: my clothes, my books, and my computer. That’s what I first brought to college, but since then I’ve somehow managed to amass a washer, a dryer, a bed, a table, a couch, a loveseat, a vanity, an armoire, nine chairs, two bedside tables, two extra computers, an entertainment center, a large desk, a small desk, two boxes of vinyl records, three bookshelves, a breadmaker, an ice cream maker, a waffle iron, a George Foreman grill, a wok, three sets of silverware, two sets of knives, an outdoor grill utensil set, three expensive-looking framed pictures, a closet full of books, and a lamp.

.: Some of those items could fit in my Jetta, but for others I needed a bigger vehicle, like the 1977 sky-blue chevy pickup that belongs to my step-dad. The Blue Beast has several good points, like automatic transmission, power steering, and air conditioning. But a vehicle this old is bound to have some idiosyncrasies which, though annoying to whoever has to use it, make for a good story.

.: For instance, the AC has only two settings: on or off. You can toggle it between “Max” and “Off”, or you can switch the fan from “high” to any other setting if you want a more permanent change in the “off” direction.

.: The lock on the passenger door also has a permanent setting which makes entering and exiting rather uncomfortable and disorienting for the passenger. There is a cryptographic procedure for reverting the lock after it has been tripped, but the secret eluded me until I finally returned the Beast to my step-dad. Of course, one should question the premise of having locks on a truck like this in the first place.

.: Safety is also lacking in two important aspects. First, the seatbelts have frazzled edges which dampen recoil and cause slack. Second, the blinker lever does not click automatically after making a turn, because it does not click at all. You have to continuously hold the lever up or down, and even that is a constant struggle since only the most determined and sustained shove can activate the flasher. And this assumes you never want to let oncoming traffic know you’re turning right, because that light doesn’t work anyway.

.: Speaking of lights, there is none in the cabin. In lieu of a dome light, my step-dad has supplemented the cabin with several Mag-Lites. These are there so you can read the writing on whatever fell out of the glove compartment which you foolishly opened. If you’re feeling particularly dexterous, you can also use a Mag-Lite as an alternative blinker.

.: As for entertainment, there is a radio, but it doesn’t work. Even if it did, I don’t think the speakers could successfully challenge the wind generated by the imperfectly sealed doors. The windows are alternately difficult and easy to roll down, which feels a lot weirder than it sounds. Also, the inspection sticker is two months past due.

.: However, the biggest — and simplest — problem with the Blue Beast is none of the above grievances; the biggest problem is that it’s parked 148 miles south of where my new apartment is and 149 miles south of where my old apartment is. Acquiring the Beast meant driving down to New Braunfels in my Jetta, driving back to Waco in the Blue Beast, driving back to New Braunfels in the Blue Beast, and driving up to Waco in my Jetta. Three of those drives were pleasant experiences; one of them was not.

.: In returning the Blue Beast to New Braunfels, I had as my load the washer and dryer which I intended to dump on my mother and step-father. This arrangement resulting in the complete obscuration of my rear-view mirror. Also, three days with the Beast was enough for its blinker lever to stop working altogether; I had to roll down the window and signal with my arm. And since the Blue Beast could only do so much to make the drive miserable, a train in Austin kindly derailed and caused all four lanes of I-35 to close.

.: I missed the detour exit to the toll road and wound up on a small one-lane backwoods road. The traffic there was just as bad as the freeway, but at least I didn’t have to change lanes. While sitting indefinitely and blasting cold air is possible in newer cars, this combination proved too much for the Beast. I killed the engine twice before cutting off the AC and rolling down both windows. Conditions did not improve.

.: Low on gas (in both tanks) and rapidly dehydrating, I waded through another hour of stop and go traffic on this road before coming to a road with almost no traffic. The reason there was no traffic, I learned too late, was that this particular road was a toll road. No problem, I thought, I have a $10 bill on me; I’ll just pull up to the full service booth. Except, instead of an apathetic toll worker there to robotically greet me and accept my momey, I was met by an unlit booth full of stacked boxes. I had neither coins nor an EZ tag, there were cars pulling up behind me, and there was no bar to impede my escape, so I cursed the city of Austin and ran it.

.: I scored the only respite in the entire trip when I pulled into a gas station that stupidly listed its regular unleaded at $2.57 instead of $3.57. Seventy five bucks of gas and one high-five to myself later and I was back on the road.

.: The original plan at the start of the trip was to drive to Austin, pick up my sister, drive to New Braunfels, drop off the truck and the washer & dryer, drive back to Austin, drop of my sister, and return to Waco. My sister lives about six miles off of I-35, but in Blue Beast miles that turns out to be more like thirty five miles. When I finally arrived at her place, she said, “Yeah, so I’m not going to New Braunfels.” I informed her of my status as a cell phone owner, but she insisted that she wanted to see me anyway, if only for a little bit. I left shortly after that.

.: A typical drive from Austin to New Braunfels lasts about forty minutes. The time it took for rain to completely drench the road and obscure all vision was considerably less. Changing lanes without working blinkers is a hassle. Changing lanes without working blinkers in the rain is a hazard. For the rest of the trip I resigned myself to the far right lane, never passing another vehicle no matter how slow it may have been traveling. I followed a horse trailer for a good length of the drive, and the poor thing looked only slightly more miserable than I.

.: I eventually made it to New Braunfels, had a nice dinner with the ‘rents, slept in a comfortable bed, and drove to Waco the next morning after swiping a few CDs from the ‘rents’ music collection. I didn’t take any cassette tapes for the same reason I didn’t take any 3.5″ floppies, though if anyone is dying to hear Spooky Halloween Tracks Vol. I in analog, I know a place where you can find some.

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2 Responses to “Moving”

  1. pero says:

    You could have been describing my old toyota 4 runner, with the exception of the color. Just before I retired it in lieu of inheriting my step-father’s ’02 Range Rover, the 4-runner developed the luxurious but useless feature; when one would apply pressure to the breaks, the windshield-wipers would swipe their familiar path across the windshield and return to their rightful place.

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