¡No Va!

They say that when the Chevy Nova was introduced, it didn’t sell as well as expected in Latin America. Why? The name means “doesn’t go.” The fact that this little legend is pretty much 100% fictional shouldn’t get in the way of a good story. But the real reason I’m thinking of it tonight is that my car, my cute, sporty, paid-for Audi A4 is in the no va category.

There’s one thing that’s good about having your clutch go out. Nobody without a tow truck is going to be able to steal your car.

Coming home from school Friday, I noticed that somebody at a stoplight was stinking the place up, burning something that shouldn’t be burned. I pushed the “recirculate” button on the heater to keep the outside air out and drove on home. As I exited the vehicle at home, I realized that the car that had been burning something was mine.

The next morning, as I tried to get the Grey Ghost in gear to drive to a shop, I heard the engine rev and got absolutely no motion. The nice folks at AAA sent a tow truck before our latest snowstorm hit. Right now, I’m waiting on a quote from the shop as to the repair cost. I’m hoping for $39.95, but I’m prepared for it to cost about as much as the car is worth. Yuck!

As I mull over this unpleasant development, it occurs to me that people can have bad transmissions as well. You know these people. Perhaps sometimes you are that person. I know I am now and again. They have an engine. You can hear it respond to the gas pedal. They have wheels that turn, but somewhere between those two, something isn’t making a connection. Somehow, despite a lot of horsepower, these people just don’t get anywhere. ¡No va!

As I drive this analogy into the ground, I realize that sometimes we should prefer being without a transmission. Think about it. If you’re pointed toward a cliff, then aren’t you better off with a clutch that doesn’t engage? So we have some people who are making great time headed in the wrong direction and others who don’t seem to get anywhere.

The ability to make our way down the road is a positive thing, but the necessity of steering and the wisdom to know how to get somewhere worth going cannot be ignored. Right now, I’m just getting ready to spend that $39.95 for the repair.

Biking It

A couple of days ago, I rode my bike to the grocery store. The trip wound up logging 4 miles due to the fact that I got to the bottom of our street and realized I had left my helmet sitting in the garage. In reality, the store in question is 1.8 miles away.

Besides the stupid inefficiency of getting down the hill before missing my helmet, I wasted a good bit of time on this jaunt trying to keep the new bag that Penny bought me from jamming up in the spokes. I also managed to get stopped by a train. On a good day, when my gear is properly on my head and attached to the bike, I should be able to make the round trip in about 18 minutes. That’s moving at a fairly modest 12 miles an hour. If I were particularly earnest about things, I could probably manage an average of 15, but let’s be conservative.

Driving the same route, I can go as fast as 35 for the bulk of the way. That’s nearly three times as fast. On the other hand, stoplights take the same length of time for bikes and cars. Plus, I can’t drive 35 on my street without incurring the wrath of my neighbors, and there’s all that time you spend walking from your car into the store. (Yeah, I really said that.)

Is there a point to all of this? Yes, there is. When I bike at 12-14 mph, I burn something like 57 calories per mile or 205 calories for the round trip. What do I lose by riding to the store? I lose perhaps 15 minutes of my time, maybe 20. What do I gain? For starters, I gain the $2.07 that the IRS would allow me to deduct for mileage. I know that I won’t actually see that $2.07 in my wallet, but the expenses add up. I also gain a decent little workout, the equivalent of running about a mile or a bit more. Is that a fair trade-off?

Granted, I’m not going to be doing my major shopping trip on my bike, but much more often I head to the store to pick up a few apples, a bottle of BBQ sauce, or some other smallish item. But if I were to make this run one time a week for a year, I’d save some $100 and add 50 miles worth of workouts to my year. That 10,000 calories amounts to about 3 pounds lost for the year.

I like that trade-off. It seems like good stewardship all around.