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What's Eating Your Ride?

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What's Eating Your Ride?

Scott's new truck is disintegrating from road salt

I’ve recently become excruciatingly aware of external forces bent on trimming my finances regarding the ever-present need to stay mobile, beyond those I was already aware of like driving habits, maintenance (preventative as well as emergency), idiots in parking lots, kamikaze pilots on borrowed time, wildlife intent on suicide and over friendly dogs with sharp claws and big bladders. (Urine eats nice wheels and I like nice wheels.)

I’ve gone through an amazing array of vehicles since 1967 when I bought my first Yamaha at 15. All of them chosen carefully for one reason or another. Almost always the almighty dollar had a lot to do with it. Occasionally, stupidity played a larger role, without my being aware of it until later of course. We are quite cable of hiding things from ourselves in order to satisfy other hungers. Keep this in mind later on as it has a lot to do with the plot on this page of the magazine.

Once in your late fifties, one becomes painfully cognizant of the financial treadmill you’ve been on for so very long and that one day, sooner’n you think, you will fly off that amusement ride and find yourself surviving on yer wits and yer Social Security checks and whatever else you’ve managed to hide from your ego over the years. In my case, precious little has been stowed away due to other criteria such as eating and payin’ taxes. I can see it’s gonna be tough and I have an ever-expanding respect for those already in that pair of shoes.

A couple of months ago, I did something I’ve never done before (in this life anyways) and figured I’d better do it now or fever hold my credit. I bought a brand new rig! A Chevy Colorado from Joe and Brett at Taylor Parker Motors. I love it, pamper it, talk to it, and would probably throw myself bodily between it and any threat to its well-being. The day after bringing it home, admiring its lustrous beauty in my driveway and pinching myself repeatedly, I was horrified as a large sploop of bird poop made a perfect landing on the hood. I can’t remember what I blurted out, but it made my dog pee without thinking!

Two days later, I was taking my new unit on its maiden voyage to work, rollin’ down the ‘Cocolalla Flats’ at 6:30 am and following not too closely a train of cars dutifully tagging along behind a state plow in the process of pre-treating the pavement with sodium chloride brine in the event the temperature dropped below freezing, which it didn’t. Six miles later and pretty well pre-treated myself, I turned down Sagle Road and headed for work, sodium chloride dripping off every brand new, shiny part. By the time I pulled in to work, my sweet new ride was blown dry and resembled a salt-cured silver ham. It didn’t sit well with my newly elevated pride. I almost cried!

This turned into an almost daily, or twice-daily, occurrence, which kept it in my thoughts like a thin tamarack sliver directly penetrating a fingertip and unwilling to come out until Uncle Fester shows up. After two months and roughly 100 treatments later, that sliver is still there penetrating my thoughts. This has led me to talk to a wide assortment of people in an attempt to pull it out and thus lighten my demeanor, which it hasn’t.

I called the state to find out what they were currently using on our racetrack; sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, calcium/magnesium acetate, or whatever they deemed suited to making sure nothin’ ever freezes out there on the highway. I was informed they were using ‘salt brine’ (the first one on that list).

I also asked if the traffic was also on the list of things to be sprayed and related that, even though I’d pulled over to the apron to avoid a direct hit from an oncoming spray unit thirty feet away, I got pressure treated and temporarily blinded anyway! The response my ears received was, “Well, sometimes they forget that they have it on.” This put me in a ‘prickle,’ that bein’ a situation where you want to say something profound but realize you’d better not.

I know a lot of people who run in the ‘Cocolalla 500’ on a regular basis—some even go as far as takin’ in the ‘Beyond Hope 200’ as well—and I’m finding out there’s a fair amount of fergettin-what-they’re-doin goin’ on out there. A lot of people I talk to are getting hosed down (with their own tax money, ha ha).

For this reason, always keep your washers operable and primed to use them. This could save yer hide and those of other participants. Be prepared for hydroplaning, too (and I’m not referring to a boat race, either).

Everyone knows what salt does to your automobile. Anyone hapless enough to fall in like with a used vehicle from Michigan, Chicago, or anywhere else they use a lot of salt to de-ice roads or even from hurricane-afflicted areas will tell you, or their mechanic will, what it does to the underside of things mobile. Have any vehicle you are thinkin’ of purchasing inspected by someone you trust to look out for your interests.

“You can pop a nut just tryin’ to get a tire and wheel off a hub sometimes, an’ I don’t mean ‘lug nut’, either!” This I got from a well-seasoned mechanic who now wears a truss to avoid further distribution of his lower intestines down his pant legs. I’ll leave him anonymous but a little grumpy.

“I’ve received a mixed reaction from mechanics and other service-related guys I’ve queried lately over my current hobby of tryin’ to keep my new truck from decomposing before it’s even paid for. One said “park it or at least get those nice rims off ‘til summer!” Some, I’ll admit, seemed hesitant, like they may receive a bolt of retribution for bad-mouthing some higher authority. Most others don’t care about that and happily showed me their skinned knuckles and hernia scars.

“You oughta see what it does to brake rotors! Uglier’n my mother-in-law’s cookin’!” Scott, the service manager who babies all my things automotive, told me the other day while I was wringin’ my hands and frettin’ over my newfound concerns. Jeff Kemp replied, “It’s disgusting what it makes chrome, stainless steel and aluminum look like if you don’t keep ‘em clean and protected!” Barry Frazier told me, “After I rebuild my El Camino for the third time, I’ll probably quit driving it completely!”

Now that bothers me a lot, because I like to see his El Camino.Russ out at the UPS Depot put in, “Our guys hose their trucks down (and even me) when they come back in at night so it cuts way down on exposure to corrosion. My biggest problem with the de-icers is what it does to wiring and connections!” This was echoed twice to me by both Cliff Irish and Wes Olsen, who run a sizeable fleet of trucks and equipment up and down these roads.

The auto and concrete industries have been trying to mitigate damage to cars, trucks, concrete bridges and roadways and there have been gains, especially in the auto sector, but they are far from making them corrosion proof!

The problem is so convoluted due to the benefits of safer road surfaces versus overall costs of materials and collateral damage, we may never see a handshake between all parties concerned.

Environmental and mechanical fallout is becoming more pronounced all the time. If you can Google, type in “highway deicers and automotive corrosion,” click enter and start readin’. It’s that easy! Get informed, for ignorance sure as hell ain’t bliss.

I’ve learned a lot in the past couple weeks and plan to do a bunch more digging. In the meantime, and probably thereafter, I’ll continue to try and protect my ‘rolling investments’ by visiting a full underbelly car wash once a week and maybe install one at home! I realize that ain’t cheap, but neither is complacency. Your mechanics will reward and thank you later, and so will your checkbook.

And speaking again of hiding things from ourselves to satisfy other hungers, getting somewhere faster always has a cost applied somewhere, be that stopping to wash your rig all the time or watching your unit rot out from under you. Time is money and money is time. Sure, you can pass the problem off to someone else (something we’re famous for anyways) and trade it in before the damage gets obvious, but sooner or later the buying public is gonna wise up and have any rig inspected before opening their wallet because the investment is well worth it.

And unless you do some listening, you won’t hear the horror stories about unsuspecting car buyers and there are many in our own little neighborhood. Recyling headaches is one of this country’s new industries; where the job market seems to be heading these days. Just another form of false advertising no matter what color collar yer wearin’.

Idaho Department of Transportation’s website provided me with this little gem: “... merely reducing a speed limit has little effect on the speed at which motorists will travel.” Well, that was certainly reassuring, but then again I already knew it.

Twenty years ago, on a rainy, cold evening, Highway 95 glazed over in the middle of the main event and I found myself tryin’ to keep my feet, watchin’ one man die and listening to five of my friends and fellow firefighter/EMTs crying to get out of a mangled little Blazer. They were on their way to Spirit Lake for an EMT class and got in a ‘head-on’ with a jerk. I’ve wished a million times that night never happened, ‘cause it screwed things up for some really good kids and for the dumbest of all reasons.

But nights like that are going to continue no matter what they spray on our roads and no matter what the speed limit is. The drier the road, the faster they fly. Those with no time to spare will push the envelope and sometimes it’ll rip open, spilling consequences all over everyone.

I ain’t done with this subject, but I’ve run out of magazine in which to put it. In the meantime, ‘keep it clean!’

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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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