The '91 Chevy van has been just about everywhere in the time we've had it. But it is—in polite language—“over the hill” now. This was proved on our last little road trip. Gassing up in Ripon was where trouble first came knocking—literally. Accelerating away from the pump we were all startled to hear an ominous knocking sound coming from somewhere underneath the van. Despite fearful entreaties from the back seat not to get back on the freeway, we got back on the freeway. As we accelerated the knocking sound accelerated to a frantic staccato. Then, mysteriously, it stopped. Unfortunately, our knocking friend would come back with erratic constancy, like a blind beggar pounding the road after us with staff in hand, usually catching up with us at slow speeds or when we accelerated from a stop.
One theory propounded was that the passenger side trim around the wheel-wells and down the entire side of the van had somehow gotten loose and was flapping against the underside of the car. In fact, the trim had gotten loose and was feebly clinging in only a few places. But this did not account for the knocking sound; after jamming it back in place and continuing our drive: “tock... tock... tock, tock, tocktocktocktock."
At one point we parallel parked on a busy main-street and peered underneath the van (I say parked but, in fact, we watched and listened while moving the van back and forth between two empty spaces). Needless to say, this was a terrible place to diagnose a problem so we finally moved to an empty parking lot down the street to continue our investigation. We concluded it had something to do with the drive shaft. Since there was nothing to be done hundreds of miles from home we headed for I-5 once more. At the stoplight by the freeway on-ramp it became apparent that the fake chrome and rubber trim, loose since the beginning of the trip, had finally released its feeble hold for good and was trailing on the ground. Flicking out his Benchmade tactical folder, Matt leaped out into the intersection and slashed through the wayward appendage. He tossed the rubbery snake into the van and jumped in after it as the light turned green and we tocktocktocktocked through the intersection and onto the freeway.
All went well until our stop at Taco Bell some hours later. Here someone inadvertently pressed down on the passenger side window button while trying to lock the van. In most cars this is easily remedied but in a car where the window motor only goes one direction—namely down—this is more serious. Usually after waiting five or ten minutes it is possible to get it to go up a quarter inch and, with patience, eventually the window can be rolled up completely in this way. After about two hours, however, there was still a half inch crack blowing in cold night air.
We made it home in one piece. The journey over, we grabbed duffels, hopped out, and slammed doors. Wait, what's this? Why is the driver-side door rebounding open after being shut? Inviting us with sentient motion on another trip perhaps? Oh... I forgot: that door doesn't latch anymore.