I’m quite happy that we cover a huge area for the Press Democrat. PD photographers cover Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and Napa Counties routinely. We also travel to points south on occasion, as well as to Humboldt County. That being said, we are at the mercy of the car gods. I traveled Saturday to Ft. Bragg to cover the 41st annual Worlds Largest Salmon Barbecue. After two hours on the road and another two hours of shooting time, I headed back in my company 1998 Honda Civic, that has churned out 237k miles. At Irmulco Road on Highway 20 the car overheated. I was forced to pull over. After about 35 minutes I opened the radiator cap and overflow to find no water.
What? I just had it flushed. Aided with several bottles of Crystal Geysers finest, I replenished the two tanks and was on my way. At the very top of the grade on the downhill side to Willits, it overheated again. I tried running the heater to no avail (thermostat went out maybe?) so I coasted nearly four miles to Willits and limped in to a convenience station-not a service station-and filled the reservoir again. I found a leak in a small radiator hose. Whipping out some duct tape, I managed to patch the hose as best as I could, this after attempting to find a garage open (turns out a lot of them don’t even open on Saturday in Willits) to install a new hose.
Heading out again, I made it to the top of the Willits grade before it overheated again, but fortunately I was able coast downhill to Redwood Valley. Crystal helped me out a second time which enabled me to limp in to Ukiah. Enlisting the aid of my wife-who has more patience for my job than an overworked eighth grade teacher-she was able to get a tow truck lined-up, while I fiddled with more duct tape on the radiator hose. Unfortunately, duct tape is no match for boiling water. It melted right through this time. As far as car repair shops open in Ukiah most, if not all, close at 5pm on Saturday ( The time was 4:57). I was trying to save the very expensive cost of a tow truck. Alas, I watched the 60 miles of scenery back to Santa Rosa from the cab of one, which turned out to be a cool $350 cost.
To add insult, A very large fire popped up in the Mendocino National Forest which I had a very good view of while waiting for the tow. Now I will carry tubing in my car for this very reason. Add that to the tally of jumper cables, two spare tires, oil, brake and transmission fluid, fix a flat, chains, shovel and ax with a small set of tools thrown in for good measure. This got me to thinking. What if I was covering a fire in the mountains and the same thing happened? They’d probably found me today sunburned and gibbering.
I made deadline, too.
A special thanks goes out to Press Democrat editor Chuck Buxton.