3 Lessons Learned from Replacing My Car Engine

First off, I'm an idiot and, full disclosure, did not change the oil in my car so my engine exploded. In my defense (a little) I think there was a mix-up last time I took it in to get serviced, but it's a pretty lame defense even still since that was long enough ago I should have had my oil changed since then. 

1. Change your oil.
For real. Before the oil light goes on, if possible and you are on top of life enough to track miles or months. Whatever they say on the Jiffy Lube commercials. If you don't track time and the reminder sticker they put in the corner of your windshield is still somehow confusing (guilty), change your oil when the light goes on. Don't wait a day, or 3 like I did, then try to drive in 90 degree weather up a mountain pass. Your engine will explode, dousing dirty, nasty, filthy oil all over the parts of your car that can't handle the goo and it will haunt you.

Also, when your car is getting fixed, don't tell anyone it's because you didn't change your oil. You sound like an idiot and most people will rib you for it in that well-meaning, not hurtful, just annoying way. It gets old fast, making self-deprecating comments about car maintenance. Just say it's a mess enough times and people will stop asking why.

2. Pick a mechanic near you. A nice one.
I made two huge mistakes when replacing my engine. One, I purchased an engine from a shop 40 miles from my home (whose main guy had a thick Japanese accent and condescending attitude). And two, the guy I chose to install my engine was, found on Craigslist, 45 miles from my home. The Craigslist part didn't turn out to be such a problem in terms of quality or know-how, but the guy was not trained in the art of customer service, or really human communication. Run-on sentences in emails were full of terminology and grammar I couldn't understand, and talking in person was a headache. Doable, though, because I got enough of a deal of an install. Problem here was that it takes at least 45 minutes to drive to the shop or the guy's driveway, meaning any time I needed to inspect it, I had to slot in an hour and a half of my precious time, and any time I needed to pick up the car (because oil ruins not just engines but other parts too, and you don't always find out til after you've driven away, because cars are the worst invention ever), Porter had to do it too.

For my final inspections, I took the car to a third mechanic, a 15 minute walk from my office, 2 minutes from a bus stop, a 20 minute public-transit commute from home. Not only was this guy polite, respectful, and helpfully instructive, he was the easiest person in the world to get to. And I will take all my business to him for the rest of my life (as long as he's still close and nice). I sent out a mass email to everyone in my office to go there I liked him so much.

3. Walking is great
Silver lining time. Over the last several months of back and forth between mechanics and replacements and tune-ups, I have been bound to foot-traffic. Porter works from home, so I could use his car sometimes, but the appointments he has are in random places at random times, so I commuted a lot by bus. I love where I live- just 10 minute walk from a major bus stop. The walk in the morning always cleared my head and got me ready for the day. There were a few days where I had random appointments where I had to track down bus routes and make transfers and that part I'm not so good at or fond of (and somehow almost always ended up on crowded buses standing up near the front. How could I almost always be the last one on??), but walking from point to point was GREAT.

There's tons of research out there (you know there, in the world of research and the internets) that talks about how weight-lifting is great, and aerobic exercise is great, and both are important for an elevated level of fitness, BUT if your main goal is a high quality of living (mental health, emotional health, physical well-being, etc), the very best thing you can do is walk. Walk a lot, regularly. As fast as you want (briskly is good, but power-walking isn't necessary). And it's totally true. I felt great breathing in late summer and early fall air. And I should continue to do it even though I'm back behind the wheel.

Ugh. I just counted the days between car disaster day one and final car return last week (Summer and Fall) and I feel mad and embarrassed and disgusted all over again. Maybe I should go on a walk.


3 Seattly things

This weekend my good old friend Trent finally gave in to Porter's and my regular invitations (or demands, depending on how you listen) to come up from Portland and give Seattle a proper tour. Trent has come with us on all three of our kayak weekends, but has only been to Pike Place Market. And as great as the market is (especially if you love wildflowers), the city has more for Trent, and for everyone. We only got him for a day (a foggy one at that), but it was dry and very Seattle. 

1. Water Taxi to Alki Beach
Porter lends some of his race equipment to the Salty Half Marathon -- used to be Salty's Half, but uppity Salty's Restaurant didn't want to participate anymore. It's not a huge race, but Porter runs it every year, and for the last three we've done brunch after (what is it about West Seattle that makes me want to have brunch?). Trent and I arrived for the finish line (Porter got 5th place after not having run much for the last 6 months due to an Achilles area injury, which simultaneously makes me very proud and totally grossed out that he can just up and run 13.1 miles like it ain't no thang.)

I took the well-placed finish line as an excuse to finally get around to taking the Seattle Water Taxi, which, at a whopping $3.50 each way, is cheaper than the Bainbridge Ferry, and, at 15 minutes across, a whole lot quicker too. The water taxi leaves from right south of the ferry terminal and, at least on this foggy Saturday, looked totally abandoned (it's usually a commuter ferry)(Seriously, what a sweet commute would that be- living in a condo at Alki Beach - one of the only sandy beaches in the area - and hopping a quick 15 minute floating bus to downtown. I may have just changed some life plans just now). The ride was whelming at best, but had pleasant views, salty air, and was way better than driving through the industrial district to get to the beach.

2. Underground Tour
I don't know if I should be ashamed to admit that I haven't ever been on any Seattle city tours. No Duck, no Pike Market, no Underground Tour. All are pretty famous for tourists and locals alike, so I figured with Trent in town I ought to make myself a whole lot less embarrassing and pick one. The Underground Tour is all about Seattle's very beginnings - the Dennys, the Mercers, the people who streets are named after - and how the town was essentially flooded with sewage, then burned to the ground, then was finally rebuilt a story higher than sea-level. The result is 20 some odd square blocks of underground tunnels criss-crossing under Pioneer Square. The tunnels themselves are uninteresting (and filled with piles of rubble and old machinery dumped over the last century), but the stories are pretty great.

In an odd turn of events, one of my best friends from 5th grade and only 5th grade because her family moved away by 6th, happened to be in town with her boyfriend, so they came too. There's not much like catching up with someone you haven't seen since you were 11. Facebook is the greatest. How else would I know her hobbies, profession, and travel history and how else would you have anything to talk about?
3. Relish in ethnic diversity (Marrakesh and Chinese Massages)
Stephanie, the 5th grade friend, commented how much diversity there is here, a compliment (is that a compliment?) I deflected, noting that we have a fair number of Asians, but we're still pretty white. Stephanie's from Kansas, and to her credit, we are pretty diverse. Case in point: dinner eating lamb and cous-cous with our hands (just as hard as it sounds) with a belly dancer and tented ceiling. and a late night Chinese reflexology massage. Both of these I've actually done before, but loved them enough to recreate them.

Marrakesh serves a 5-course meal, and only a 5-course meal. You choose the entree from about 10 options, but the rest comes to you whether you like it or not. Egg, chicken, and almond in phylo-dough with powdered sugar was not my thing, but I dug in (sans silverware) anyway. My lamb could not have been more tender, the salad curry thing more perfectly balanced, and the mint rosewater tea with honey- oh my goodness I can't stop thinking about it.

My reflexology massage, unfortunately had reverse success. Head and face massage- amazing. Foot and leg massage- pretty good. But then my masseur (I got a man. Porter and Trent got ladies. Weird?) couldn't get my skinny jeans rolled down after the foot massage part was over, and it went all downhill from there. He offered to cut them off, as if I was in some sort of emergency and he was an EMT saving my life. My calves are disproportionately large for the rest of my body, plus expansion from a hot water foot bath and all sorts of improved circulation (isn't that what massage is all about?) which I'm well aware of so I shouldn't have rolled the skinnies so high, but really, cut them off? We finally got them down, and he continued on to massage my shoulders, but by then all I could pay attention to was him chewing gum. And I swear he burped once.


But isn't Seattle great?