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A Car Adventure

A portion of highway 36 between Denver and Boulder collapsed, and suddenly my lovely little remote commute on 96 became swarmed with commuters trying to avoid the traffic. The commute was still very reasonable, but there were (and still are at the time of writing) markedly more cars.

It was a Thursday. I was driving to work on my normal commute, when the person in front of me slowed to a stop. I had a lot of distance, so I too slowed to a stop. Unfortunately for me, the person behind me was not as attentive as the situation merited. She tried to stop, but alas, it was too late. I was rear ended.

We drove to the side of the road. She was a sweetheart, very apologetic, felt absolutely mortified. I reassured her that everything was fine, and that all that mattered was that we were both safe. We exchanged information, and she called the police. Since no airbags had deployed, and it seemed like we were both still able to drive our cars, the police decided not to come to the site. They told us to just file an accident report on our own.

Clearly a climber herself, from her massive arms, her Choco shoes, to her climbing gear necklace, she asked me if I too was a climber. I had a bunch of climbing bumper stickers, Tevas of my own, and a Joshua Tree T-shirt on that day. Thought I look the part, I had to tell her sadly I was not, that my parents were.

Information exchanged, Mort still seemed to be in relatively OK driving condition. I drove away. Immediately after I started driving I questioned the wisdom of my decision. Going over a certain speed produced a set of terrifying noises, and going under a certain speed produced a completely new set of the same. I patted Mort (my car) and told him we would be O.K. And we were. We made it to my place of work safe and sound.

I filed the reports, called my boyfriend to ask him to pick me up from work that evening, and went about my day. I was told a tow truck would pick up my car that day, and deliver it to an auto repair shop I had requested. At the end of the day, my car was still in the parking lot. I called the insurance company.

The tow company had reported to my insurance company that my car had been picked up. I explained to my insurance company that I was calling, staring at my car still very much in the parking lot, obviously not towed. The person on the phone apologized, and assured me my car would be towed that night. Luckily it was.

I got a rental car that weekend, a Nissan Sentra. It had bluetooth and a back up camera, luxuries my 2007 Nissan Versa never had. I visited the auto repair shop, did paperwork, called the insurance company, waited.

The next Friday, I tried calling the auto repair place. The person working on my car was not available. I called the insurance company.

Now, I did not think the damage to my car was that bad. I thought it was nothing more than a fender bender. The airbags didn’t even deploy. I was able to drive the car away from the accident.

The insurance company thought differently. According to market value, the cost to repair the damages exceeded the price of the car. You know what that means? Totaled. Even if the damage appears minor. Totaled. Mort, my car of 12 years, 2 blog posts, 144,000 miles, was totaled. I cried. I was completely taken by surprise. The woman on the other end of the phone was very understanding, and walked me through my next steps, and emailed me everything I would need to do. I could not wait to get off the phone. It was so hard not to be angry at her, even though I know she is just the bearer of bad news.

I called my mom. I cried at her. My boyfriend had driven me to work that day so I cried at him on our way home. That weekend, I looked at used cars. It was a horrible depressing tedium.

But then I saw another silver Nissan Versa, a 2012. I was instantly happier. Then, I reminded myself to be reasonable. I wouldn’t actually buy another Nissan Versa unless it was truly the best car. Regardless, the fact that there were available cars out there that were even remotely similar to my beloved Mort lifted my spirits.

I messaged an acquaintance of mine with car knowledge, and asked him for his advice on some of the cars I was finding. Generously, he sent me a couple car recommendations of his own. I had been searching on CarGurus and AutoTrader, but the links he sent me were from Craigslist, which was not exactly where I would have expected to find good used cars. But I started searching around Craigslist too and found a few I liked.

Happily, my problem up front was that I was finding too many cars I liked. I didn’t know how to filter them down. I asked some people for advice, and decided I needed to became more picky. I knew I wanted a car for under $5000, because that was about how much I was getting from the insurance company for Mort (rest his wheels). I wanted a car under or around 100,000 miles, because more than that was likely to wear out. I wanted a car newer than 2010, because upgrade. With these criteria, the list became far more manageable.

I had to return my rental that Wednesday. My boyfriend offered to drive me around after that, but I didn’t want to take advantage of him for too long. On Monday, my car knowledgeable friend told me he would be available Tuesday to help me look for cars. At first I told him I couldn’t. I don’t like planning things on such short notice. But then I realized what a perfect opportunity this was. Realized waiting wouldn’t do any good. I decided to take Tuesday off of work.

Monday night I researched cars. I found a few cars I wanted to look at, and some auto dealers I wanted to visit. Tuesday morning, I called the numbers to the auto dealers to check the availability of the cars. Almost half of them were already sold, which was disheartening, but still left another half. My friend showed up at my house. He looked over my list, and vetoed a couple based on his own research. The list shortened.

Then we left on our adventure. The first place we looked was the furthest away, Hauser and Son Autos in Longmont, CO. On the drive we chatted and caught up. It was nice. Not something I have opportunity to do very often.

The first leg of our journey did not start off particularly well. We arrived at the address and despite circling the block, could not find the shop. I called to ask for directions. Before even receiving directions, I learned that the auto shop owner was not even at the shop. He was 45 minutes away. He gave us directions, we found the place, but we had 45 minutes to kill. We got lunch, I bought my friend lunch for his trouble.

We went back to the shop, and it was open. The man there was an older German gentleman with an accent. His name was Konrad. He opened his garage for us, in which were 7 cars. They were all in beautiful condition. One of them, to my infinite delight was a 2008 Nissan Versa. The one we had come to see, a 2010 Ford Fiesta was in the middle of the garage. Konrad moved the cars out and freed the Fiesta. We gave it a test drive.

My friend walked me through some basic tests. He had me break abruptly, accelerate abruptly. On a relatively straight stretch of road with no other cars around and a speed limit of about 60 he told me to take my hands off the wheel to see if the car drifted. He had me check all the googahs; windshield wipers, air conditioning, heat, lights. When we got back we did a walk around and checked the tires.

My first impression was that it was a nice car, but there were way too many buttons. I also didn’t like the steering wheel.

We test drove another car in the garage that was similar, a 2012 Kia Rio. It had a massive crack in the windshield, but was otherwise in wonderful condition. We gave it a test drive and ran it through the hoops.

It was a toss up which I liked more. I wanted to test drive the Versa, but my friend had an interview that we needed to get to, so we decided to leave it at that. As we left the shop Konrad told us ‘I think you be back, yes?’

We went to my friend’s interview. I waited outside, called my mom and told her about the cars. At the time I was leaning more towards the Kia Rio.

When my friend was done, we headed to another shop. This one reminded me of a chop shop. The car we had come to test drive was a Subaru… something or other, I forget. It was in reasonable condition, but there were little bits and pieces missing here and there. I test drove it, but did not get very far. It had a CVT transmission which is somewhere between an automatic and a stick. I’m glad I tried it, but I knew as soon as I started driving that I would do more damage to the car as I learned to drive a CVT than would be worth it to buy. I did not want to test drive any other cars there due to the ooky vibes the place gave me.

We drove to another shop, this one a posh Subaru dealership that had a Nissan Versa I wanted to try. The salesman greeted us with all the salesman charm and gimmick. He said he had sold the car I wanted not an hour before we arrived. We looked through their database together in his posh office to see if there was anything else that fit my criteria. I knew from my research that there was not. However, he did find one that I might have considered at another dealership. He made us wait while he ‘called up his colleague there’. I gave him my contact information in case anything with the car changed. But by then, in my heart of hearts I knew that Konrad was right, we were going back.

I called up Konrad, and told him we would be there right around 6pm, which was when he closed. He said he would meet us there. He had the paperwork for the Kia Rio ready when we arrived. But plot twist, I had changed my mind. I wanted the Ford Fiesta.

In a major oversight on my part, I had forgotten my checkbook, so I was unable to drive the car away. But I signed the paperwork, and told Konrad I would be back the next day. We shook hands.

My friend drove me home. We started at 10am that morning, and were out until almost 8pm. I bought him gas. My friend had taken an entire day out of his life to drive me around and help me buy a car. I tried to give him outs all day, but he was willing to stick with me the whole journey. He is a truly valiant man, I feel so extremely lucky to know him. I told him that if there was anything I could to to repay the favor, I would in a heartbeat.

The next day, Wednesday, my rental car was due to be returned. I drove it up to Longmont and dropped it off at the rental place there. They gave me a ride over to Hauser and Son Auto. Konrad was there. I cut him a check, and he gave me the keys. We shook, and two weeks after my accident I drove away in my new 2010 Ford Fiesta.

A week later, I received the title to my new car in the mail. But not before I was in… another car accident. See Chapter 2!

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