Yesterday, driving up the mountain road to my grandma’s service, my Miata started making a strange, very mechanical, very metal on metal sort of sound in high revs in 2nd and 3rd gears. I moved carefully up the hill for the last few miles, using only first and fourth gears (a bit tricky) and when I parked up at the family graveyard, I could smell the gear oil. I hadn’t realized that the tiny leak in my rear seal had become more than tiny; perhaps the insane heat of June helped things along.
Luckily, I was up a mountain with my family, who are competent and self-reliant and have a full shop, instead of up a mountain with some other less competent family with no shop. You can’t refill my transmission oil from above; heck, I’d never even seen the plug before. I couldn’t have solved this on my own.
My cousin Norman Harris, who is about the sweetest man on Earth (unless you count his dad, Lynn, or his brother, Les) put my little roadster up on the lift, unscrewed the plug and sure enough, I had just enough of a slick of oil left in there to know that I hadn’t wrecked my transmission. I’m glad I could hear the high whine in that rumble.
My cousin Kelly came along for the fun (or was it Shelly? they are identical twins) as did Evan, and we had a nice bonding time in the nice clean shop. We talked about driving, I told them the story of the little Miata, how it was actually the very car that would have been mine if I’d been able to order it when my uncle told me to in 1988, and we all laughed, and looked fondly at it, admiring its sturdy metal construction, the pretty arrangement of the engine.
Anyway, it wouldn’t be a Ranch funeral if someone didn’t somehow have to coast down the hill, or magic their way up it. I remember an enchanted and spooky coast down after my father’s service, where my rental car was out of gas and I was trying to remember what my Dad said once about being able to coast all of the way down from the Ranch to the Circle K if you handled the turn onto Mission Road correctly, and had the stones not to brake over the rollercoaster hills. (We made it.)
While looking for photos online of our family graveyard, I found an interesting piece from Alliance Conservation about my family land, and the sensible way that they manage it.
In that article, I also found an amazing photo of my cousin Ray McGee, taken by Scott Baxter.
Today, as we rocket along our own trajectories, Evan and I are off to meet up with Bill, Bri and Liam in Maryland (APL, Johns Hopkins) to take part in the Pluto encounter.
Bill has waited decades for this moment, as have so many others I’ll see there tomorrow. I feel a bit like a superball, here we go, sproing, back to the Eastern Seaboard. I’ll be around until the end of the month, stirring up trouble from Boston to DC. I hope to see Sagdeev again, perhaps introduce him to the Pluto team, play more chess at the Cosmos Club.
This photo (published yesterday by NASA) is maybe the last glimpse that New Horizons will have of the side of the little planet that faces the moon Charon.
I had no idea it would be so beautiful, but I can’t imagine why I am surprised.