After Ravioli died last Sunday on a lonely stretch of Montana highway, my mechanic turned the ignition and immediately declared the three dreaded words, broken timing belt.” I am a Toyota-owner devoted to taking my 1999 Rav 4 for the long haul. “Wouldn’t it be cool to hit 500,000 miles?” I often tell my friends and family, excited by the possibility that my vehicle is just now hitting middle-age. Only a very few select people (mostly mechanics) get as excited as I do when I talk of testing the endurance of my little SUV-that-could.

During the 12 hours between having Ravioli towed to White Sulphur Springs and getting the call from my mechanic detailing the extent of the damage, I was overwhelmed with a strange sadness. A giant hunk of metal, plastic, rubber, grease, and glass shouldn’t make me so emotional, yet it does. Some of the best times in my life were spent road-tripping with my mom in this vehicle. Driving down the highway, I can still picture her sitting there next to me, her purse tucked between her feet on the floor, a dog draped over her lap. I spot an old farm house, or some flowers, or a dog, or a train and I long for my parents — they both loved to take drives just to “look at things.” What I wouldn’t give to have them back in these seats for just one more trip down to Greensburg, me half-watching the road and half-looking where they point, hearing their voices saying, “Look over there…”

I know that cars don’t DIE — they just break, they stop working. We have the option to move onto something newer, better… or we can repair what we love. If only the rest of life worked that way. “You’re in luck,” my mechanic told me when he called the next morning. “Ravioli has a non-interference engine. Most new cars have interference engines which means that when a timing belt breaks it usually does serious damage. My dear, Ravioli just needs a new belt… and she’s ready to roll again.

It’s silly, I know, but I teared up when he told me the news. Non-interference — I like the sound of that.

DSCF1647On the way home from the mechanic’s garage, Ravioli turned to 272,000. And, no, your computer screen isn’t plastered with dust, my dashboard is!


How could this be??? I’ve been religious about changing Ravioli’s timing belts on schedule. My Montana mechanic, Heath, and his wife, Shelly, drove 35 miles from White Sulphur Springs to Martinsdale at 8 pm on a Monday evening to tow Ravioli into the shop. Talk about amazing service! I’m crossing my fingers and toes no other damage was done… and that my trusty steed can be restored to her old (“vintage” sounds better), yet dependable self.

DSCF1545Ravioli’s current odometer reading: 271,663 miles. But tonight, she gets a free ride off into the sunset.




… tying your broken-down Toyota Rav to the back of a kind stranger’s truck, and allowing him to drag you 13 miles back home. I was SO THANKFUL my Ravioli’s battery failed on a main road instead of the dozens of remote forest service roads I enjoy “getting lost on” every week. Billy saved me this morning by offering me a tow. But once we got rolling it was pretty scary driving with limited steering and brakes, especially since I was following way close to his rig. Billy knew what he was doing though, and I thank him for taking an hour out of his day to haul me and the four dogs safely back to Martinsdale. Tomorrow, I’ll drive my old Ford dog truck (a.k.a. the MOOSE) to White Sulphur Springs to pick up a new battery. I hope that vehicle makes it!


Thanks, Doug!

Thanks, Doug!

I’m devoted to my 1999 Toyota Rav 4 (a.k.a. “Ravioli”). The vehicle — basically just a big dog crate on wheels — has delivered my string thousands of miles across this country. Yesterday morning after I stacked my belongings and 3 dogs in their usual places, I popped the hood for a quick check of the fluids. I was horrified to discover an empty coolant reservoir. WHAT NEXT? I thought, knowing better than to say it out loud — I didn’t really want an answer. I dialed up Ravioli’s “doctor” and, as always, he answered the phone. “What’s up?” Doug said, knowing I must be stuck somewhere with a sick car. When I’m broken-down on the road, Doug rescues me with his knowledge by phone; when I’m stalled-out in Indiana, he’ll come looking for me. Thankfully, yesterday I could drive the Ravioli straight to his house for a consult. It didn’t take him long to find the problem, mend it with radiator stop-leak, and send us on our way. As I merged onto Interstate 74 WEST, I glanced down at my odometer, catching the numbers as they rolled to 266000. I love my little Ravioli…