National Lampoon’s Miata vacation

By Jimmy Alford | Published Saturday, September 14, 2013

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Oh, the freedom and glory of driving with the top down and feeling the breeze blowing through my hair … well, sort of.

I don’t have much hair, and it was not so much a breeze as a 70-mph blast from a furnace.

Jimmy Alford

Jimmy Alford

Nevertheless, I was pretty happy to be back in the old Miata this week – also a little unnerved to have to dodge so many distracted drivers. Apparently my little Mazda doesn’t make a big impression in people’s mirrors.

I enjoyed the drive so much I came away with a bit of sunburn … on the top of my head, which is always interesting.

It’s been quite a journey getting back into the driver’s seat. For the past several weeks, the car has been in the shop, for an accumulation of issues plaguing what can only be called my permanent project car at this point.

I feel like I’m caught in the middle of some golden-era Chevy Chase flick – “Caddyshack,” “Fletch” or the great Lampoon vacation series.

First, some kind soul backed into my car a short time ago, cracking a taillight.

Obviously this must be my fault for parking such a miniscule vehicle in a normal-size space. I didn’t get a note, an apology, not even the heralded middle-finger salute. The lens is cracked, bulb broken, but life goes on.

As if the taillight wasn’t enough, the same person a short time later decided to hit my front bumper as well. This started a chain reaction of paint chipping – not entirely their fault as whoever painted the bumper (and the whole car, for that matter) did a pretty slipshod job.

Again life goes on, don’t sweat the small stuff … yadda yadda.

Remember those 100-plus degree days we’ve had this summer? I do. That is when my rag top decided I needed fresh air while I was driving 70 mph on U.S. 380. By coincidence that was one of those days we saw the random summer showers. Over 100 degrees and rain, all in the same day!

Then I develop an oil leak. Well, not so much a leak as an open faucet emptying from underneath my car.

So, to the shop it goes.

I can only imagine myself as Clark Griswold. looking dumbly at the ground beneath my Miata, muttering, “Is all that from my car?”

Secretly, my idiot cousin-in-law, played by Randy Quaid, had done something to cause the damage, but of course I am none the wiser.

“You’ve got a bit of leak there don’t you?” says Eddy.

“You think?” I say blithely.

“Oh yeah, that there is oil and a lot of it. Don’t think you should drive it.”

“Thank you, Eddy. You’re always such a help,” I say, conceding to his obvious, useless, yet completely accurate appraisal of the situation.

None of this happened, though. I’m not Clark, and there is no Eddy. The truth is much more frustrating, and sadly, I play both characters in the real story.

I didn’t cause the oil leak, or any of the rest of the damage, but stupid optimism, bad scheduling and overall seemingly bad luck got me into a bind.

I can’t tell you how much my wife loves to carpool. She loves it. She loves it so much that this week she only jumped for joy and laughed hysterically when she didn’t have to rely on my sketchy daily routine to get her home from work.

I’m pretty sure she threatened to strand me at home several times. But like Clark’s wife Helen, she pulled it together and supported me in my hour of need.

I picked the small wonder up and brought it home, after several hours of errands that included getting registration and inspection stickers, both of which had lapsed while it was at the mechanic’s shop.

The top is still damaged and held together by duct tape. The lens is still cracked, but the light works, and the front bumper is still balding chip by chip, not unlike me.

But the oil is staying in the engine, and man, is it fun to drive. I would drive it more if I had any money left to put gas in the tank.

Jimmy Alford is a reporter for the Wise County Messenger.

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