Below zero temperatures have been the norm this Winter, as has been snowfall, phenomena that should not be all that unusual for northern Illinois and Chicagoland. We have been spoiled in a way the past few years with mild Winters. Last year, for instance, Nate had played several rounds of golf by now, the grass around here greening early and the transition from Winter to Spring barely an event. 2011 was the same way, the money I paid for indoor bicycle training classes seemed a waste by February because the weather was already suitable for riding outside, with so little precipitation that the roads were clear for riding.
Living with my PT Loser is always a challenge, especially during the Winter months. When it is cold, there usually is barely enough cranking power left in the battery to turn the engine over much, so if the engine doesn’t fire after a few cranks I am usually resigned to using the jump start battery. I don’t even keep the battery in the trunk any more. It is on the floorboard of the back seat where I can get to it faster. There is a power draw somewhere in the car, so I also keep the negative battery terminal loose and disconnect the cable when I get out of the car. I am not sure how many times coworkers have come up to me to let me know that my hood isn’t latched. My CAR hood….
The PT Loser doesn’t get to live in our garage. The much favored family van lives there, as does the ping pong table and eight bicycles. That is tough on a car, so I try to cut my old car a bit of slack when I go out to start it on cold mornings like today’s -4 degrees F. This morning I went through the normal routine — lift the hood, push the negative battery terminal down on the battery, drop the hood, climb in behind the wheel while speaking soothing words to my car as I slip the key in the ignition.
“You can do this, buddy. I know you can. Just fire for me.” My breath comes out a frozen fog of vapor as I plead with the PT. I swear I see an eyebrow raise over the left front headlight, as if my car is expressing its doubts. I expect it will try to start. As much of a mechanical wreck my car is, one redeeming quality of the PT Loser is its heart. At 105K miles it still runs well. And when there is enough juice in the battery, especially if I go out and start it before going to bed, it usually fires when I turn the key. This Winter has been incredibly hard on any car, definitely hard on a car that sits outside all of the time, so the PT Loser has had it’s share of non-starts.
I turned the key, expecting a slow cold cranky complaint in return. Instead the engine fired almost simultaneously with the turn of the key, as if the PT Loser was anticipating the command. I chuckled incredulously at the pure impossibility of the event, surprised at my good fortune, amazed as the engine hummed smoothly as if it were a warm Summer day. My car earned a few extra points, saved itself a few future tire kicks.
Winter will breathing its last gasps in a few weeks. On Saturday, I loaded my road bicycle into the back seat of the PT and took it to a friend’s bike shop for a thorough going over and tune up. The shop took the bike completely apart, cleaned all of the parts, checked the chain, trued the wheels, replaced worn spokes, adjusted the brakes and shifting, and even put new red handlebar tape on. It’s read to ride, waiting for me on its hanger in my garage. I will ride my back up bike on the indoor trainer, get out on the mountain bike, until the Winter muck is off of the roads and my white steed can be safely subjected to the outdoors.
I like the Winter and snow. I know it is about gone, so I can tolerate a few more weeks of cold, ice, and white landscape. Unlike the past few years, the transition from Winter to Spring will be a true event, a celebration that everyone around here has been anticipating.
Heck, maybe this year should be celebrated by a naked bike ride?