Let’s Talk About Today

There were many reasons we wanted to make this journey, and arguably at the top of the list was to introduce the youngest of our clan to the Spirit of America.

Happily, our trip does not end today but were that to be we could say with confidence we’ve met that goal.

Today, as you’ve undoubtedly learned, we determined that the six-mile long, eight percent downhill grade coming out of Tioga Pass caused more damage to the ’11’s low-speed clutch than first believed and further travel would not be possible unless the clutch banding was replaced. Amazingly, but unsurprisingly, the eldest traveler among our group happened to bring along a set of Kevlar bands with him “because I had them”, says he. And with those in hand we set out to change all three bands in the 11’s transmission (low-speed clutch, reverse and brake).

Changing bands is, on the face of it not too difficult (the Kevlar band manufacturer states “No special skill required!”), but it can involve digging into the car’s drivetrain to expose the transmission bands if certain “upgrades” have not been accomplished on the past. Our 11’s transmission did not have upgrades.

So here we were, in Lee Vining, CA on the shores of Mono Lake strategizing where and how we were going to change the bands. Our hotel couldn’t host us in their parking lot (next tenants would be there later) and it was going to be another blazingly sunny day.

Which brings us to the Spirit of America. Just down the street from us was Lee Vining Shell (as in Shell gasoline) and we visited them to inquirer about using some of their parking space to effect our repairs, Not only did the owner, Shelley, say yes but he also cleared his one-car bay out for us so we could put the ’11 inside and out of the day’s heat while offering us free rein of the tool boxes and shop supplies. We learned that Lee Vining Shell was a family business, that everyone working there seemed exceptionally intent on helping the countless people who stopped in or phoned with rough-running cars, flat tires, requiring assistance with getting pulled back onto the road (think 4×4) and even people looking for inner tubes with which to go rafting in the local rivers. They enjoyed good-natured ribbing amongst themselves and had stories to tell about the local happenings. And they never blinked when our three- to four-hour project turned into six.

But most humbling, when at the end of the day we offered what we thought was a generous financial “thank you”, Shelley and Debby simply said the pleasure was theirs and we could just pay it forward. They, we know, represent the millions of Americans that make our country great, as opposed to the seemingly handful of people we always hear about in the media that we are supposed to find important. And if nothing else, we hope the youngest of our crowd are learning this, too.

Lee Vining Shell. Go there.

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