Dr. Periwinkle, our car, and their troubles

If you've been up on our social media stuff the last few days, you know that we have run into a bit of car troubles.  We thought we'd tell the full story here.  It's a little long, and features a lot of car talk, but it's the whole saga if you're interested. 

Firstly, if you'd like a print of the USA painting map above, which has all the paintings on this last tour on it, it's at our Etsy shop.

It all started when some steam shot out of the cap on the coolant reservoir on Monday.  

Our initial plan was to leave from Elizabeth's brother Nico's place in Surrey, BC, Canada on Monday morning.  We got as far as the small town of Cle Elum, WA before the steam shot out of the melted cap I mentioned above.  Insurance covered a tow to a small local one man shop.  The guy looked at the problem, figured it was the radiator, and then gave me a special cap to put on our radiator for $65, saying that if our car got farther than 30 miles outside of town, we'd be good until we got home.  

Well, 30 miles later, we seemed good and felt optimistic!  100 miles after that, our car started to overheat again.  We parked on the side of the highway, checked the GPS, and decided to drive it to the local small town of Ritzville, WA.  It was 5 PM at this point, and we just barely made it to a shop that said they were closing, but after looking at it, it was DEFINITELY the radiator.  

To be fair to them, the radiator was melted a little bit under the cap, and it was an old radiator at that, and it needed to be changed somewhere along the line.  But we needed to spend the night in town.  Found a cheap hotel within walking distance from the mechanic, and tried to relax.  

Tuesday: woke up and spoke to the mechanic.  Can't get the part until noon.  No problem.  But then they get it and it takes 3.5 hours to put in.  No problem.  We just wandered around the town, and even stopped by the active train tracks to squish some pennies on them.

SIDE NOTE: have you ever done that?  It's pretty awesome.  We now have a few squished and smeared coins.  I've always wanted to do that but for whatever reason, never have.  It's weirdly joyful.  Highly recommend you do it sometime in the next 3 months.  I'm sure you can find someplace near you to do it.

After dropping another $450 (which, for a new radiator, is pretty expensive, but it is what it is), we were off at 3:30!  Great!  Here we go!  Let's go home!

We made it 60 miles before, in the heat of early rush hour traffic on the Spokane highway, the temperature gauge was going up into the red.  No smoke, thankfully, but I know enough to not drive it at that point.  We pull off and I check everything.  At this point, understandably, I'm kind of pissed.  For this to still be happening after dropping that much money is very frustrating, as I'm sure many of you know (and probably, have experienced if you own a car).

After letting it cool down again, we cautiously drive around to a few mechanics and auto parts stores for an hour, trying to catch them before they close and getting any connections and advice that I can.  We end up with nothing but a recommendation for a place called Priors, which is closed until the morning, so we get a hotel.

In it, Elizabeth and I have a bit of a break down together.  We both start crying, frustrated and exhausted from the tour at large, the desire to get home, and the run of bad luck after spending so much money.  But we try to compose ourselves, come up with a plan, and go from there, because what else can you do?

We figured it was something with the engine's thermostat, which we learned was a relatively simple and cheap fix.  So I take it in at 8 on Wednesday morning and tell them the whole story.  They take a look at it, and come back saying that it's not the thermostat, but the gasket heads, which is a $2000 job.  

He said it so plainly that it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I almost burst into panicky tears right in front of this manly man, who had greasy rough hands, a shaved head, and a mustache.  He was patient with me as I tried to compose myself, but my head was running.  Elizabeth was back at the hotel, waiting for me to come back with a fixed car, so she had no idea about it.

He told me to get a second opinion and take it to another garage.  So I did.  The new guy told me the same thing, but said it was even worse than the first guy thought, and that the problem was with the engine itself and how the bolts have elongated and striped in a way that is hard and expensive to fix.  He said to get a new engine or junk the car.

We LOVE our car Dr. Periwinkle.  We do not want to get rid of them.  To put this into perspective, remember our crappy Nissan Altima from "Drive. Play. Sleep." that kept breaking down on us?  We spent $2500 to buy the car, and put in another $5000 on it over the 6 months we owned it.  We have had Dr. Periwinkle for 2.5 years now, and have spent about $2000 total on repairs, oil changes, etc.  It's in great shape and we don't want to give up on it.

So I got a third opinion from a mechanic.  Said the same thing.  We started shopping around for engine's which brought us to a junkyard place that had 3 possible engines for us to use.  They were all used, and they all cost us about $1500 for the engine, another $2000 for installation, and for us to wait 2 to 3 weeks because "they were swamped this time of year."

We can't wait that long.  We just can't.

So I called my Dad, and asked for advice.  I called musician friend's, and asked their advice.  I called my trusted home mechanic Billy who knows Dr. Periwinkle better than anyone, and asked his advice.  He told us our car was in FANTASTIC shape overall, but to never put in a used motor.  Put in a new one, or a "new rebuilt longblock" one, but never a used one.  

"If you can't get a new one put in...sorry to say, but junk it.  It'll be a shame too, I love working on that car," he tell us.

So we arrived at two choices: A) put in a crappy used engine, which could be great or horrible, but it's a complete roll of the dice, or B) sell the car as is, get a rental, and get a new car once we get back to CT.  Both choices suck.

Elizabeth put it really well when we were weighing options: "I hate how there is no right answer to this.  There is no obvious choice.  It feels like no matter what we do, it's the wrong one."


We found a thread of a hope.

We went back to the junkyard place with the engine's.  The guy I spoke to was really helpful with info and was kind to me.  I asked him if there was any place that could put in an engine is just a few days, rather than a few weeks, and if there were any new engine's in town we could get (which is basically asking if any of their competitor's could do it).  He was friend's with a small two man shop called "Lube Tube" (which, let's be honest, sounds like the name of a sleazy porn video website). 

The guy at the junkyard called Lube Tube and got word that they didn't have much to do, and could put in an engine (one of the used ones they had) in a couple days.  Not ideal, but it was an option.

I went back to the car and called Lube Tube myself.  I told them I wanted to get a new engine, not one of the junkyard ones.

"Well, I completely agree.  Nothing against those junkyard guys, they're good folk, but I wouldn't put one of their engine's in your car either, but I think I know where to get one.  Come on down here and we'll talk it over."  He spoke all folksie like that, even though we're in WA state.

When we get there, he tells me about this Toyota parts place, run by the company, that is nearby.  Then he told me about a fascinating fact about the Japanese car market.  

Apparently, in Japan, they have incredibly high taxes on safety inspections on cars, to where one might spend $2000 JUST FOR AN INSPECTION, and new vehicles have a 3 year grace period before the inspection.  From what I understand, this has created a culture there where engine's get replaced after they get about 50,000 miles on them.  So then Toyota has a bunch of engine's in great shape that they ship over to other countries and resell to people like me who need one.  

I'm sure that's an oversimplification of the process, but still, isn't that fascinating?  

So we're getting one of those engine's put in.  They're basically like a refurbished iPhone.  Our current engine has 212,000 on it, and now we're going to one that has 50,000.  Not brand new, but pretty great regardless.  The engine's in the junkyard had between 117,000 and 154,000 on them, and who knows how long they'd be sitting in the junkyard, or on a palette in a warehouse, or anything like that.  

The only problem was the cost.  It was still going to be about $3600, which was at least 30 or 40% of our total income from this last tour (for two people, keep in mind).  

But we can't let go of Dr. Periwinkle.  We just can't.

So we decided to pull the trigger.  A few silver linings happened after that, though:

1) We had a bunch of cash with us from the tour, and we asked if it would be cheaper to pay with cash.  They said yes.  The job now cost $3300!  That's something!

2) Our friend Sam reached out and said her parent's (Sarah and Dave) live in Spokane, and they have plenty of room for us if we need it.  We reached out to them, they invited us in their home and gave us a big furnished basement and queen bed to rest in for free.  I was so overwhelmed when we first arrived by everything that I actually broke down in tears in front of Sarah who gave me a hug and said "I'm emotional too!  It's OK!"  

She is very sweet.

So now we wait.  I'm sitting in that same furnished basement right now, and we're told the car should be done by tomorrow or Saturday at the very latest.  The mechanics seem very kind.  One of them even drove us to Sarah's house after we dropped off the car.  


After we got to Sarah and Dave's, we posted a shortened version of all this on social media stuff, along with the humble ask of "If you've wanted a print or an album but haven't pulled the trigger yet, now would be a great time."

The response has been a bit overwhelming.

On Tuesday night, on a whim, Elizabeth decided to spend her time putting together a map of the USA with all her paintings from each state AS each state (pictured above).  We put that up on her Etsy site saying if you wanted it as a print, all proceeds would be going to our car repair costs.  

As I write this, we've gotten over 50 orders and, from what we can tell after material expenses, it's paid for at least half of the new engine.  Just typing that makes my eyes water a bit.

We were so worried about asking for help on this.  We know that "asking fatigue" is a very real thing.  I know a lot of bands that I LOVE that constantly ask for stuff from fans, and it often can come off as them not wanting to do any work themselves.  We are so worried about coming off as that kind of band.  

I often feel like we ask for TONS.  We ask for people to support Kickstarter projects, we ask for gas money, we ask for Patreon supporters, we ask for places to stay, we ask to be added to playlists......we ask a lot.  I do not want to be known as a band that asks for everything.  And when you ask too much, people stop paying attention, and that's the last thing we want to happen.

But so far, we haven't received any blow back from you or anything in the PV community.  Thank you.  We never want to be ones who ask for donations, but rather we ask for support.  Does that make sense?  Rather than someone giving us $10 as a tip, I'd much rather sell them an album or print.  We want you guys to feel like you're getting something out of the exchange, rather than us being some kind of charity case.

But I digress....all that is to say, the PV community has really stepped up and helped us, in a time when we thought all our asks were possibly used up from the tour we just got off of (which also required a lot of your help).  

So thank you.  Thank you so so so so so much.  Let's all hope this story is boring from here on out.

If you would like to order a print of the USA painting, it's available on the Etsy site.  There's also a sale of 30% off everything else.

We'll keep you updated.  


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