Fitting a square peg into a round hole is akin to driving a broken Mercedes over the Sierra Nevadas. I would know.
Transmission problems throughout Nevada left me wondering if I—if we, the car and I—could make it over mountainous Yosemite National Park. Getting my cabriolet to a Mercedes service department meant either traversing the park to reach Fresno, or returning to Nevada for service in Reno or Vegas. With visions of being stranded in a population-less state dancing through my head, we pushed westward.
Problems plagued us from the start. The transmission slipped involuntarily into neutral while entering the park, dozens of cars waiting behind me to go one by one through its gates. I should’ve turned around then and called a tow. We crawled into the shoulder and I gave her a rest and a chance to right herself, but this time, unlike in Nevada, she took a noticeably longer time to recoup. She was failing, but we were here and by god we would give this a shot.
Halfway through the park the transmission went into neutral again, and again and once more and a few times more after that. Death-to-car was drawing close. The truck driver behind me and the lineup behind him weren’t happy when I waved at them to pass me around a narrow curb with limited vision. I trekked along at 10 mph hoping to make it to the summit, just mere feet in front of me when the problem hit again, so that I could coast down the other side and out of the park. Zippo for cell service, I couldn’t call a tow here. No shoulder to rest on. This was a bad idea.
Both hands in a nervous grip I gently drove our way out of the park via Tioga Road (State Route 120). Phone service returned and she was driving decent again once out of the higher mountains. I resolved to call Mercedes’ Roadside Assistance at the next sign of trouble. Trouble reared its head in front of a pizzeria in Groveland, a tiny California town surrounded for miles by nothingness. Miles of mountains and nothingness and my car decided to finally break down in front of a pizzeria. All together now: “di-vine in-ter-vent-tion.” I pulled her into the lot and went inside to digest a pizza and the arrival of my second tow in three days.