Oh Lady, you are such a temperamental girl.  In Santa Monica we had some sudden trouble when you decided to veto first and second gear all together.  I felt remarkably in-tune with you, when I suggested to the mechanic (#4, a great guy, big fan of turtle doves - so much so that he had a large cage of them in the workshop) that the shifter plate (I called it something involving about a hundred more words than that) was out of alignment, and he agreed.  He agreed on that, plus identified a few more costly "improvements"/sure-to-be problems.  We were all ship-shape and enjoying the most gorgeous drive up the Pacific Coast Highway.  Look at you here, turning heads:

That's right Lady, you are a stunner.  We made it all the way to Morro Bay and decided to call it a night.  Look how the motel even wanted to color-coordinate with you.  It's all about you, I promise.  So why the long face, huh?  We started the day today with big plans - lunch in Big Sur, driving over the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.  We had caffeine, premium gas, and coastal views that can literally take your breath away.  But an hour or so in, we pulled to the side of the road for a photo (did you think you weren't going to be the main subject?), and then you wouldn't start.  

I will admit that something seemed wrong when I went to turn you off, and the key fell out of the ignition, and you were still running.  It's such a dinky key for such a strong woman, but whoever the jackass was who took your ignition out of the steering column and put in this crappy version in your dashboard didn't really get what you are all about.  But the fact remains, that post photo-op, you wouldn't turn over and get going again.  No cell service added to the drama, and a jump didn't make a difference.  

Something from all of these mechanic visits must be making an impression, because again I identified the problem - something in the dinky ignition set-up was spinning and not allowing the key to turn far enough to the right to turn the engine completely over (or something like that using more smart automotive words).  After pushing the bus down the road a bit in an effort for a push start, Max had one bar of service on his phone - enough to call a mechanic in Seaside (2 hours away) who told me how to remove the ignition from the dash and basically hot-wire the Lady.  Hot!

At this point we decided to make a bee-line for the mechanic in Seaside, and I was too afraid to turn the bus off again to make any stops.  With one apple and a half-tube of Pringles, it was survival time.  Some quick miles to the gallon calculations 20 minutes from Seaside told us our tank may be too low to get us here (did I mention the gas gauge doesn't work?), we filled her up without turning off the motor.  Turns out the "turn your engine off before fueling" signs are just a suggestion.

Alas, we made it, and Bob was waiting with an "art tour people know nothing about cars" type look on his face.  (It didn't seem like the right move to explain my two recent diagnosis victories.)  He set me over to the automotive shop to buy a replacement dinky ignition, and $31 (parts and labor!) later, we were back in business.  Bob, like the others, assures me the Lady is in great shape to make the rest of the journey, and just like the other times, I choose to believe him.

The Lady and I are in this together.  Our relationship is complicated and a bit one-sided, but she is my girl, and we will journey on.  Crusade away!