When FART = New CAR

Can six characters determine a car and its future?

His guffaw offered the first clue. My second glance confirmed the news.

This new car of mine is, shall we say, special! 

I’d called the insurance agent to report I needed to update our auto policy, thanks to new wheels.

He asked for the car’s VIN, short for Vehicle Identification Number. You know it as that windy string of numbers and letters tucked deep into the driver’s side of a car windshield.

The line of figures lies so low and tiny along the dashboard even children can’t read it. Thus, when I read the figures out loud, I concentrated on reading each letter and number. Each meant nothing.

But when the agent laughed, I scrunched my eyes, leaned in with my magnifying glass then echoed his guffaw. What slipped out was, “And I thought I bought a hybrid.”

After the phone call, I resorted to my old reporter days. I dug in for information. Thank you, Internet. Early popped up this VIN translation:

Image copyright. www.drivingtests.org.

The above graphic reveals the meaning behind the 17 characters that comprise a VIN. Imagine an automotive Social Security number. The VIN teases out the vehicle’s manufacturer, type, brand, model, series, engine size/type, year made, assembly plant, and vehicle production.

The first three digits comprise what’s called the WMI, short for World Manufacturer Identifier. In my new car, that = “7FA.”

The only problem? Those characters don’t fit WMI’s own rule. Said guideline states these identifiers refer to the car manufacturer’s country plus the vehicle’s maker and type.

Translation (and apologizing in advance for all these automotive acronyms): in WMI language, “7FA” indicates I now own a “multi-purpose vehicle” manufactured by an unidentified car maker in Oceania. The latter includes only Australia and New Zealand.

True fact is I bought a Honda CR‑V, manufactured in Indiana by a Japanese-owned car company. The window sticker verifies that, as does the rest of the VIN. Either I don’t know how to read long sets of characters. That’s somewhat probable. Or maybe there’s a secret system to protect against vehicle hijinks (aha! global conspiracy!).

Interesting that only the first three digits are wrong in this VIN. But it’s so simply corrected.

Change “7FA” to 1HA” and there’s my car: an American-manufactured Honda “multi-purpose vehicle.” (It’s actually a sport utility vehicle, but who wants to quibble?) Add that 1HA” to the existing “RT” and you get “1HART” — a car I’d drive with just that.

Alas, I’m stuck with the VIN I have. So I’ve named the car.

She’s Gassy.  For grins.

From Car to Bus and Back Again

The lady promised us the Boulder bus service was “quite efficient — very good actually.” We met her as we searched for our first bus stop near 28th and Valmont. Her directions took us to an easy-to-find pole with a simple sign, clearly marked:

Such a beautiful sign — and so easy to find!

The morning bus run from our townhouse to the Boulder Bookstore exceeded the stranger’s boast. We arrived early for class.

It marked our first official group working session. Three hours later, we left like we always do after experiencing a Max Regan seminar: eager, confident writers itchy to engage every storytelling possibility that our creative minds can conjure. The experience resembles a church revival, minus guilt and a tithe.

Ellen and I headed to the designated bus stop. Based on our morning experience, we felt confident in our ability to navigate the afternoon ride. Our only worry (at least mine; Ellen trusts me more than she probably should) was getting to the bus stop on time.

We arrived early at the designated location given to us by RTD (Regional Transportation District). The map planner had told us to board the 2:24 p.m. bus arriving at Spruce and Broadway.

A city bus neared us. It was 2:17 p.m.

Not ours,” I told Ellen before I saw our route number splashed across the top front of the bus. With ticket in hand, I waved at the bus driver as he sped by. He shook his head “no” and motioned to the next block. I began to run, waving my arms back at the driver as I yelled at Ellen behind me, “I’ll hold him for you.”

No such luck. The driver boarded three passengers then took off. I stood there in Texas disgust then waved harder and yelled a little louder. Don’t mess with a RoadBroad. Especially when she’s running and frustrated.

Can you see the red RTD sign? It’s behind the tree, peeking out from its upper left branches.

After the drama, we retraced our steps. There’s the bus stop sign we missed. Who looks behind a tree for a bus stop sign? Especially when it’s half a block from where you’ve been told to be? Do you follow the bus company’s specific instructions or do you wander sidewalks looking for hidden signs?

We parked ourselves at the corrected bus stop, crossing our fingers that maybe, maybe we’d get lucky and another #208 would miraculously appear. Then, an elderly man  with a beautiful German Shepherd joined us at the bus stop. He told us that sometimes RTD is early, “but never that early.” He shook his head in disgust. 

Of course, no later bus came. After our new friend got on his bus, Ellen and I looked at each other. What now? We now had no way of getting home because we didn’t have the later bus schedules. Who comes to town with all the city bus schedules in their backpack? Especially when they’re in town as a working visitor?

To the entire mess, Ellen offered one word: Uber.

Uber joins the RoadBroads team.

A minute later, we had Uber on the phone with a driver on the way. We met Frank of the silver Nissan Versa near Walnut and Broadway. We unlocked the townhome, an hour later than a pre-paid bus coupon had promised.

Of course, Uber cost five times the value of that coupon. But we traveled from where we were to where we needed to be. Time and place no longer mattered.

Now we’re rethinking those books of bus coupons we bought long distance.

Today’s two learnings?

One good experience does not ensure another.

Sometimes cars really are the only way to travel.

****

By the way, the answer to Thursday’s post: the photo is of from high atop the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge outside Taos, New Mexico. Sara Jackson: you got it — almost! The gorge bridge is a little bit upstream (or is it downstream?) of the Taos Box. Thanks for the guess!