In Denver, looking for an honest mechanic

Hello from Denver, Colorado.
It’s 6:55 a.m. Mountain Time, July 1.

Having made a mental date to visit Ted and Bob’s Excellent Auto Repair Shop,  4000 32nd Street, Denver, I wondered if we’d get there before noon. Fortunately, the two cups of coffee I swilled at the McDonald’s at 2401 S. College Avenue in Fort Collins were more than enough to distract me from sleep‘s sweet embrace.
I must’ve slept an hour or two, though, because it was all of a sudden that I sat upright and noticed dawn had broken over east Denver.
We left Fort Collins around 11 last night and drove the hour south on I-25 to Denver, where we found temporary shelter at the TA truck stop off I-270. To get there, we had to pass by a sprawling oil refinery complex on the southwest side of I-270. A great plume of noxious smoke filled the sky and poisoned the atmosphere. A foul aroma assaulted our olfactories, and we fumbled about for the right sardonic apercu.
“What is this, China?” Becky said.
I had nothing better than “your lobbyists’ money at work.”
Then she found it: “That’s the smell of freedom.”
And oh brother, does it smell. The responsible party is Suncor Energy. Not surprisingly, Suncor has a checkered history when it comes to fulfilling its stated mission of being a trusted steward of our natural resources.
As for the redolence of pestilence, Suncor had its hands slapped last year when the state of Colorado issued a $2.2 million fine for air-pollution violations.
And that’s not all. Eighteen months ago, it was discovered that a  Suncor spill at that very location had contaminated the South Platte River with cancer-causing benzene. On May 25 of this year, the Denver Post reported that benzene concentrations in the river remained six times higher than the national safety standard.
And that’s what an offended nose and a Google search will tell you about Suncor.
Fortunately, the truck stop lies three or more miles to the east, and by the time we found our way to the TA, the toxic odor  had dissipated.
To be on the safe side, I held my nose as I drove past this morning, admiring nonetheless the pinks and purples and gossamer grays in the omnipresent cloud of freedom.
In the department of the sublime, the Rockies rose in front of me in magnificent silhouette. Thankfully, the morning sun was at my back.
I took a wrong turn off the exit 212B but found my way to Ted and Bob’s well before their 7 a.m. start time.
And then my neuroses nearly undid me. First I drove past Ted and Bob’s, went around the block and came in from the east. As I pulled in, I noticed a sign warning customers not to park in front of the eastern-most bay door. I decided to park facing the adjacent alley, but I worried my back end would extend to the bay door.
I turned into the alley. I planned to go around the block and find a more suitable, less presumptuous spot. I got a quarter mile down the alley and stared at a nice little Spanish-style house, which was fronted by another narrow alley. I saw there was no way I could safely turn the Behemoth left or right. The only option was back. I steeled myself and reversed all the way in reverse to Ted and Bob’s, pulled in and walked in to say hello. It was 6:35, but Ted Sr. and Bob were both on hand at their little block repair shop with the white asphalt roof.
I was destined to be disappointed. Bob quickly said they wouldn’t be able to check the brakes, no matter how lyrical and heart-tugging the story I worked up. Said the Behemoth was too tall to fit on their lift.
He kindly recommended West Highlands Auto Repair in Wheatland, just a mile to the east and three blocks north.
I parked on Chase just north of the repair shop. I walked over to the shop. I was told to ask for James or Oz. I soon found out they don’t open till 8.
It was 10 minutes after 7.
It was easy to see it was going to be hot today. I rolled down the driver’s window for relief. The sweat formed a greasy film on the back of my neck just the same.
So it’s July, and I’m laboring now to regain control of the story before it eludes me for good. Yesterday was a good start, and now I must force my way through this morass.
I returned to the Behemoth, checked on sleeping Becky and Max. When I exited, the owner stood in his yard and appraised me with a curious look. I apologized, promised I had no intention to squat. Said I was waiting for the shop around the corner to open. Ah, nothing like little of the old Lubitsch touch!
A humble wire fence protected his domicile. A sign on the gate said NO SOLICITORS ALLOWED. An older one read “BEWARE of DOG.”
I hope the dog is still around. There was a conspicuous lack of barking.
He turned out to be a genial sort.
“A lot of people park in front of my house,” he said.
Behind the fence and the warning signs, flowers bloomed in a half-dozen old-style galvanized pots. Flowers are nice.
He gave me the thumbs up.
I told myself I must get the brakes looked at in Denver on the First Day of July. Even, and I shudder, if I had to cast my lot with the Brakes Pluses and Midases of the commercial universe.
I had no real optimism that Oz or Jim will be able to look at our brakes. These small, independent shops tend to be extremely busy. They’ve got customers penciled onto their calendars. Some are booked weeks in advance. It almost seems rude to ask them to fit in a stranger who wanders in off the street without notice.
I walked around the neighborhood waiting for Oz or Jim to unlock the door. I walked for a half hour. Finally, a minute or two after 8, I passed through the door and met Jim, though I guessed he was Oz.
He was incredibly friendly. He said it might take a couple hours, but they’d check our brakes. If we chose not to have the recommended work done, the charge would be $36. Sounded good to me.
I made arrangements to park the Behemoth and walk to a nearby Starbucks. After saying goodbye to Becky, I stepped out of the camper, cheeks full of mouthwash.
When I stepped out, Jim was there to greet me. He was already in apology mode.
He was half-awake, he said. He didn’t realize we were talking about an RV. The RV wouldn’t fit on the lift. He was really sorry.
So was I.
He kept talking, I kept nodding. Finally I apologized and spat out the mouthwash.
He said he was sorry again. He recommended Casman’s at 38th and Sheridan. He said they work on bigger trucks and diesel rigs.
He was so nice. He didn’t know what he was talking about.
At Casman’s, I told Melanie that Jim sent me. Jim told me to say this. She smiled. Then she said they might not be able to fit the Behemoth onto their lift.
She disappeared into the garage. When she returned a few minutes later, she handed me a small piece of paper with names, addresses and phone numbers for two RV repair shops.
Casman’s couldn’t fit us in, either.
First on the list was Nolan’s RV, six miles south and west of Casman’s.
When I got there, I was greeted by a thin, bespectacled young man. I didn’t tell him Melanie had sent me. She didn’t tell me to say that.
I leaned on the counter with a look of mild frustration and said I simply wanted to get my brakes checked.
“Today?” he said with a frown.
I said not necessarily. I asked when he thought he might fit me in.
“Not till July 12th,” he said.
Just the timing, he said. With July 4th weekend only days away, I picked an awful time to become obsessed with getting our brakes checked.
I smiled the smile of the defeated. I asked if he had any recommendations.
He gave me cards for two mobile repair outfits. I called the first, Mitch Heuer of Golden Mobile R.V. & Diesel Service. He tried to steer me toward the dealer, but dammit, I have a mind of my own.
And so now we have a tentative date with Mitch sometime tomorrow at Heritage Square in Golden. He should be an interesting guy. In addition to working on big rigs and RVs, he also earns money by driving a semi truck.
The final tally: I stopped at four shops and made another phone call by 9:12 in the morning. Back then, there wasn’t a cloud to be found in the sky above Denver.
Now there are a few pillowy clouds, but nothing to burn the charm off a sleepless day.

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