Spring is a season of great change in Alaska, and this year is not an exception. In just a couple of days Trish and I have made changes that represent an improvement at least in our financial status, which frankly sometimes seems pretty grim.
During the coldest part of winter, the heater in the little Toyota RAV4 that Trish and I used as our 'daily driver' went out. When we took it to the shop it was the learn that the problem had little to do with the heater, but rather the head gasket on the little 4-cylinder engine was cracked, and the price to repair the rig was well over $2,000.00. Since the value of the 2002 model car was only about $4,000.00, I decided it would be smarter to find another rig (a "beater with a heater") than invest the money into the Toyota.
That left us only the dog truck for day-to-day transportation. It's a GREAT dog truck, but with the price of diesel fuel being what it is up here (outrageous), it is expensive to drive. With the dog box on back it isn't particularly versatile, either. It's designed to transport dogs, not groceries, a ton of dog food at one time, or even haul garbage to the dumpster. The bottom line is that we needed to replace the Toyota RAV4 with another, more versatile rig.
The replacement rig had to meet several criteria. It had to be spacious with enclosed cargo space for hauling dogs, bales of straw, bags of dog food, and Trish's wares when she is selling at the Farmer's Market or other venues in town. It had to have four-wheel driver (or all wheel drive), because the Alaska Department of Transportation would work in neighborhoods populated by influential politicians and wealthy homeowners than Chena Hot Springs Road, which services working class people and dog mushers. Of course, it also had to be in sound mechanical condition and most importantly, it had to be CHEAP.
I found an older GMC Suburban that, though ugly as sin and most goD-awful shade of orange paint you ever saw, met those criteria. It's a 1994 model, updated with a newer power plant. The body is rough, but it's mechanically sound with new brakes, a new windshield, and lots of newly upgraded engine parts. I spent $2,000.00 to buy the rig and another $500.00 to put new tires under it, and Trish drove it home yesterday.
The next step was to remove the Toyota from the property so it doesn't become another junker in the yard, and send it off to it's next life. I contemplated selling it to a salvage yard, but those I called wanted me to give it away for next than nothing. Since the car was in great shape other than that damned head gasket, I advertised it for sale in that same classified ad web site. Three hours later an aircraft mechanic who spends his spare time buying, repairing and reselling older Toyotas handed me $1500.00 and with a big jug of water in the back, in case he needed to top off the cooling system, drove the car away.
So, by the end of the day I had accomplished the mission. We now have an ugly beater with a heater that should meet our needs nicely for a couple of years. We got rid of a car we couldn't rely on, and the total cost to us was only $1,000.00 when subtracting the money I got for the little motorized roller-skate car.
Some more good news. A long-time friend of mine who moved to the Lower-48 a few years ago is returning, and planning to rent Trish's place. He texted me from Tok this morning and expects to be in Two Rivers before noon, today. I haven't seen the guy in a LONG time. He's good people and I'm very much looking forward to visiting with him again.
We are enjoying thawing temperatures during the day, but of course it's refreezing at night. That creates some challenges in the dog yard as well as the rest of the place. It also prompts me to be thinking about summer projects that need to be accomplished, yet there is still too much snow and the ground too solidly frozen to actually begin them. I can start some of the prep work, though. I think I'll find enough to keep myself busy during this April R&R.