Have Familiar, Will Travel. Part III: And then someone poisoned the car.

Some things are unavoidable. As it turns out, occasionally accidentally poisoning your car is one of them.

Unfortunately, sometimes pipes burst, tanks leak, deliveries get mixed up, or janky gas stations in the middle of nowhere try to cut costs by selling gas with a prize inside.
(The prize is extra chemicals.)
All told, it’s not really that unlikely that you’ll end up with a bad batch of fuel that has the potential to turn your car into a very expensive, highly impractical paperweight.

We filled up in Mississippi, and again in Tennessee. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the trouble started — it’s not like we could call a gas station and say, “hey, you just broke my car,” and expect whoever answers the phone to just sort of agree with us, you know? Either way, we ended up en route to Nashville when the check engine light came on, and we started feeling a pretty serious knock.

We were on the highway, and not far from Nashville, so we looked up a mechanic in the area and got there as fast as we could. Several hundred dollars later, we had replaced all the spark plugs, tested the fuel for diesel several times, and were not really any closer to an answer. The mechanics were pretty awesome about everything, though, and did their best to get us back on the road as soon as possible. We managed to get home, driving the last seven-odd hours with our fingers crossed and me fervently hoping that the travel protection amulet I’d made also extended to car engines.

(It did. We limped it back to our apartment’s parking spaceย just in time for the car to decide it was not going to start again.)

Another mechanic and yet more hundreds of dollars later, we managed to get the car running — after dropping the fuel tank, flushing it out, and accepting a very flexible definition of the word “running.”

If you’ve been in this situation, it is scary (in a very how-am-I-going-to-get-home-oh-god-isn’t-this-basically-the-beginning-of-House-of-1000-Corpses way), frustrating, and infuriating. It’s expensive to fix, and it isn’t even a problem you can try to avoid to begin with, unless you visually inspect and thoroughly test every drop of fuel that goes in your car. So what do you do if you end up with a tank full of tainted gas?

As it turns out, this:

  1. Call your insurance company. Your coverage may handle tainted gas, but it’s important that you contact them before having any repairs done. Damage from tainted gas is not your fault, or a consequence of regular wear and tear on your vehicle, so it’s not really any different than any other damage someone else inflicts on your vehicle. You’ll have to be able to provide some proof that the damage was from contaminated fuel, though, so…
  2. Narrow down where you got the gas from. This is important — save your receipts when you get gas. Always have the last receipt from the last place at which you filled up. We didn’t think to keep our receipts, so we had to go by a bank statement. It made the process a bit longer and more tedious.
  3. Call the Department of Weights and Measures for that station’s county. As it turns out, they’re the ones with jurisdiction over this, and they’ll see what’s up.

It should be noted that, if you have a feeling you somehow ended up with diesel-tainted fuel, it is not a super great idea to keep driving your car. The longer you drive with contaminated gas, the more extensive (and expensive) the damage is going to be. We didn’t have much of a choice — the first mechanic said we’d be alright if we added some octane booster and let everything cycle through, and we didn’t have another way home.

All told, it was definitely one of the more nerve-wracking trips I’ve ever been on, and I once went on a cross-country train ride where someone died, four people got arrested, and we spent an extra twelve hours stranded in the Utah salt flats. True story.

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Have Familiar, Will Travel. Part II: Mobile Magic.

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Man, where do I start?

This trip came right when I was in the middle of a thirteen-day uncrossing. (It’s something I like to do periodically to ditch other people’s accumulated nonsense, in addition to regular clearing and protection stuff.) Fortunately, I was able to take it with me. This got me thinking — how do you perform spells or rituals on the road?

We were going to be gone for a week, so I knew I wanted to be able to handle whatever came up. Since we’d be in hotels every night, whatever I used had to be:

  • Discreet.
  • Transportable.
  • Smokeless. Not all hotels have smoking rooms anymore, and almost none have windows that can open. It’d be really rude of me to light a bunch of incense or diffuse oils in a confined, temporary space in a non-smoking room — what if the person after me has severe asthma or allergies? It’s one thing if I accidentally give myself a headache or trigger my allergies, but another thing entirely if I accidentally smoke out my cats or the poor unwitting soul who’s going to occupy the room after me. (Also, some places will heck of charge you if your room smells like smoke when you leave.)
  • Difficult for me to forget. This is saying a lot — I have a neurological disorder that makes me forget things very easily. I’m not even supposed to do things like cook, because there is a significant chance I will lose track of what I’m doing and burn my entire block down.

In the end, I settled on a couple of key items that I could use for pretty much whatever I needed to do.

Like a portable altar.

The altar structure I use only really needs three things: a tree, a well, and a hearth. These are somewhat malleable. The tree can be any representation of a tree, or even an upright stone. The well can be a cup. The hearth can be three candles. With a quartz point and three tea lights stored in a glass food saver, I had a tree, a well, and a hearth that could travel. (And I brought along a wand I made recently, so I could both have it with me, and see how well it traveled/held up to being in my purse for days at a time.) Score.

I also wanted to be able to do some more specific work in contexts where busting out an altar (even a portable one) and lighting candles wasn’t exactly… doable.

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Cat relaxing in a car harness.

Have Familiar, Will Travel. Part I: “THEY ALL SAID I WAS MAD!”

Note: I link to some products here, but I’m not getting compensated for anything. Trust me, I don’t think any of these companies actually wanted to be associated with this idea.

This was not the post I planned to write.

This was not the week any of us planned to have.

Let me start from the beginning.

Neither my S.O. nor I have family in the area. I left the house I grew up in pretty much the second I was legally old enough to do so, and have moved wherever the wind blew me more times than I can count. He left home for college and job opportunities, to pursue his dreams. The end result is that we’re here pretty much alone, though his family has always been just a phone call away when we needed them. Unfortunately, this awesome family sustained a terrible loss.

Tl;dr: With pretty short notice, we had to find a way to get to a funeral in Mississippi.

We looked up plane tickets — $857 worth of no luck.

We looked up Amtrak — 44-odd hours of no luck.

He didn’t want to be away from home for too long if he could help it. I didn’t want to leave our cats alone if I could help it. We’ve had them for a little over a year and, in that time, we’ve discovered that Pyewacket needs more daily mental stimulation than a human toddler, and Kiko has separation anxiety that will make her try to destroy doors and hit the road in a bid for a Homeward Bound-esque reunion. Since they are both rescues, we also didn’t want to put them through the experience of being taken and dropped off in a kennel-like boarding facility. We also haven’t had to use a sitter in the past, so we didn’t really have anyone we knew well enough to trust them with.

(By the way — If anyone tells you cats are independent creatures, laugh at them. Laugh the high, gibbering laughter of the mad.)

We love them, but they are weird, weird animals. Ultimately, we decided that the simultaneously-most-sensible-yet-most-ludicrous solution would be to take the cats on a road trip.
Yeah, I know.

Two cats. Five states. One car.

It should be noted that these nerdsย hate being in carriers. They had a vet appointment for some boosters and a general yearly checkup two days before we left, where they sat in the waiting room growling at each other, Pye hissed at everything, and the vet came right out and said, “Yeah, this trip? It’s a pretty bad idea.”

Nevertheless, I kept on keeping on with my dumbass plans.

I’m not gonna lie, this was a long, strange journey. My S.O. was a surprise pallbearer. We visited a rad occult shop in Memphis. Mississippi poisoned our car. I’m going to have to break this up to keep it from turning into some kind of novella.

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