It's never good when you pull text message from your wife while you're on the pointy end of a skiff in Florida asking, "Who do I need to call to tow the Element?". Dammit.
I had sensed this coming for awhile. When shifting out of third gear every now and then, it just didn't feel right. There was a hard to describe thud feel and I figured that the transmission was showing it's age as we neared 300,000 miles. It finally died and now wouldn't come out of second gear.
A tow truck ride and mechanic diagnosis later, we needed to decide what to do next. The transmission was gone. We were looking at $2,500 for a new transmission, $1,700 for a used transmission, or maybe it was time to let it go.
Walk away from our Element that was at the doorstep of 300,000 miles? We just couldn't do it and opted for the used transmission and had the mechanic knock out a few other things that needed to be done while the underside was already all torn apart. I absolutely hate spending a lot of money on car repairs but it was necessary. Fortunately we were back in business for less than $2,000.
There is a limited warranty on this used transmission which had Melissa and I thinking that it would be a good idea to "stress test" it with a trip up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a day of hiking and an overnight at a nearby campsite before heading home the next day.
We didn't get out the door as early as we expected and after a quickie stop at REI in Asheville, we were on the Blue Ridge Parkway by late morning. We pointed towards the Black Balsam Knob area, found a lucky open parking spot, and geared up...somehow forgetting our snacks.
This was our first time to this area of the Blue Ridge Parkway and we began hiking what we hoped would be a five-mile loop. For an area that is so heavily visited, the trails aren't that well marked. We found out later that maybe we had done this loop in reverse by starting on the Ivestor Gap Connector Trail and then taking the Art Loeb Trail to the top of Tennent Mountain. We then hiked over to the Black Balsam Knob and finally back to car on the Art Loeb Trail. It was a beautiful hike that was wet and muddy in a few sections of trail that had us wishing we had our hiking poles. Of course, they were in the car...with the snacks.
It really couldn't have been a more perfect day for the hike and if we were being picky, the waves of thick clouds obscuring the view while atop the balds was about the only thing we could really complain about.
We stayed at a campground near the North Carolina and South Carolina border and had a mostly leisure night at camp. Melissa and I don't take too many trips away from our children and it was nice to unwind, make an easy dinner of ramen, relax in our camp chairs, and in bed early.
The next morning we had a great breakfast, packed up camp in about 30-minutes, and stopped at a nearby orchard for a bag of apples and of course, hot apple donuts. All in all a great day and a half away and in the woods.
Here's a few more iPhone images pushed through Lightroom along with gear notes. Scroll down...
I'm a big fan of breakfast bowls and a box of these hashbrowns with a diced sweet onion mixed in are a perfect base for this favorite camp meal.
For the past 10,000 miles, we've been chronicling the 'Road to 300K' and you can circle back to these posts by clicking these links which are listed most recent to oldest...
We're about 1,600 miles from 300,000 miles and confident that we'll reach that benchmark. I hope at some point to be chronicling the 'Road to 400K' with this beloved vehicle of ours.
Lastly, there are a few REI affiliate links scattered in the gear notes of this post and if you shop there and want to support T.F.M., considering clicking the links when you make a purchase. I'd appreciate it.