I graduated Cryptologic Technician Maintenance “A” school, and received orders to the Azores. “THE AZORES?” I shrieked with a tinge of fear. When I had time to consider my next thought, I said, “Where in the world is that?” (After all, I grew up in a small farm town on the Colorado plains, and never had been out of the country.) We found the globe, then we got a magnifying glass, and FINALLY we found it right in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. As luck had it, the whole tour turned out to be a great three year adventure. (Isn’t that the way it is with most tours, you kind of dread the change then looking back, it was the best place you ever visited?)
Lajes Air Force Base was on Terceira Island in the Azores archipelago, it was approximately 11×20 miles in diameter. Most people did not have their cars shipped to the island, because the roads were made of cobblestone and unleaded gas was not available (this was the very early 90’s). American vehicles had to be modified to take leaded gas, and even if you went through that trouble, the narrow and bumpy roads would cause severe wear and tear. As a result, most of us bought old cars already on the island from the Sailors transferring back to the states. These rust-buckets were more affectionately known as “Island Bombs”. My Island Bomb was a green 1980 Dodge Aspen, with a coat of oxidation holding it all together. My car was running kind of rough when I first bought it, and started only when it felt like it. I had one of the guys who seemed to know about cars look at it, and we decided I needed to rebuild my carburetor. I went to the auto hobby shop on base, and ordered the kit, then a couple of people talked to me about the process to complete it. It seemed like it was going to take me awhile, so I couldn’t do it at the auto hobby shop – that left the only logical choice, my barracks room.
I took my carburetor into my barracks room, and took it apart very carefully, taking notes on everything I did so I would be able to get it back together. I removed the old gaskets and parts and cleaned everything meticulously, about twenty minutes in, I realized that someone was going to think I was using carb cleaner for perfume. (Yeah, that smell was going to linger for a bit…) There was a knock on my door and all my girl friends stopped by to see if I wanted to go to the club with them. As I opened the door and my new scent (eau de mechanic) drifted out, and they caught the first glimpse of what I had been doing all day, parts everywhere, on the bed, on the sink, on a towel on the floor with more pieces, they just stared at me. I smiled my sweetest smile and told the ladies we could go again tomorrow.
By the end of the weekend, I had the new gaskets on, the parts as clean as glass in a jewelry store, and the carburetor completely back together. We went out and reinstalled it in my car, and that old Dodge hummed to life immediately. Success! I have lots of good memories about that island, but I have to say bonding with my Aspen brings almost as big a smile when I reminisce as any. From then on, when my friends knocked – I said, “I’m driving!”