Runaway American Dream: Where the Zoom-Zoom Lives

"In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line
Oh, Baby, this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young
'Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run."

Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run

One of the things I love most about being an adult is having my own car. I need it for work, of course. But I also need it for pleasure: and more specifically, for all of the wandering I do. Yes, I seize any opportunity I can to take a different road, visit an unknown corner of my known world, open my eyes to something new!

Many of the photos I have posted in this photo blog, I have taken while tooling around central Pennsylvania in my beloved car, a gold 1998 Mazda Protege LX, which I have owned since 2002. I have spoken in a prior Blip about what an awesome car it is.

It has every comfort and amenity. It is totally reliable. It has a moon roof, a kicking stereo, and a marvelous heater. It handles and corners like a dream. It has just under 150,000 miles on it, and we hope to get a few more years out of it. Driving it is my ticket to participate in the runaway American dream.

But a car like that doesn't keep running like a top without a bit of maintenance from time to time. My husband does most of the work on both of our cars himself - pretty much anything he has the physical strength, tools, and know-how to do - and I help him out as I am able.

On this day, our task was to change the valve cover gasket on my Mazda. During a routine tune-up last weekend, my husband discovered oil on one of the spark plugs. He thought a leaking valve cover gasket might be the issue and so he ordered the part, I picked it up, and on this day, we installed it.

This is the view of my Mazda's engine (where the zoom-zoom lives!) once we had the valve cover off. It has 16 valves and dual overhead cams. The old gasket was still on it at this moment, but eventually, we would remove it, clean up the top of the engine, and install the new one.

We would also discover that my timing belt (that darker belt on the far left) is dry and cracked and probably needs to be replaced (it's already been done once, but not recently), but that's an issue to be addressed another day.

It turns out that I - with my much smaller, delicate hands - would be the one to install the new gasket where it belonged. We had had a discussion a few minutes prior as to whether we should simply sit the gasket on top of the engine as you see it, and then slide the top cover on top, over it.

But it turns out that sliding the new gasket into the groove on the top cover made much more sense. Then you simply place the top cover (with gasket in it) firmly on top, and tighten the bolts in the order specified on the diagram that appears under the car hood.

What's funny is that the diagram tells you the tightening order of 10 bolts, when in fact, there are just 9. What a bunch of jokers! In the end, it was a task that took us around an hour of work, plus a half-hour of prep and clean-up time.

Of course, as I stood looking at the top of my engine, there was a Springsteen tune running through my head: "wrap your legs 'round these velvet rims/ And strap your hands 'cross my engines." Oh yeah, I've referenced this song a time or two on these pages, but can you believe I've never used it as a soundtrack yet? Never? Well, my peeps, NOW is the time!

The soundtrack to accompany this image of the heart and soul of my favorite Mazda (yes, oh yes; where the zoom-zoom lives!) is perhaps my favorite Springsteen video of all time: Born to Run.

Bonus zoom-zoom links, for the Mazda lovers:
The original car commercial for my 1998 Mazda Protege
One of the later Mazda commercials that used the Zoom-Zoom motif

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