There has been a a death in the family. Guido is no more. Or at least we think he is all dead and not mostly dead (to borrow the line from The Princess Bride). It happened on the evening before my departure from Basilicata. He died valiently after transporting me safely to Potenza and not leaving me stranded on the roadside. He managed to limp along until we cruised into an Agip station where he gasped his last breath. He suffered a rupture and resulting hemorrage that bled the engine dry of vital fluids, thus overtaxing and burning his elderly ticker. All in all, it was quite a scary ordeal.
When I left Lucanella everything was normal. Birds were chirping, the sun was shining, all was right with the world. I meandered my way to the highway...niente problema. Suddenly I heard a thud and thought I'd hit something in the road. Alas, I saw nothing. Strano, methinks, but whatever. Then a few minutes later the engine starts pinging. Hmmm...bad benzina perhaps? I make a mental note to get premium gasoline while I'm in Potenza. I had planned on getting my oil and tire pressure checked anyway.
Then it gets worse and we start losing power. I notice the engine temperature gauge starting to rise. Sharply. There is nowhere to exit. The exits that do exist have nothing of service until you climb uphill to the nested towns. Must get myself to the first Potenza exit, so as not to be stuck with nada. Come on, Guido...you can do it, I whisper. We hit the exit, and cruise into the parking lot; Guido stopped. Despite resuscitation measures, he could not be revived.
It all happened so quickly. The water tube ruptured, which was the thudding noise. The engine was quickly drained of water, which was the pinging. The engine then burned..."E' bruciato" said the semi-mechanic who was on duty, while watching smoke rippling upward. Uh...ma, devo guidare a Roma domani mattina, says me. I have to drive to Rome tomorrow! "Not in this car, you're not," says he, as he pulls down the shutters and prepares to go home. Umm...but...crap! Wait!
Out comes the telefonino. Tonino? Auito! I pass the phone to the whatever-he-is who explains the situation to my friend. Gives the phone back to me and says arrivederci. "Valerie...e' molto grave. Vengo subito." Which he does, hero that he is, with his 11-year old daughter in tow who wanted to see just what the americana had gotten herself into this time. But while I am waiting I go into the bar and suck down a brewski. I'm not normally much of a beer drinker but I was shaking at the thought of being stranded along the road; of what if the engine had actually caught fire; of what would I have done if it happened the following day while I was driving to Rome.
Tonino arrives. He looks. "E' bruciato. Beh. Niente da fare a quest'ora....can't get a mechanic over here now, it's after 6:30 pm. Thankfully it didn't happen along the autostrada somewhere between here and Rome, where you would not have had friends to call," he says. "Allora, let's go grill!" He and his wife had been planning a barbecue for my send-off.
Back at the ranch -or the agriturismo as the case may be- Tonino and Peppe go into salvatore mode discussing various options of getting me to Roma. Mannaggia, I have to be in the Tribunale in the morning or else I would drive you there myself, says Tonino. That is the last comment directed to me, as they put their heads together and talk amongst themselves as to what should be done. An hour later, they decide that at this point in the game it is best to get a rental car, as I can't possibly get a bus reservation at this late hour and the train would require a connection in Napoli then Roma Termini to get to Fiumicino...too much hassle with luggage and not much cheaper. Peppe knows a guy, will call him in the morning. Fatto. Now let's grill! At this point, I am allowed back into the conversation.
I ate too much, drank too much (thanks to the never-empty glass they keep pouring), and couldn't sleep well from the excess adrenaline, but they give me a valiant send-off nonetheless. Rest in peace, dear Guido. You were brave and trustworthy right to the end.
Bryan and Guido in happier days