Today’s Rant: The ’98 Toyota Rav4 & Why My Neighbor’s Vine Must Die

I’m not usually one for ranting, but today has been special.

Part 1: The Truck

We’re a one-vehicle household and for the past 6 years, it’s been the ’98 Toyota Rav 4 which has been mostly reliable and trustworthy, although strange and obscure in its need for repair of parts that have never needed replaced on other, older cars I’ve owned. For example, the springy thing that opens the door that hides the gas cap, and the seatbelt sensor, and the ignition key device. All broken. ¬†Although inconvenient, these things were mostly a nuisance that I have been either willing to live with, or had repaired relatively easily. That is, until 2009, when the obscure failures were no longer simple or cost-effective.

I’ve decided that the ’98 Toyota Rav4 is really just the prototype for the real Rav4, a “think tank” model to work out kinks and bloopers so that purchasers of subsequent Rav4s could enjoy the traditional Toyota reliability, craftsmanship, and quality manufacture that I thought I would also enjoy.

Today I dropped my daughter off at school and then stopped for an errand and noticed a “hissing” sound coming from the engine. For three weeks, the temperature needle has been possessed, moving in a random pattern up and down the H/C gauge. (I decided to ignore it because this had happened twice before, and my mechanic, with whom I’m now on a first-name basis and will probably invite to my next birthday party, could not find anything wrong.) But the hissing sound was new, so I investigated the sub-hood order of things and found an empty container that said “coolant” and filled it up with water. Then went directly to said mechanic.

“Honey, I’m home!”, now my customary greeting at Affordable Tires on 3rd Street. I explained the problem to Adrian and waited for the grim news. But upon inspection, once again, they could find no leaks or source for the hissing. The only thing Adrian could think to recommend was a complete flush of my cooling system on the slim chance that a bit of debris was stuck in there somewhere, causing the temp to go wonky. Ok, I said, and they drove me home, as this would be a half-day “repair.”

Here's Adrian. Isn't he cute?  Yes, I've paid for his teeth to be that white.

Here’s Adrian. Isn’t he cute? Yes, I’ve paid for his teeth to be that white.

I came home to the studio and started painting tiny tiles for rakuing tomorrow. (I’ll post a picture of those later.) Around 11:30, Adrian called and it went something like this,
“Well, as it turns out, when we pressurized the system for the flush, we DID find a leak!”
[Oh, goodie.]
“But it’s not dripping in the oil or transmission fluid or out the exhaust, and that’s why we couldn’t find it. It’s coming from… this part.”
“Oh? What part [wait, let me sit down]?”
“The thing is… I don’t really know what the part is. I’ve searched all the manuals and books and and I still can’t identify it. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
[my head hurts]
“So, I’m calling to get your permission to remove the part and take it in to see if they can match it up to something.”
“[long, thoughtful pause contemplating whether I can afford new car payments at this time. I cannot.] Well, it sounds like we have no choice.”
“No, we don’t. And sorry, I can’t give you a cost estimate until I’ve identified the part…”
At this point, everything went fuzzy as I tried to calculate how many of my freshly-painted tiles it would cost to get my truck back. That was three hours ago and I’m still waiting to hear from Adrian. Not sure how to interpret this silence; I do, however, still maintain a pale but deliberate hope that this mystery ‘part’ has been identified by Toyota, thanks to the prototype ’98 Rav4, as useless (which is why it’s not in the manuals) and can simply be removed, appendix-like, without consequence.

The broken seal on the CV Axel, toward the back.  Isn't it kind of beautiful and sexy in the morning light?

I have no idea.

Part 2: The Vine

As if this weren’t enough for one single mother, needy, vulnerable artist (I’m working on projecting that particular outward image, as I’ve concluded that most dateable men gravitate toward relationships that offer some potential for heroism and/or rescue), I step outside and find an offending vine creeping over the wall and into my airspace.

Long story short, my neighbor who will remain nameless (ideal neighbor in every respect–quiet, gone a lot, pleasant when she’s home) had her yard landscaped last year. They did a good job, but the thing I’ve noticed about most landscapers: they sell plants, they don’t grow or live with plants. So they planted a Silver Lace vine (also known as Queen Ann’s Lace, or Pain In The Ass Creeper) against our shared wall where it can crawl up to the trellis and create a privacy screen. Not a bad idea, except that Silver Lace vines are from hell — very aggressive, no redeeming qualities such as fragrant flowers or hummingbird attraction (unlike honeysuckle or trumpet vines), drop seeds everywhere, and are virtually undefeatable in their ability to thrive in shade, sun, draught, volcanic ash, whatever. I mean, let’s face it, any plant whose description includes, “May be a noxious weed or invasive,” should not be planted in the midst of other landscaping. (I already have my side of the wall planted with lovely climbing roses which will also create a privacy screen.)

So, last year after unidentified neighbor excitedly showed me her new landscaping, I explained all this to her. I presented a better alternative to the Silver Lace, honeysuckle, and showed her what they look and smell like. She enthusiastically agreed that she’d prefer one of those over the Silver Lace. I offered to buy AND plant it for her… she said great, she’d let me know. Never heard back. I can’t really see what’s going on in her yard because she’s got it hermetically sealed with walls, fences, gates, trellises, so I assumed she’d eliminated the offending vine. That is, until 2 hours ago when I spotted this:

As you can see, it\’s heading for the lilac, then the deck. I have no doubt that within a few weeks it will proliferate into my house, creeping dangerously close to my food source, my bed, my daughter.

And what’s worse–unidentified neighbor has tied a string there on the trellis to facilitate the upward climb!!!!

I already have a Silver Lace from Hell on the other side of my yard, where it\’s simply too powerful to destroy. As you can see, it\’s infiltrating our play house, reaching for that ash tree, and has engulfed the Christmas tree that’s been leaning against the fence since February.

My first instinct was to immediately cut the creepers down from my side, and I thought maybe I should just do that indefinitely… or maybe try talking to my neighbor again…. but I’d already tried that… until I came up with a better idea.


I’ve decided that I’ll remain absolutely silent on the subject and even let the creepers grow (they’ve literally grown another inch since this morning), but secretly eliminate them. How? With a little “medicine” administered under cover of the night. I’ll simply take a 1″ hose, slink it down over the wall to the ground where the evil vine is rooted, then pour a good dose of Round Up Tough Weed & Brush killer through a funnel, down the hose, and voila. It’ll work like a charm. The vine will simply die of what appears to be indecipherable but natural causes, perhaps over a 2-week time period, and my neighbor, who’s not a gardener, will never know what happened. Eventually, (the hope is), she’ll conclude that it’s not a suitable location for the Silver Lace vine and replace it with something different.

I realize I am putting myself and my neighborly relationship at great risk by writing about this, but it’s extremely unlikely that my neighbor will find this blog, let alone read it. (If it disappears suddenly, you can assume I was wrong.) I also realize that this plan makes me somewhat of a garden terrorist and is in direct conflict with my normally staunch life-loving-and-preserving constitution… but I can’t help it. I do have my limits. And I’ve had a hard day.

3 thoughts on “Today’s Rant: The ’98 Toyota Rav4 & Why My Neighbor’s Vine Must Die

  1. Sorry about the car. LMAO at the first vine pic as well as the description of it’s ascent into your house and it’s slow creep toward it’s beloved inhabitants & belongings! Kind of like the blob…oh no! It’s coming! I am quite familiar with this plant having a Horticulture Degree and approve of it’s planned demise!

  2. Tara, you have no idea how much I suffer at the hand (leaves) of this thing. Thanks for the sympathetic understanding! And I had no idea you were so multi-talented… will remail you on Etsy–

  3. I once went to the cinema to see The Year of Living Dangerously starring I think a pre-Alien Sigourney Weaver. I was sat in the cinema and due to cock up it ended up being The Evil Dead which is not normally a film I would choose. However,with open mind I engaged with the mayhem and I’m (fairly) sure that your plant featured and I think it snared a girly running through the woods and then ran amok with her so to speak. So you do well to be afraid (be very afraid). This could of course be all mixed up memories that I could verify with google god but who wants accurate? There is a plant out there that does terrible things to girls and it’s heading your way……

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