15 December 2012

« Comme des petits vieux »

Comment devient-on un petit vieux ?

Réponse facile : il suffit d'attendre...

I got my car back from the mechanic yesterday. It failed inspection because it has too much carbon build-up in the cylinders. I don't drive it hard enough to keep the engine hot and carbon-free — to blow out the carbon, as we used to say.

A summertime shot of the Peugeot lazing around on the driveway

A couple of days ago, I was talking on the phone with our summer neighbors who live most of the year in Blois, 25 miles north. I asked how they were doing. « Nous, on va bien. Comme des petits vieux ! » is what they said. She's 77. He's 82.

Now I'm a petit vieux too. You know what petit means — and vieux means "old" as an adjective, or an "old person" as a noun. Des petits vieux are "little old people," in other words, on the model of  "little old lady." LOP, not LOL.

Here's my Peugeot and the Fiat Punto that we rented to stand in for it this past week.

The mechanic insisted on explaining what I need to do even after I told him that I understood the problem: Je conduis comme un petit vieux. (I drive like an old codger.) To get the car engine into better working order, I have to pour some fuel additive (which he supplied) into the tank and then drive the car really hard for a week or two. Then it will be ready to pass inspection in January.

"Your car has a high-performance two-liter engine in it," the mechanic said. "You should take it out and put it through its paces." He said to drive up hills, and we tried to think of some steep hills in the surrounding area. It turns out that there aren't that many.

 I need to drive my little Peugeot until it's red hot, like this one.
Too bad we don't have little Peugeots in the U.S.

Walt and I are trying to decide where to go. We can stay local and drive really fast in third gear up any hills we can find to get the engine hot and blow out the carbon. Or we can go on a trip on the autoroute and drive really fast and far in fourth gear — the speed limit is 81 mph (130 kph) — until all the carbon is burned off. Any ideas where we should go? Remember, we have to take the cat and the dog with us.

Reminds me of the old joke about the grandmother who started walking five miles a day for her health. Her children and grandchildren had no idea where she had got to.


  1. You could try using only third for a while just to keep the revs up, as well... that'd keep the engine hot... as for where to go, 2CVers have a saying... "If you don't know where you are going, you can't get lost!"
    One of you could go off on a trip for a couple of days... then the other... and you would be able to tell us all about it... that's a double-header... does the car and solves the blog entries!

  2. You could drive around Le Grand-Pressigny a time or two. The hill up the château is pretty steep. Mind you, you would probably be stopped by Mme André to find out what you were up to !!

  3. Paul says, "go to a remote area, the middle of a field for example. Start the car in neutral, put a brick on the accelerator and go for walk."

  4. Ellen, Tell Paul thanks for the good idea. I could do that out in the vineyard.

    Jean, the engine might produce a lot of smoke as I burn the carbon deposits out, so I guess it would be better to do it out in the country. LOL about Mme André. I can picture her flagging me down as I roared by.

  5. Tim, yours is a good idea too but W. and I like to travel together. Alone is... well... lonely.

  6. My suggestion would be to leave enough dry food for Bertie to keep him going [1 night away] and drive the autoroute at 130km/hr to S.Brittany buy some super fresh oysters to take back as a Christmas treat, also picking up some sel Guerande and Coteaux du Layon desert wine on the way back :-)

  7. When I bought my Honda Accord 18 years ago, one of the mechanic told me that once in a while to go really fast on the freeway. Just before I get my car check for the smog inspection, I make sure to have a full tank and drive it for at least 30 mn. "She" has never fail the test. I hope she can make it 2 more years. She gets tuned at regular intervals. Obviously, I know nothing about cars.
    (Ken, vous n'etes pas un pépé! Pas encore!).

  8. I wish then had an "edit" instead of "delete". I meant to write " when I get my car "checked".

  9. Bertie told me that he wants a vacation from the dog. I hear the oysters calling you. Bonne chance.

  10. I like Niall and Antoinettes'idea... but not for oysters... go and get a lobster... much more tasty!
    The wine stays on the list though... but come back through Normandy and get some good Calvados... and then have a good burn down the A28... it is more up and down than most of the A-roads.

    Another idea that occured to Pauline and I was get up as early as you normally seem to... get in the car and see how far you can get by lunchtime... find a restaurant... have a good meal and then head back... repeat as needed.

  11. Don't you have any major roadways where you can drive at high speed? That should do it. Peugeots used to be sold in the US, but for whatever reason, they stopped selling them several years ago. Probably something to do with safety requirements in the US.

  12. Ken, Jean and I actually own 2 very sleek, silver Peugeots (both 2012's), purchased right here in the US.
    (If you are familiar with the history of the company, you've probably rightly guessed that one grinds our salt and the other our pepper).

  13. Starman, we have autoroutes nearby, but you have to pay significant tolls to drive on them. I think you are wrong about why Peugeots are not sold in the U.S. It has to do with the company not having a dealer network in the U.S., I think, and because French cars have a an undeserved bad reputation over there. Why to you think there are so few American cars in France? Safety standards?


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