Friday, January 8, 2010

The Fun Drive Home



The waiting room at Goodyear

Written 8 January, 2009

The Fun Drive Home

It's been a long time since I've done a road trip, so I was looking forward to the 950-mile drive from New York to Atlanta.

If I'd only known! Delta is always ready!

On Tuesday night Sweetie and I loaded the little Honda 125 I bought into the trunk of my Camry. It was 15 degrees F, cold as hell.

The next morning after I saw her off to work I secured the motorcycle and loaded the stuff I had accumulated during my three months in New York.

Motorcycle. Check.

Compound bow. Check.

PlayStation. Check.

Two boxes of books. Check.

iTouch. Check.

Laptop. Check.

Portable exploding lipsticks. Check.

No, wait.

Grrr. I guess Sweetie appropriated them for her collection.

I stopped by the hardware store to buy a strap to hold the trunk lid down, drove 15 miles to stay goodbye to Sweetie at her work, and hit the road.

Let me tell you-- if you're facing a 900-mile drive in 15-degree F weather in a car with a thermostat that's stuck open, either take the time to put some cardboard in front of the radiator or spend the $40 bucks to have a new thermostat put in. It was COLD!

The first day was long but uneventful. At 9:30 pm I hit Hillsville, VA, where I spent the night.
All the fun happened the next day.

Things started out well enough, and by about eleven I was in familiar territory. Charlotte, NC was just ahead.
When I stopped to buy a soft drink at McDonalds, I heard the dreaded and all-to-familiar you-should-have-got-those-new-brake-pads-like-I-told-you sound.

Crap.

Then, when I pulled into a rest stop 50 miles past Charlotte, I smelled oil.

The Camry's oil had been just fine, but now it was two quarts down.

Crap.

I stopped at the next exit and put in two quarts and pulled onto the highway.

Two miles later the car gave a great shudder and set up a horrible clatter.

I stood beside the road, well clear of the rushing traffic and thankful for the 40-degree sunny day, and called AAA for a wrecker.

The wrecker took me to a garage which, I had been told, was standing by. Of course the head mechanic told me I would be lucky if they could get to me that day.

I was in rural South Carolina. I could hear banjo music playing.

Crap.

But what was this?

"Look at this tire," the wrecker man said, as he lowered the Camry. "I believe those treads separated."

Happily, there was a Goodyear store only a half mile up the road.

Unhappily, the battery was dead.

Happily, the mechanic gave me a free boot, I think to just get me away from there.

I spent four hours at the Goodyear store, reading Stephen King's The Dome ($9 postage paid on Amazon thanks to their price was with Wal-Mart).

Finally, with four new tires and a new battery, I was underway.

Before the tire incident I had been making good time and expected to beat a promised snowstorm to Atlanta.

I still might have, but now I was stopping every 20-30 miles to check the oil.

Stopping was an adventure. The brake light was now coming on when I hit the pedal, so I was using the automatic transmission to do most of the braking. But keeping oil in the car was critical, so I was driving at 50 mph and stopping frequently to add very expensive roadside Kwickie Mart oil to the engine.

The snow started about the time I hit Atlanta.

I drove the last 40 miles in heavy snow on a 12-lane Interstate highway filled with drivers who had never seen snow and brakes that could give out at any time.

Scary!

But I made it!

Now I'm home again.

And without transportation again.

In a little while I'll wrestle the motorcycle out of the back of the Camry and have it towed-- or, possibly, drive it very slowly-- to my mechanic.

He should have my Miata running and ready for me.


Last hour's drive...

1 comment:

Tycho Beresford said...

Eeeek on that "Last hour's drive..." picture; New Orleans would have been shut down tight!