Let me tell you a little story that involves, babies, road trips, car trouble, and unexpected hotel holidays.
My first best friend from college was married a year ago, and had his first child just over a month ago. This last weekend his baby had his christening, and friends and family were invited from all over the country. Since he is now my brother in law (my sister married his brother in August), we decided to road trip from New Hampshire to Cleveland for the weekend. This meant leaving after work Friday – 330pm – and being back by sunday night.
Of course we didn’t actually manage to leave right after work as planned, but instead left around 630pm, just as the world was getting dark. I told my sister and her husband that the trip would take us at least 12 hours to get to Cleveland, which would mean we’d be arriving at 630 in the morning of Saturday, the day of the christening, and that if we wanted to be back at a reasonable hour Sunday night before a full week of school, that we’d need to be on the road by 7 or 8am on Sunday. So not a very long trip, eh? Just the Saturday. They both insisted that the GPS app on their phones (which couldn’t possibly be wrong) said that it was a 9 hour drive, and that surely we’d be there by 3am, and wouldn’t have to leave so very early Sunday.
Now, I’d just driven this route not two months ago, and I knew for fact that they were wrong, but there’s no arguing with the two of them, let me tell you! So, no big deal, let’s just get on the road.
The week before we left, they’d had their car checked out by a mechanic to be sure it was up for the mission, and had been assured that all was well enough. So as we finally set off on our adventure, we had not a worry on our minds.
Within an hour of leaving the lcd screen on the dashboard lit up with the little oil can and a very urgent red lettering that alternated between ‘STOP’ and ‘oil pressure stop motor.’ We pulled over, put on the hazards, and waited. The flashing and beeping stopped, and Ian (that’s my sister’s hubbo, as I call him) said that it had happened before and since it had just been checked out, we all foolishly decided to ignore it and go on. This same flashing beeping warning occurred another 6 times periodically between NH and OH. Each time we stopped and waited. Each time it went away within seconds.
Ian drove 3.5 hours. I drove 8.5 hours. Philumina, well she didn’t drive. But we made the trip in as little time as was possible, with very few and short stops, and we made it in 12.5 hours. (TOLD YA SO!) But like I said, we made it, and all in one piece too. We’d had a few hairy moments on the freeway when I’d jerk awake to realize I’d been sleeping. Normally I’d smoke a cigarette to keep myself awake (Shh, don’t tell anyone!) but since we were in my sis’s car, I most definitely wasn’t allowed. But we rolled into Cleveland at 630 in the morning and went promptly to bed for …two and a half hours.
The christening was gorgeous, but dare I say not as gorgeous as the baby. I’m in love with that kid. I know I’m only barely a sister-in-law, but I begged and his dad said I could be an honorary aunt. Woopiee! My sister and I had hand made a little soft baby blanket for him, and he seemed to love it. He never cried when I held him and he had the cutest of little smiles. I just wanted to hold him forever and never give him up. (If you were to know me at all you’d understand that this is an aberration of nature – normally I have had more than enough of small children and don’t need an extra dose. But this was different.)
The weekend passed too quickly, in a flurry of meeting and dealing with people who I’m technically now related to by way of my sister’s marriage, who all seemed to know me from the wedding, though I hadn’t the slightest recollection of ever seeing or hearing of them before. Soon saturday was over and the little family reception was cleaned up and we watched a movie and went to bed, and that was that.
We left at 8am (later, of course, than planned) and made more than one stop on the way home. My sister had a thing she wanted to stop and do, which I’ll tell you all about in a later post, but we finally got truly on the road by 930 (much, much later than planned). Ian drove the first leg so I could sleep, since I’d driven longest and had the least sleep that weekend (and did I mention I had/have a quite severe cold that I haven’t been able to rid myself of for nearly a month now?) Like I said, I slept for most of that leg of the trip, or as much as I possibly could.
I woke up when I felt the rumble strips of the highway, and came out of a strange dream wondering what the hell was going on. The little blinky light and STOP warning was once again dancing across the dash. Apparently this had happened several more times on the way back while I’d slept, though I can’t fathom how I slept through the rumble strips. That’s a goddamn miracle.
We were back on the road two minutes later, and were trying to look up a service station that could check our oil on a Sunday evening. (We’d checked it ourselves and everything seemed to be in order, but we were starting to take the warning a heck of a lot more seriously, at last.) We finally found one in the next town and headed there. Once the big men came up from poking around under the hood they told us our oil was great, no problem, no pressure, and that it was probably an issue with the sensor giving bad readings, and that we shouldn’t worry ourselves about it.
Good, right? So we went on our merry way. By this time we only had about four hours left before we’d be arriving home in NH, so I offered to drive the remaining way. I love driving, and I also know that Ian gets a tad burnt out when he’s driven a lot. So we switched.
So we’re about an hour down the road and the sensor is still telling us that our oil pressure is bad and we need to STOP and turn off our motor, but now – with the blessing of the random garage attendants – we’re blissfully ignoring it. Fortunately, we reach a point where we have to stop for fuel and perhaps a pit stop. About this time the check engine light has come on as well, but the check engine light had pretty much always been on until just the other day, so again we didn’t think anything of this.
Needing fuel, and not wanting to get off of the freeway because it’s a Toll highway, we decide to pull into the next rest stop service station thing. As we’re slowing down, I start to hear a funny (or maybe not so much) high pitched sound seemingly coming from the engine. I ask my passengers if they can hear it, but they can’t, and we attribute it to the obnoxious whining going on in my ears due to my cold.
So now we’re on the exit ramp slowing down and pulling into the service station. The engine starts to make a quiet but distinct ka-chunka-chunka-chunka-CHUNKa-CHUNKa-CHUNKA-CHUNKAAb as we’re pulling off, ever increasing in volume. This time when I ask them if they can hear it, they both say yes with concerned faces and panicking thoughts. I slow down even more – that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? – and the engine starts billowing huge white plumes of smoke (NOT A GOOD SIGN, FOLKS!) Stop the car, they’re saying, no shit, I’m thinking, just let me get outta the lane alright?
They roll the windows down as I’m pulling into a spot and for the first time we realize just how loud the sound is. It’s a goddamn thundering like I’ve never heard a car thunder. Every single person in the parking lot is watching us putter up to a spot and park the car. A couple of people call over heh, that doesn’t sound good. Oh yeah? Really? No? I THOUGHT IT SOUNDED BEAUTIFUL LIKE A FUCKING SYMPHONY!
One guy is a little helpful and comes over as we’re lifting the hood and peeking hesitantly. (None of us know cars.) We end up calling the mechanic who checked out their car before we left but he doesn’t have much to say except to get it towed and looked at. Of course, it’s harder than impossible to get a car towed on a Sunday night, much less looked at or worked on. (By this time it’s about 530pm.) All we know at this point is that we sure as hell won’t be making it to work Monday morning when we’re 300 miles away.
As we’re trying to figure out what to do, a lady comes up to us, who happens to be from NH and offers if she could be of assistance. She tells us she just had a feeling something was wrong. She offers us a ride back to NH but the problem is that we can’t leave the car, so she offers to take two of us and leave one with the car. The problem is that Ian’s the owner, so he can’t go. I am the one with AAA service membership, so if we want the car towed for free, I can’t go. And Philumina staunchly refused to leave her husband. So instead of taking anyone home, they offer to take us to the next town over to find a hotel.
So off we go. What we didn’t know is that the next town down the turnpike was a 40 minute drive, which meant that even though Ian had checked that it was okay to leave the car overnight, we’d have to hitchhike 40 minutes back the next day just to get to the car. 20/20 hindsight, am I right?
So we check into a hotel, which actually turns out to be nicely affordable and decently kept up, and we stay the night. We watch a movie amid the hours spent trying to figure out how to work ourself out of our dilemma as cheaply and quickly as possible. We call the headmaster of our school to tell him we won’t be in for work due to car trouble, but I’ll tell more on that later.
One of our options was that my dad and brother were bringing a uhaul of my stuff from back home to my new apartment the next morning and that they’d be driving through hours later. That way if the car wasn’t fixed yet we could go home and come back for it in my car over the weekend. Another option was renting a car and doing the same. Or, we looked at renting a truck with a towing device on the rear and towing it back ourselves to be checked out by the local VW specialist we know.
The uhaul with the family idea fell through when we realised that they wouldn’t be coming through in time to get us back for Tuesday’s work. Getting a free tow fell through when my AAA wouldn’t let me either sign in or upgrade my service, and even hung up on me over the phone. The renting a truck to tow it fell through when there were no available units in any of the uhaul garages in the vicinity. The rental car was still an (expensive) option, but we still would also have to pay for the towing, and it wasn’t going to be cheap either.
So we had to be checked out of our hotel by noon, which we did in the nick of time, and we sat in the lobby trying to still figure out plans. Nothing was working out. We were stopping around for cheap towing places or service stations that can work on VWs but we found out that no one would tow off of the tollway. AAA told us they couldn’t do it either. Six or so phone calls in, my sister contacted a place that would tow the car… in association with AAA. WHAT THE FUCK? Again, we were 40 minutes from the car, which you need to be with to get it towed, and to get our stuff from it. By some miracle, there was a tow truck deployed near where we were (which apparently is super rare) and they offered to pick us up first, then go back up the tollway for the car.
And so after checking out of the hotel and walking a couple miles to a Wendy’s with wifi, we were finally picked up by the truck and drove in the monster for 40 minutes, picked up the car, and drove another 20 or so to the repair place.
When we got there at about 10 to 4pm, they looked at the car for ten minutes and told us the motor was blown, possibly among other things. We were told we could find a hotel to stay the night and get it worked on tomorrow, which may or may not fix things, or that we could hope that the satellite car rental place a few miles away would have a car and not be closed by the time we got there.
Quick discussions were had, and a lot of cursing and swearing was done by me (even though it’s not my car…) and it was decided that we needed to get back to NH above all else and that we could be in phone contact about the car the next day. We were told that if the car was fixable that we could possibly even get a free tow for it back to NH, which was helpful. And my AAA had covered the tow back to the service garage, so we hadn’t paid for anything yet besides the hotel.
So we hauled ass through town to the car rental, which had just one car remaining which had only just seconds before been returned, and we were once again on our way. Mind you, this is over 24 hours after the initial car trouble, and we’re in over our heads with our boss who is just giving us hell despite the obviously unintentional and unavoidable nature of this situation.
We made it back at midnight last night, and that my friends, is the story of how my sister (&Hubbo’s) car went boom boom BANG and will not be heard from for some time, if ever.
PS: I apologize for the long-windedness of this post, but I need you to understand just how harrowing this experience was for the three of us. I suspect that my limited vocabulary prevents this, however, and I apologize.
Also, it has been established that this occurred to us because I was complaining to my sister that nothing interesting ever happens to me and that I need more adventures and stories in my life. I guess that’s Murphy’s Law and Karma for you – what a bitch.