Friday, August 15, 2008

If trouble comes in threes, can we be done yet?

Road trips are fun! The last couple times we've ventured out of the house, we had our vehicles injured. And trust me, this time, as I was loading up the Suburban (that has yet to be fully repaired from getting whacked by a motorhome) I could tell that I was just a little bit on edge. This trip would be different. I wasn't going with Mr Nice Guy - the guy who can fix anything, can diagnose everything, and generally makes me feel over-confident in any vehicle we drive. The certificates that litter the wall of his office could make any ASE Certified Technician feel inferior. He's a car repair GOD - ok, so he's really REALLY good at what he does, and is very VERY rarely wrong.

But I stumped him. Yes I did.

I like to challenge my husband. Especially when I'm on the phone with him. I like to call him up and describe "thumping" noises, or "rattling" sounds. I baffle him. I always smell smoke when I make phone calls like that, because the little wheels in his brain have to go into overload just to try to understand what I'm saying, and at the same time keep the relationship from seizing up. It's probably two different gears in that brain of his, and they're going opposite directions.

Today, as I was rounding a curve and barreling cruising down a hill to approach Pendleton, Oregon I had a fleeting thought of the need to stop for fuel. Well, that fleeting thought flitted right away as a little bitty car with a couple of our friends from the fields entered the highway at a high rate of speed and swerved across all the lanes to join me in some sort of freeway-dance that only Nascar drivers could appreciate. As he slowed down right in front of my bumper and attempted the upcoming hill (because his car couldn't possibly pedal as fast as a big suburban full of people, people stuff and four BOXES of freshly canned grean BEANS can go with lots of momentum), I reacted by putting some serious muscle into my brake pedal and some major adrenaline onto my horn.

EGADS! That was a close call. I was SO careful - there was no way something bad was going to happen on this trip! Whoever was driving the getaway car in front of us, quickly took the next exit and disappeared into town somewhere. I just proceeded to take my adrenaline and focus it on keeping my eye on the road construction that we had to muddle through, and then what next? Oh wow, we only had about 85 miles left to go! Yessss! My fancy schmancy digital readout showed me I had 90 some miles left on my tank of gas, and it was a good thing, considering I forgot to stop and fuel up!

No worries, the next town was 40 miles away, and I still had an eighth of a tank. It was all good. Or so I thought.

I proceeded to start climbing HUGE hills. Then the corners got tight, the elevation increased, and the temperature hit a sweet 106 degrees. Wow. I'm pretty sure we passed one rig that was going 1/2 mph. I thought how fun that would be to get out and pretend to push. hehehehahaha

It was all fun and games until just before I hit the summit of the hill, my RPM's dove to about 1000 and the Suburban sputtered. It choked. It shimmied. It shook. I thought it died, but putting my foot into the gas kept it going forward, but only in what felt like first gear. Aaaargh! My friend that was traveling with me, was mid sentence and you know what? I just let her keep going. I told her later that I had no clue what she was saying, I just knew I had to squeeze between some reeeeeally slow trucks to get off the highway and FAST but I didn't want to freak anyone out. I just knew I didn't want to be stuck with a dead car, on an incline. A really STEEP incline. In the fast lane. People would laugh at me. They would probably blog about it. Was it not enough that I just avoided 2 farm workers in a getaway car? How about the mattress that fell off the boat in front of us that we avoided - we laughed at the guy who hit it, because he pushed it along for quite a ways, and now someone is blogging about it. A 60 mph mattress... now that is funny!

I turned on my hazard lights, squeezed between the heavy duty rigs, and pulled over. I admitted to my passengers that something was definitely wrong and did the "listen test". It's where you sit there and listen to your car, so that you can define the problem in the most technological terms imagineable and your technician will know what your problem is, send you get-well vibes, and then you'll be on your way. Welllll... that wasn't the case here. The listen was good - it gave me good words to tell my husband when I called him.



Bump bump

Blug blug blug

Bump again

Yeah, you get it. Why couldn't he tell me what was wrong? I told him EXACTLY, in car-speak, what was going on! Poor guy, he probably felt really helpless. I told him I had plenty of fuel. But guess what? My little "automotive instructor wife" brain is getting to be SO smart! I asked, if he thought, that going up a steep incline, at very warm temps, with very little fuel, might make the vehicle THINK it was all out. Kind of like drinking a milkshake, with the straw at one side of the bottom of the cup, and then tipping it the other way. It sorta felt like that. Sucking up nothing but air and some bubbles.

The AAA guy was nice. I asked them to bring fuel just in case. And, a tow truck that could also carry five passengers. It only took an hour for them to get to us. An hour in ninety degree temps (thank goodness the 106 was over with!) The kids kept occupied. They argued, they smacked each other, they mouthed off to me, they threw rocks (not at each other) (not at me either) and just generally were annoyed at the fact there was no A/C and they were Soooo bored.

I called my husband again. Told him we had AAA on the way, and that he didn't need to worry about packing up to come rescue us. You WERE doing that, weren't you honey?

AAA brought a can of fuel, part of which they CHARGED us for (is that ok?) and guess what? That baby started right UP! Woot Woot! I was really happy that I ran out of gas. I think it was an honorable way to run out. After all, I still had some in the tank - it was CLEARLY not my fault.

But, just a note to other car owners. When on vacation, FILL YOUR TANK. Fill it BEFORE you climb big hills so your car won't think it's sucking an empty milkshake. Kind of like I am. Right now. Yum, I wish you were here. Then I wouldn't be laughing all by myself.


Anonymous said...


Farm Chick Paula said...

Oh my Lord, you are so funny. But I think it takes a (former) Suburban owner to REALLY appreciate this.
And to the migrant workers.... they must have a DEATH wish to pull out in front of anything that big...
That's what I loved about mine the best... people pull out in front of my toy(ota)all the time, but when I had my Burb (mine was the old 2500, too), I would be barreling- ahem, cruising, like you said- down the road and someone coming out of a side road would slam on their brakes with this look on their face like, "I can't pull out in front of that behemoth!!" hehehahahoho *sigh* I miss those days....

Toni said...

Reminds me of a story my mechanic told me, guffawing up a storm until he saw my face . . .

A lady was on the phone with her mechanic, detailing what her car was doing and the sounds it was making. She asked "What does that sound like to you?"

He replied "That sounds like a trip to Maui."

My last Suburban would always blow its oxygen sensors when I would go out of town and climb the mountains. Every. Single. Time. That beast has since been replaced by a Suburban that just tears up those roads, eating anything in its path. Okay, not quite, but at least it makes it up faster than 25 mph.