Some of you may have been aware that I had planned my annual vacation for this week. My plan was that I would leave Monday, July 1, and drive the 900 miles from my home to San Diego. My children, and my grandchildren, live there. This has become an annual event over the past few years and I have been looking forward to the trip for months.
It's a not-insignificant drive but I've made it before. A 300-mile-a-day average isn't beyond reason, even though I'll be doing all the driving myself. I had many gifts for my family members in the car, and I was eager to share their holiday with them. Someone had suggested that I just fly down there, but the gifts included family heirlooms made of glass, and I am unwilling to subject those items to UPS, or other trans-shipment firms. They are literally irreplaceable.
In the actual event, I got a late start on Monday the First, so I only made 100 miles the first day. It was still daylight when I got to the area where I had made phone reservations for a motel room, and I couldn't find the hotel sign which the company representative had assured me was "visible from the hiway".
I pulled off at the Sutherlin, Oregon exit and decided to use the GPS/MAPS function of my new StupidPhone to find directions. Unfortunately, since I'm still learning to use this device-of-the-devil, I missed a turn and had gone 4 miles past the 6.6 mile distance I had expected to travel before I decided I had made a mistake. Obviously, I needed to backtrack, as I was traveling WEST when I intuitively knew I should be traveling NORTH.
I found a short straight stretch on the back-country road, and attempted a U-turn.
I completed the first half of the turn when my engine died. I couldn't get it started again. I was blocking the road in both directions .. there was no room for any vehicle to avoid me on either side of the road, and there was only 50 yards of straight travel in either direction. In the west, there was a blind curve; in the east, there was a hill.
Fortunately, I didn't panic. The first thing I did was to put on my emergency blinkers. Then, noticing that there was a short 'down-slope' behind me, and the entrance to a gravel pit with room to accomodate my SUV, I managed to jump out and laboriously push my D.O.F. ("Damned Old Ford") far enough that only the first two feet of the car projected out into one lane.
THEN I paniced!
By the time all of this happened, it was already 7:30pm. Only a little over 90 minutes remained until night, and my car was black.
Fortunately, a couple of young men came by, traveling in the same direction I had came from .. toward civilization, as passes for such in this benighted country where (you can see this coming) there was no cell phone reception. Since I could not call AAA for help, I was mightily grateful that they volunteered to help me push the D.O.F. fully off the road, and then give me a ride back to town.
Nick and Justin were generous, responsible young men. And I didn't say a word about their learned analysis of the probably causes of my mechanical issues. Nor did I mention that I had experienced the same problem in May, had my car towed to the local FORD dealer, and that their mechanics were unable to diagnose the problem (and charged me $100 to tell me they don't know why it mysteriously dies).
Unknown to them, the same thing had happened to me in April, but I was in a 'safe place' when it happened.
Having been forewarned that this was a recurring problem, I had undertaken the trip with some trepidation. My game plan was that if it happened again, I would wait until the car had cooled down sufficiently to restart, and then immediately return home.
In the actual event, I called AAA at 8:30pm (when I finally got back to a place -- Sutherlin, on the I5 Freeway-- where there were places to eat and cell phone service. It took until 10pm until the towing service phoned me (there was some communications problems; AAA didn't tell the tow truck driver that I was in Sutherlin and my car was 10 miles West of there. Eventually, at 10:30 the tow truck and I got to the D.O.F. at 10:30 pm, and it was another 30 minutes until he helped me find my hotel. It was 15 miles further up the road. (When the tow truck got me to the car, it started right up! So I asked him to lead me to my motel, which at least HE had no trouble finding.)
Note to future travelers: the "Oakland, Oregon Motel 6" is actually located in RICE HILL, which is 10 miles north of Oakland, Oregon. Which, in turn, is 6 miles north of Sutherlin, which is 10 miles east of where I broke down.
I'm still grumpy. I spent Independence Day at home, alone, listening to my collegiate neighbors blowing up firecrackers and bottle rockets. It reminded me of Viet Nam in it's intensity; now I wish I had been in a sufficiently good mood to go outside and watch the local fireworks show. As it was, I heard the neighbors stomping on my roof as they were jostling for "the good seats". I was not in a mood for community or conviviality, though.
After the holiday week is fully over, I'll be taking my D.O.F. back to the dealership which was unable to diagnose the problem. I'll instruct them to start replacing fuel-system components, starting with the fuel line and up to (and including) fuel pump until I quit having these problems.
I've always looked upon this annual journey as an adventure. Sometimes, though, the adventure is just too much,
I told my Daughter and Son, and their spouses, that I knew their children would be terribly disappointed that I would not get to see them this summer.
The grandchildren did not disappoint me; they were entirely unmoved by the news that "Grandpa Won't Be With Us This Summer".
Good News: Both Daughter and Son, and their families, will probably be moving closer (by 600 miles) to where I live, by next summer.
I'm thinking of renting hotel space for all 11 of them for next Fourth of July, and inviting them to visit ME next Fourth of July.
It would be a lot cheaper.
And a whole lot less frustrating.