I haven’t blogged in a couple days because I needed some rest. Plus, we spent a large portion of the past few days recovering from the royal screwing we received from the garage that fixed the latest in a series of car problems.
The drive from Elkhorn City to Cleveland was relaxing and fun, albeit loooooooong. It took us about 12 hours to get here—the longest drive on this trip yet—but that includes the time it took to call AAA and get the car towed again. Yes, we broke down again. But I’ll get to that.
Sure, it was only 10AM, but we may never pass this way again, so we stopped. And, yes, you can order a Smashburger at 10AM at the Dairy Cheer.
Personally, I found nothing remarkable about the Smashburger, other than its name, but Jeff thought it was a particularly tasty burger. I think the only reason for the unique and humorous name is that they smash it after they make it. Mmmm … I bet that adds flavor!
I was more impressed with this sign that we saw at the rear of the parking lot, at the entrance to another business.
We have no clue what that business was, because we couldn’t find any other signs, but apparently it has something to do with helicopters. Or not. We don’t know. We didn’t see any signs of helicopters or landing pads or anything to do with aviation. It looked like a big ol’ junkyard.
We took an unexpected side trip along the way into Van Lear, KY because we saw a sign on the road to “Loretta Lynn’s Home Place.” We knew she was from the area, but didn’t know it was on the way from here to there. We followed the signs through a labyrinth of twisting and turning roads, so much so that I was honestly concerned that we might not find our way back to the highway. I have a great sense of direction, but this was like closing my eyes and spinning around, it was so disorienting.
We finally gave up the search because the roads were taking us down some very narrow paths and, since we’re towing a bike trailer, we weren’t sure if we would be able to turn around to get out of there if it got much worse. So we never did end up seeing Butcher Holler and the home she grew up in, the one featured in Coalminer’s Daughter.
Other than that, it was a pretty uneventful drive. We just cruised along at a fair clip and looked forward to getting to the hotel at the end of the day.
We thought we were home free when we finally got to the last hour of the drive. We were in Cleveland and had just made one of our last interstate exits onto 271 near Medina when the car just stopped running. Jeff pulled over onto the shoulder and opened the hood to see what he could see. There didn’t appear to be anything wrong, but I mentioned that there was a small amount of smoke coming in the vents, so he poked around the firewall. He still didn’t see any visible signs of problems, so he told me to turn the key. The car cranked right up, so we pulled back out onto the road.
We made it about another mile when it backfired and died again. Jeff got out and tried to repeat whatever it was that he had just done to get it to start, to no avail. We had to call for help.
I got on the phone and called AAA. (Thank God for our prepaid Net10 phone. I don’t have a regular cell phone because we don’t need it enough to get a contract with anyone, so the prepaid phone is a great emergency option, even if the minutes are not unlimited.)
Before we left on this trip, I had renewed our AAA membership which expires on September 1. I knew it would be unwise to head out without it, so I made sure to do this. We did, however, decide to not renew Jeff on the account because it was pretty expensive to do so and, since I would be on this trip, we didn’t need us both on there. The woman at AAA told me, at that time, that if we need service before September 1, to use Jeff’s card because we might as well use up all of his allowed service calls.
Apparently she was the only one at AAA to know this, because during this service call they told me (after eating up about 30 of my precious minutes) that his account was cancelled and they wouldn’t be able to provide service for us. Exasperated and frustrated, I tried to be calm while I told him to just use my name on the same account and I’d take care of that mistake in the morning (which I did and she agreed that Jeff was still on the account until next week. Grrrrrrrrrrr!).
Anyway, long story short, we waited for the tow truck while Jeff and I unloaded and reloaded the bike trailer (we can’t get the bike off with all the stuff on there). My AAA account apparently doesn’t include towing a trailer and fortunately we weren’t too far from Jeff’s brother Brian’s house. Brian agreed to come and get the trailer with one of his vehicles and take it home with him. Jeff followed the tow truck on the bike, which I rode in with the driver, to the hotel.
The tow truck driver was a fascinating guy who is married to an equally fascinating woman. He told me how the two of them ride their motorcycles around the country to tour haunted prisons. He also told me that he is from Chagrin Falls (the location of my novel Be Careful What You Witch For!) and that there is a fascinating story about the Underground Railroad involving one of their landmarks, which I’ll tell in a later blog, because we spent yesterday (Saturday) in Chagrin Falls.
The next morning, we had to call for another tow (this one wasn’t covered by AAA because they won’t tow twice for the same incident) to get the car to a garage. After making a lot of phone calls to find someone in the area who could fix a ’79 Volaré, Jeff had it towed to the Firestone garage at the Great Lakes Mall. He told them that he suspected the timing chain, but he wasn’t sure because he’s not a mechanic.
Oh, by the way, there was also another flat tire on the car when we woke up. Don’t ask. I don’t know how that happened.
Sometime later, we got a phone call from them saying that the total would be in the mid $800 range. Shuddering at the huge expense, we both realized that we don’t have a lot of choice. We’re half a country away from home, and Firestone is a major chain, so we knew they would do good work (or hoped they would, at least) so Jeff okayed it.
That afternoon, they called and said the job was done but an interesting thing happened. When their mechanic was trying to start the car, he noticed that the ignition wire was loose. He jiggled it and it started right up. The man on the phone said, “You might want to be careful about that while you’re driving because if you hit a bump in the road, the car might stall.”
I wish I could spell the sound surging through my mind right now just thinking about what he said, and the sound that was likely going through Jeff’s noggin at that moment. We had just been charged over $500 for a timing chain that we didn’t even need! (Some of the $800 total was for the flat tire, the tow and some other small things he had tweaked, but the timing chain itself was $450 plus labor.) And they didn’t even fix the loose wire, just told us to be aware of it!!!
The loose wire was, apparently, the reason we brought the car in to begin with, and they had no intention of fixing it!
Jeff calmly asked them to fix the loose wire and told them we’d be in to pick up the car shortly. When we arrived, the person he needed to talk to about this clusterf*ck was already gone for the day. The cashier simply pointed to the paperwork that said “Customer requested timing chain replacement.”
This was an incredibly expensive lesson. When taking your car to a garage, NEVER express your opinion about what it MIGHT need. Just tell the mechanic to find what’s wrong and fix it. All it needed was a bolt tightened. Jeff’s brother Brian, who has been a mechanic for decades, freaked out when he heard this story. He told us, in no uncertain terms, that what should have happened is that they would have seen that there was nothing wrong with the timing chain and called us to tell us that.
They didn’t do that. Instead, we now have to cut the trip short because that was the last cushion in our travel fund. We’ll head home later this week, when we’re done camping at the next place on our itinerary (it’s prepaid, or we’d head home tomorrow). We’re not going to get to go to Washington DC, or camp on the beach in NC, as we had planned.
Once again, however, we’ve passed the Zen test. We could have both been much more distressed about this than we were. Yes, it was upsetting. Yes, we both were a little steamed in the beans. But we both agreed, at dinner that night, to let it go and reboot. We lifted our glasses in a toast to releasing our anger and moving forward.
Now we just hope the car will cooperate and get us home.