Friday, January 20, 2006

Trip, Interrupted (What's the Universe Trying to Tell Us?)

Well, only one of my mother's prayers were answered today. She prayed that we'd be kept safe and that our car would make it. And since I'm writing, clearly we're safe. And we're not in Charlottesville. But we are in Virginia.

We made it exactly 152 miles before the car went kaput. We've been having problems with it burning oil and it seemed a little strained on the drive up, but it made it and we've managed well enough by adding oil to it regularly. But I had concerns about it making it back home with a full load. I considered renting a truck and towing it home, but it was too expensive and I didn't have enough stuff to bring home to justify the size truck required for towing. So, I opted for the trucking container and I had the oil changed for the trip on Wednesday.

In the beginning, I could feel the car straining to go up the mountains, (well, it is a 12 year-old Camry with a 4-cylinder engine, loaded to capacity, so I'd kind of expect that) but after a while, it seemed to be having an easier time of it. Then, about 45 miles south of Roanoak, VA, the oil light came on. I pulled over and added the almost 3 quarts I had in the trunk. (I think the Camry only takes 4 quarts.) The dipstick was barely registering it and I thought it might just be because the engine was still hot, and surely 3 quarts would be enough to get us to the next exit. I looked under the car to make sure nothing was dripping and everything looked okay. So, I started the car and began to drive off.

Everything seemed okay for the first few seconds, then I noticed this thick, gray smoke coming from the tail pipe and the oil light was on again. I had a similar problem with this car about 5 years ago (and I'm told that it was a miracle that the engine wasn't completely ruined that time- though it cost me almost $2000 to fix it then), and I know better than to keep driving with the oil light on. So, I pulled over and called AAA. We were in the middle of nowhere on I-81. The sun had just set and it was getting dark, fast. Rachel was terrified and crying. Alex was getting a little freaked out, too. It took an hour for the tow truck to arrive.

When I told the driver what happened, (he's also mechanic), he told me what I already knew would be bad, very bad news. (There is a well documented history of oil-burning Toyotas- this has been going for many years. Here are some cases involving the 1994 Camry that sound just like mine, and this is my second time around with this.) The repair shop he works for is closed until Monday. And he didn't know where else I could take it that might be able to fix it on a weekend. And he said he doubted that anyone could fix it in less than a couple of day, even if we did find a place tomorrow. And he said that fixing it would likely cost at least a couple thousand bucks, possibly a lot more.

In the absence of any notion of where to take the car, we towed it to a motel in Radford, VA, a little town about 50 or so miles south of Roanoak.

Now what do I do????

I'm stuck in a motel right off the interstate with no transportation. Check-out time is noon. Can I possibly solve this problem by then? I don't know anything about mechanics here. Is the car is even worth fixing? Tomorrow is Saturday. My kids need to be in school on Monday. It takes two days to drive home from here, since I'm the only one driving -and that's assuming I have something to drive. And we have a car packed full with our stuff- the stuff we value too much to take a chance on shipping home. Far too much to take on a plane, if we could fly home. But to do that, we'd have to have some way to get to Roanoak, another way to get all our stuff home, and more than $1000 to spare for airfare. And then I'd still have to do something about the car.
Maybe I could try to buy something old but at least road-worthy to drive home. But what happens with my insurance? Can I get a different car insured on a Saturday?

What the hell do I do????

Alex is chompin' at the bit to use this computer so he can rant about this latest problem in our on-going series. I haven't checked his blog lately, but I imagine it's probably quite interesting these days.

In the meantime, any advice you guys have will be much appreciated!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call the mechanic back and ask him who the problem solvers are in his town/area. Explain that you are a Katrina survivor, and that you have been through most of all that is ugly re: the aftermath, and that you wonder if anyone is around who could/would be able to help you brainstorm. Then, let it happen. There are plenty of good people around who still care very much about what went down in the way of stranding so many. Please remember that when people want to help, you have an obligation to allow them to do so. It humanizes all of us, and you know we need that. And the odds are very much with you. You've already dealt with more psychotic behavior than any 100 people combined, and so it's most likely that whoever steps up to the plate is probably gonna' be very nice, indeed.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

My immediate thoughts are these. Rent a large enough car to haul you, your family, and your stuff home. Write the car off as a goner, and figure out what to do for transportantion once you get to home sweet home.

11:00 AM  
Blogger muse said...

I'd say something like Richard. What is important is getting you and your stuff home, so I'd focus on that. Everything else is secondary. If needed you can always get another cheap used car in NO which will be good enough to allow you to drive around for groceries, etc.

*big hugs*

4:28 PM  
Blogger muse said...

Maybe you can trade your car (for parts value) for a truck rental/transportation to NO? (still trying to find some options)

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Ingrid said...

My advice is to leave the car and rent a vehicle (mini van?) that will get you home safely and quickly. Maybe the mechanic would know someone who could buy the car from you this weekend?

7:12 PM  
Blogger addict said...

I agree with anonymous...
Find a voice where you are and the support will get you home.
People do want to help, and *they* feel better by helping. You are helping them feel better by allowing them to help you.
I would talk to as many people as possible, try to get someone to call the local news people...
I am guessing with the news involved a local used car dealer may even make a donation just for the publicity.
Really, just give it a shot.

1:56 AM  

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