Monday, August 25, 2008

The Nitty Gritty

So, now that we are safe and sound in our home in Illinois, we can share our last grand adventure from our Boston days.

The last week was spent at a friend's house. Celeste babysat their 2 girls along with Brooklyn. When I got home the first day, she looked exhausted and irritated and said to me, "Let's go home tonight." Needless to say, going from 1 little child to 3 in a day wasn't the easiest transition. But the following few days went by without a hitch, and we got all set to head home.

Celeste picks me up from work on Friday, my last day at Kiva (which was a great last day!), and on the way home she suggests we leave that evening to start our treck home, instead of Saturday morning. "We'll get there earlier, and can go to church on Sunday and see our friends. Plus Brooklyn will sleep through an entire leg of the trip." Ok, I said. That sounds like a good idea.

So we packed everything into the car and headed out Friday night. We wanted to see Niagara Falls on our way out, so we drove into a rinky-dink motel in Niagara at 1:30 am to settle for the night. As we pull into our room, there are about 8 miscreants drinking booze and looking real scary sitting around outside the room next-door. I was a little worried about our stuff, but too tired to give it much thought.

The next morning we got up early (thanks to Brooklyn) and got ready for a long trip home, but first an amazing view of the Niagara Falls. It was a really gorgeous view and pretty fun to see. I thought it was going to be much taller than it was, but the volume of water cascading down was impressive. After seeing the falls we happily started our 10 hour journey home. Little did we know then, what a journey it would become!

After only about an hour, maybe hour and a half, the air conditioning started blinking, and it came out warm. I thought that was odd, so I turned it off temporarily. The rear-view mirror was getting all fogged up. I thought that was weird and couldn't explain how it happened. Then the cruise control turned off, and we started slowing down. I tapped the brakes a little and hit the gas. We revved but no tension. The transmission was acting up. Then the check engine light came on. I attempted to brake down to a lower gear and try again, but to no avail. Then all the lights possible on the dash lit up, the car turned off and we coasted with the hazard lights on to the side of the road. What just happened! I saw the temperature gauge, and it was as hot as can be. Oh. I hope we're just overheated. We'll wait for a while, let it cool down, pour some water into the reserve tank, and hopefully be on our way.

So here we are, eating lunch on a little blanket on the side of the road, in the middle of no-where, praying that the car is just overheated.

About an hour later, we called 911 to get a tow-truck to pick us up. The car did indeed cool down, but that didn't fix the problem. When the tow-truck guy got there, he looked at it and said the timing belt was thrown. So that's why it isn't starting. He also thought something like the water pump probably broke and that's what threw the belt. He called a few garages in the nearest town, but no one wanted to work on Saturday. Even if they did, they certainly didn't want to work on a timing belt. That's serious stuff. So he started taking us to his shop in Ripley, PA. Well, we weren't sure we wanted to wait until Monday to get things fixed, so he called up Firestone in Erie, PA. They said they would look at it! Hurray! Well, Erie, PA was about 40 miles away. That turned out to be a $275 tow. Yikes!

So it's now about 1:30 pm or so, and Firestone gets the car and for $99 will do a 2-hour inspection to see what's wrong. They tell us we better hope it isn't the timing belt, because when that goes, it usually does major damage to other things. Luckily, the Firestone was located in a Mall Center. So we got some real lunch in the food court, and went to a pet shop and looked at clothes. It was rather relaxing given the stressful turn of events of the day. About an hour later, Firestone calls us back. They said we were lucky, because it was just the water pump and timing belt. Just like the tow-truck guy said! Yeah! But, to fix both things was $800. What! Celeste pushed them down to $700 and we said, OK. Fix it up and we can continue our trek home. To kill time, we saw Iron Man at the dollar theater nearby. It was fun to see the movie, and it certainly killed the time and made us forget our miserable day. At least at 6:30, we would be on the road, and that much closer to home.

We returned at 6:30 and they tell us they made a mistake. There's more damage to the car than they thought. It seems the internals of the engine are messed up. That's a 9-hour inspection, which would cost $500. And if something IS wrong in there, it'll be $1500 and a week to get the parts fixed! You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Well, we had to start talking options, and Firestone was closing. We needed a hotel room. I must be grateful for the kindness of our Firestone guy, Joe. He was so nice and helpful during the entire ordeal. He offered to drive us to a hotel. We checked some hotels nearby the Mall, but everything was booked solid. One of the hotels told us about a hotel downtown that had availability. So we went there and got settled for the night. A wedding party canceled, so there were available rooms, and they were discounted from the regular $120/night. Only $99/night. We reserved a room for 2 nights, just in case.

The hotel was a godsend after an awful day. It was large, they had a pack-n-play for Brooklyn. They had free internet access. And a King sized bed. It was heaven in the midst of our personal hell. We went through our limited options, and decided to rent a car one-way and just finish the drive on Sunday. An 8-9 hour trip, and we'd finally be home, where we have friends, and connections and resources. So I reserved a car for $200 that night. Since the rental place was at the airport, the hotel called us a cab, and paid for it. That was another great thing about the hotel. (Plus it made Celeste feel better, like we really only paid $80 for the night).

Sunday was as you would expect. We picked up the rental, drove to Firestone, transferred our things to the rental, said goodbye to our Camry, and hit the road. Firestone was very generous and only charged us the initial $99 inspection fee. Our drive home was uneventful, and very normal. Just how it should have been. Celeste pulled the last leg from Indianapolis to Champaign. We were all weary of being in the car, and especially so close to home. But Brooklyn felt it the worst, I'm afraid. Celeste shed tears of joy, relief and frustration as we pulled into Winfield Village. We were all so exhausted from the horrific weekend, but all so glad to be home.

The worst part of the tale is that we just had $450 worth of car repair done to the Camry in July. So when we finally got home, we returned $1200 poorer, and missing our only car. So our next big adventure is buying another car.

I have to put at the end of this tragic story, how grateful we are that we are alive and well. So many things could have gone much worse. We are grateful that we are back home, that we had money in savings to absorb this impact, and that we have friends and family who are loving and supportive. And some day, we'll see what God intended us to learn, and how we were to grow through this whole thing.


tweedlediva said...

Oh geez. I'm so sorry. That sounds like a nightmare. We are soooooooooooooo glad you're back though!!! Yay!!!

Sarah Burgoyne said...

That sucks! I totally feel for you we lost our Toyota Corolla on our way home from Utah last year. Transmission. Heading out to BYU in 2000 by 1989 jeep cherokee died in Ohio, 2 days later and a ton of money I finally made it as far as Omaha were it was stolen! Yup, my car and all my worldy possesions! Stranded in Omaha! Obviously I survived :)

aaron182 said...

Man that really sucks! I wish there was something we could do 3000 miles away! Anyway, glad you made it back! Good luck in school...and take advantage of those student loans in securing another car! :)

M@ said...

Knowing the worst week of your life is behind you...


Bunna & Biff said...


Tracy Barrand said...

I'm just glad the scary looking people at the hotel didn't bother you. I was hoping that camry would last another 4 years. So sad. It's so hard to be home with TWO kids and the only car at work.

Aqualung said...

Going through tragedy like that is so painful, but you're right it could have been a lot worse. Aren't cars so fun.