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April 21, 2009

Sarah's AWOL

Go to fullsize image  Sarah's AWOL today because her car broke down on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Last we heard, she was flagging down a tow truck.  We can't wait to hear the whole story.

Blog Killer Cuts So today we're taking breakdown stories.  When was the last time your car gave out and left you stranded?  Best story gets a copy of Elaine's new book, Killer Cuts!


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One summer when I was a teenage lifeguard, I wrecked my VW on the way to work--ending up in a cornfield. Mostly, I remember my mother was furious with me that I'd totaled the car. The tow truck did some real damage to the corn, too, so we had to pay the farmer, too. It was Not a Good Summer.

Good luck today, Sarah!

Years ago, I was driving my husbands' old LTD station wagon (something the size of a Sherman tank) when it overheated. I got out and walked to the nearest exit to call AAA (cells phones were just coming into routine use then). The round trip was about 15 min. When I got back to the car, I realized I had locked my keys in the car. I figured the tow truck would be there shortly and just sat on the guard rail waiting. Then it started to rain. Quite awhile later the tow truck finally came, but by that time I was thoroughly soaked. The guy popped the hood and we stood looking at the engine. Then I realized someone had stolen my battery in the few minutes I had been gone to make the call! AAA could only tow me to the nearest station which was not in the best part of town. Luckily they fixed the car and sold me a new battery. Shortly after that, we bought our first cell phones.

Summer of '94. Driving home from a family reunion in Colorado to St. Louis. My sons were 8 and 6. I noticed the temperature gauge going a little wacky on me, so I pulled off at the nearest exit. At the top of the ramp, the car died. So, I'm stranded somewhere in Kansas with two little boys and a cell phone I forgot to recharge. Luckily, several motorists stopped and made calls for us. Getting towed turned out to be the highlight of the vacation for my sons!

A few hours later, back on the road, my older son mentioned his throat hurt. And his head. By the time we were falling asleep in a hotel room, his ears were killing him too. We had a sleepless night and the next day I found a wonderful pediatrician (I started calling offices and crying) who agreed to see us and diagnosed a double ear infection, strep throat and impetigo.

How awful, Sarah. And Cheryl--that was a low blow, wasn't it?

In 1978, I was driving my oldest daughter back to her dad's house (shared custody) in my little Honda Civic CVCC, a tiny little 4-cylinder four-door that got 53 mpg, and was just adorable. We were on the expressway, and it was bitter cold, -13 degrees. My little car had the tendency, which I was about to find out, to get ice in the gas line, and it sputtered to stop on the expressway, right in the middle of an industrial area, miles from any phone booth.

My girlfriend Vicki was with me because her husband was working, so we got out of the car and attempted to flag someone down. My daughter was in the car, crying, and sucking her mitten, which I was upset about because I was sure her fingers would get frostbite. Finally, someone stopped and kindly offered to take us to DD's dad's house, and then to a nearby shopping area so we could make some calls.

First call, to Vicki's husband, an insurance agent. No answer at the office. No answer at home. Finally, she recalls the name of the guy he was supposed to be meeting with, so we look him up in the phone book and call him. Well, he was very surprised to learn that he was meeting with her hubby, but he offered to come and get us. We were uncomfortable with that, since he lived about 25 miles away, and he would have to drive pretty far out of his way to take us home, but we accepted. Half an hour later, here he came, and we went home.

It turned out to be the "blizzard of the century" that night, with temps down to -36 degrees. No one in the city worked the next day, because of water main breaks, and ice everywhere, not to mention crazy winds. We were lucky to get home when we did. I had to have the car towed, which was a hassle, but even worse, my girlfriend finally figured out that her husband was cheating on her, which she would not have known if we hadn't had this experience.

And three months later, the guy who gave us a ride, a closeted gay man, was murdered at his store. Yeah, I know.

I was on Santa Monica Boulevard in L.A., in heavy traffic, when my new little, cute little red Mazda RX7 started to cough up smoke. I pulled over, and called the only person I could think of whose number I had memorized, my old boyfriend. "What do I do?"

"Walk away from the car," he said. "And don't look back."

"But what's the problem?"

"It's a lemon."

It was, and I did. Traded it in the next day.

Years ago I was traveling in France in a rental car. In winter. It had never occurred to me that it snowed in France, because I had been there only in summer. So I was driving around the lovely (snow-covered) countryside north of Paris, and the car just stops. No lights, no smoke, no bang--just stops.

I am not automotively minded, and I can barely find the gas cap in most cars. I did what any sensible person would do--I persuaded the car into a closed gas station and prayed to whatever gods would listen.

It worked. The car started. I made it to the nearest real town, and to a mechanic--who informed me that there was a simple lever under the hood to divert the air intake so that it passed over the engine and was warmed--sort of a summer/winter switch. Who knew?

And of course all this dialogue took place in French. If you think you have trouble describing your car problems in English, try it in a foreign language!

There are so many!

There was the time I was leaving my ob/gyn's office and my battery exploded in my '86 Blazer.

And when I had my 6 year old in my '82 Firebird, loaded with groceries and the car freezes up. Dear Hubby told me not to worry about the oil, he would make sure it was taken care of (to this day he disputes this). Daughter had a grand time riding in the front of the tow truck. It was an adventure. Ruined the engine and I was without a car for a week.

Or the time, in 1976, when I was driving home to St. Charles from work at Ballas/270/40 (for you StL drivers). I-70 was only 4 lanes at that time (2 going, 2 coming) when my '76 Plymouth Fury III's transmission went out. It was the only day for months that I had worn a skirt. Traffic was stop & go for miles to cross the bridge into St. Charles. I had just passed the last exit and had nowhere to go. The car wouldn't move. Luckily it was on enough of an incline that I managed to push the car to get some momentum & got it to the shoulder. I stood about 1/2 mile from the bridge crossing the MO River, looking fairly forelorn, when two "gentlemen" asked if I needed a ride. I politely said "No, thanks," to their dirty scruffy faces and started walking. A car with 2 men & 3 women stopped and offered me a ride. They didn't just drop me off at the gas station at the exit, they took me home and one of the men came in with me to tell my dad exactly what was wrong & basically to let Dad know that I didn't hitchhike-a nice guy picked me up.

Karen...I give up. You win!

If my Mom finds out about this, you are all cooked.

My high school boyfriend and I were driving home from a state park one night (Blue Spruce, if any of you know Indiana, PA). Well, when kids are that age, it's tough to concentrate on more than one thing, and I guess we weren't exactly finished with the park activities.

The car ended up in a ditch. This was 1977 - no cell phones. Once we figured we couldn't get the car out, we decided to walk, but when I went back to get my purse out of the car, things got distracted again.

The State Police found us, arranged for a tow truck and took us home. I told my parents we swerved to avoid hitting a deer. They bought it. His parents did not. Perhaps the difference between having a son and a daughter.

What is it with France? When hubby and I were there six years ago, we rented a car so we could drive from Rouen to Domfront in Normandy, to stay in a lovely B&B and visit an online friend of mine and her husband. We were merrily on our way, about an hour from Domfront, and hubby hit the curb with the tire, in the middle of this tiny little town called Fleur, and it blew. Turns out it was a bank holiday, nothing was open, and nothing would be open for two more days. We were able to get the spare on, but the rental company could not do anything about the car except give us a new one. Which we would have to drive to get, to Brittany, about two hours from Domfront. What a hassle.

Our host at the B&B helped make some calls in French (she and my friends were both British ex-pats, very handy), then lent us her "mobile", and sent us on our way with long, tortured directions to the rental car shop. Which turned out to be a gas station that would have closed an hour before we got there if we had not had the cell phone, and I had not kept calling. When I called, the owner's mother (I think) answered, who did not speak a word of English, and she kept having to get her son to the phone. His English was only slightly better than hers, and my French is limited to conversations about food, basically, so it was a minor miracle that they stayed open long enough to swap cars with us.

And the worst of all, we ended up eating our dinner at a McDonalds, in France. Where they don't get the whole fast food thing, clearly. The "Big Mac" had the most horrendous sauce ever, and the patty was burnt to a crisp.

Just this last January, I packed a couple of cranky teens in my Volvo station wagon and we started to go to Bowling Green (KY). It's about an hour's drive to B.G., but we go because it's the closest Kroger, and more importantly it's the closet Barnes&Noble. Kids have Christmas money they are wanting to spend.

Ky has Parkways that go for miles in between exits- there are, I beleive only two exits on the 40 mile stretch I was traveling. So I'm driving down the road doing a good, 65/70 mph and all of a sudden I have no transmission! (Always makes for a bit of excitment.) Fortunately the parkways aren't crowded so I was able to coast over to the shoulder and called my husband. Luckily he was in his office, and even more luckily he didn't have any clients so he drove out and picked us up. We left the car there until evening when he could pick it up after work. (He's a Volvo enthusiast- a "brick-head" and he was not going to let someone else work on the car.) So that evening, we (Husband and I, we left the kids at their friend's house) borrowed his Dad's truck, drove all the way (30 miles) to Glasgow (the next town) to rent a tow-dolly (going past our disabled car) then we had to drive it all the way back to the exit to get turned around (going once more past our parked car the other way) then drove back to the car, got it on the dolly, then drove back to the Glasgow exit to get us turned around to get home. Then we off-load the car, and drove back to Glasgow to return the dolly. (He figured later we drove something like a hundred and forty miles that evening)

We get to the rental place, and its now nine o'clock at night and everything is locked up and so my husband just parks the dolly there and turns around to go and I say "But what if somebody steals the dolly?" And I get one of those scornful husband looks- you all know the type, and he says, "That's riduculous, this is standard procedure, people do it all the time, nobody steals the dolly, why would anyone steal a tow dolly?"

"Ok, fine." We go home- so not the happy couple. It's late, we are cold and stiff from bouncing around the cab of a pick-up truck all evening. We hadn't eaten, we have to scrounge something to eat because of course I hadn't made it to the grocery store. We had peanut butter sandwiches with a shot of bourbon.

Eight o'clock the next morning, the phone rings. It's the police. The tow dolly had, indeed, been stolen.

A blown tire on a State Highway at midnight gave me a few bad moments. While waiting for a tow, a carload of free-spirited young men pulled up in front of me, parked, and started to get out of their car. One of them apparently saw my silhouette in the drivers seat holding an object in my hand. They scrambled back into their car and took off.

I always wondered what might have happened had they known I was on my cell phone, on hold, with AAA....

Most memorable breakdown: One bitter cold night in January my wife and I were going to pick up our daughters at a train station some forty miles away. Of course it was a desolate stretch of highway and we had no cell phones; it was over an hour before someone stopped to help us. Our samaritan was fearful of some kind of trap and wouldn't get closer than fifty feet of me. He did have a cell phone, however, and called the state police to come help us. Then he drove off. The state police never came. Another hour later, my brother-in-law found us. Our girls had called him a panic because we never showed up and he started searching the highway for us (or our bodies). By the time we reached the station, my daughters had spent two-and-a-half hours on a cold, dark, deserted railroad platform, trying to avoid the strange mumbling man who was the only other person there.

Twice, I've had a car engine catch fire. Once on the highway during the day and I was able to get help fairly quickly. And once outside of Reading International in Harvard Square, so I was pleasantly occupied for the forty-minutes it took for a tow to arrive.

Early in our marriage, my 16-year old brother-in-law broke down on the highway as he was coming to visit. He hitch-hiked the remaining three miles and showed up at our door just as we were preparing breakfast. He needed a jump start, but was interested in the pancakes we were cooking first. Pancakes, coffee, and talk...an hour and a half went by, then Stephen told us we might as well go do the jump start because David (his 15-year old brother) was probably wondering where he was. This was the first we had heard of this. My wife asked, why didn't you tell us he's been sitting on the side of the highway all this time? His answer: I didn't think you had enough pancakes.

Among the several bad breakdown experiences, I have had one real jewel. I was driving my daughter to school in Charleston, WV, on a dark, rainy morning. Right there on I64, halfway between exits, I ran out of gas (how embarrassing!). I got the truck pulled over and saw that, as luck would have it, a convenience store and gas station was, well, conveniently located on the frontage road down the hill from the freeway.

Being the intrepid woman that I am, I got out of the truck and scrambled down the shrubby, wet hillside. In a long narrow skirt and boots, naturally. I figured I could jump the fence and get to the convenience store with no problem. I have, after all, climbed any number of cyclone fences in my day.

Well, this fence wasn't in the best repair, and it was soon apparent that no way was I getting over it without killing myself. Which is when the angels appeared in the form of a couple of nice men who, upon exiting the convenience store with their morning coffee, saw me standing in the rain on the other side of the fence.

They grabbed a gas can, filled it up, drove around to my truck, and waited until I had the truck started before taking off. They wouldn't accept a dime.

Not the first or last time I received that type of generous help in WV . . .

his is a story about what could have been a permanent break down, but wasn't!

Back in the early 80's my brother owned a Buick Skyhawk with 4 on the floor. It was a nice sporty little car, whose only problem was it had been wrecked and repaired so many times (my brother) that you couldn't always shift it into reverse.

My husband and I had borrowed the car, ironically, to visit the local auto dealership where our automatic transmission car had been towed after it's transmission blew. On our way home we had to cross a railroad crossing without gates or warning signals. This crossing required one to pull up almost to the tracks before crossing to be able to look both ways. I pulled up to the crossing. Looking to the right no train. Looking to the left on the track nearest to the car, TRAIN!!!!!!!!!

I pressed in the clutch, went to shift into reverse, and nothing. The damn car wouldn't go into reverse. Another attempt and another and another and the train kept getting closer. The engineer sounded the train whistle with urgent blasts. I was still struggling to get it into reverse.

My husband was yelling at me. The train whistle got more urgent as the train rolled ever closer. The train reached the crossing and I was still trying to shift when finally it slipped in and I shot backward just as the train reached where we had been sitting. The engineer shook his fist at us as he went by. I'm sure we gave him near heart failure.

Young and stupid, as early 20 somethings tend to be, we never considered just getting out of the car and walking away.

Now here is a true breakdown story:

Once a year our extended family tries to make a day trip to Conneaut, Ohio (Lake Erie) for a day at the beach and picnicking in their beautiful WPA era park. 1988 was no different than any other year, except, this was the year of the huge drought, which had left Eastern Ohio and Western PA dry as a bone after months without rain.

We were traveling in caravan up route 11 in Ohio when my father's Buick blew a radiator hose. He pulled off the road, got out of the car and filled the air with quite a few profanities. As others in the carvan came upon us they pulled off in turn.

Of course all the men gathered around the front of my Dad's car discussing what we should do. Drive to an auto parts store? No, don't know where one is and too much time would be wasted. Leave the car and travel to a garage and have it towed? No, too much money. Finally someone said, "If we had some tape we could temporarily fix the hose, but does anyone have any tape?

Out of the trunks came, the coolers, picnic baskets, beach chairs, and all the other beach paraphernalia and it was lined up down the side of the road. My Uncle found a roll of that good old fix anything duct tape at the bottom of his spare tire storage well and we were in business. Well not quite.

Everyone soon realized the blown hose may be patched, but no one had any water to replace all the lost fluid in the radiator. Now you know how the drought comes into play in this story.

My Father, ever resourceful, said, "We'll use water from the ditch at the side of the road."

Everyone looked at him and collectively said, "What water? We're in a drought!"

He said, "We'll find some." We walked up and down the road until we found a spot in the roadside ditch with about two inches of the greenest slimiest water you've ever seen. He put it into his radiator and the day was saved. Off we went to Conneaut for our day at the beach.

Everyone assumed he would take his car to garage once we were there, but his reply was, It'll hold until we get home. And it did.

Sorry there should be a "T" at the very beginning. Problems with Mr. Typepad and my cutting and pasting caused me to drop it.

Ah yes...Chuck and I were engaged. I can't remember exactly what month it was, but it had rained early on. Most of the streets were dry and the sun had come out, so we went out with another couple for a Sunday picnic...each couple in their own car because we had different...um...agendas for later in the evening (okay, disclaimer here...the year was 1967 so agenda might have meant different things back then-maybe).
Both guys drove VW beetles (also another reason for separate cars (have you ever tried to move in the back seat of one of those little bugs?) We had a great time (I have pics)and Linda and Bob took off for a movie. Chuck and I decided to go for a drive through the country...woods, fields, Illinois wildlife, you know. We had just narrowly missed driving off a partially finished overpass (honest...the construction sign had been turned sideways and it was getting dark) and decided to go find a nice secluded woodland setting for some additional communing with nature.There was this charming little dirt road leading into a stand of trees so we took it. And found we couldn't turn around. Chuck, being the creative mind in our team of two, decided to pull off the road, into a clearing and turn around...if you've seen My Cousin Vinny, you know what happened next. Mud. No traction, and a dead battery. So. Being young, dumb and thinking about my curfew (did I mention I was in college?) we started walking. And lo and behold, there was a farmhouse. With a farmer who was perfectly willing to pull us out for $50.00 (his response was so quick we figured he'd done this before). He agreed to take a check for what we didn't have in cash and he and his tractor rescued the car. Then, free of charge (nice man, no?) he jumpstarted the car so we could get me back to the dorm on time. When I saw Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei in the middle of a muddy field years later, I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Deja vu all over again :o)
Oh yeah, and there was the time my car died completely in rush minute traffic, but we had cells by then...I just got some dirty looks and a $300.00 repair bill.

Kathy---if the VW hadn't been covered in mud and dried leaves, we could have used the deer story too...and Chuck's Tech Sergeant would have believed him. Not so sure about the counselors in my dorm. Isn't young love grand?

Who knew our TLC backbloggers were so experienced in car trouble?? And managed to survive it all?

Let's see...my first car was a Dodge Colt, called 'smurfmobile' due to it's coloring. This was my back and forth for college car, and it really sucked every time that it rained while making the drive home for a weekend. It would stall out. Sit a bit. Start up and make a run for the next underpass before it stalled again. Water was getting into the distributor, and we could never quite get it fixed.

Hmm, this isn't a break down, but a run down? I had just started my job at my current company, when on the highway one day a tractor trailer decided that he wanted my spot in the other lane. Never mind that if he had looked out his drivers window and down, he would have seen me. Oh no....he was coming no question. I swerved to miss him, ran off the road into the wet grassy median, swerved back onto the road in a spin heading directly for his rear tires. His tires ran over my front passenger tire and squished me back out into a spin in the opposite direction. I came to a rest about six inches from a concrete barrier. With the insurance and lawsuit (his insurance co was calling and harassing me), I ended up with a whopping $5k. He received $10k in fines thanks to witnesses. Damn cheap Hearst paper company...paying off my lawyer instead of me.

Oh oh oh....I did have another real breakdown. I was in my Chevy Spectrum Turbo (oooooh, turbo!) on the same highway, during construction. While in the cattle shoot, it started making some very loud and disgusting noises. Coaxed the baby through to the end, where it proceeded to totally give up the ghost the minute it was on the true shoulder. I liked that car!!! It had some awesome kick to it!!!!

Holy cow, people!

I've had breakdowns, but none so spectacular as those here.

I do have a favorite that happened to someone else, though. Syracuse, huge snowstorm, everyone let out of work early, at the same time, so roads were so clogged the plows couldn't get through, someone gets out of their car in the middle of huge traffic back-up to get the ice off their wipers, and the door shuts and locks, car still running, person standing in the middle of traffic in the snow.

1968 or so. I don’t know why we decided to go to Pismo, The Clam Capital of the World. Was it because brother Art and Steve were due to leave for boot camp? Steve says that he thought that we just decided that it was a great afternoon for a roadtrip. Girlfriend Patti and Art were in Art’s white MGA. Steve and I were in his brother Bill’s cherished blue ’58 Chevy Bel Aire. Brother Don and Don’s friend and brother Ron were in Ron’s VW. We caravanned from Santa Barbara up to Pismo in the afternoon, and drove out onto the sand to begin the 5-mile drive down the beach.

Things were going well. I don’t recall too much about the drive. But at some point, we became aware that the sun was going to be going down and – oh, yeah – maybe the tide was coming in. We turned around and started back to Pismo, but the tide was forcing us up into the looser sand. The sheer weight of the Chevy made it the first to stop. Waves came halfway up the window and washed over the hood. The Volkswagon floated a little with each wave. I think that I remember the MGA making it further than the rest of us, but we were all in sight of one another.
The sun was just about set. I don’t think any of us had come up with any plans. When…

…a plane approached. And yelled down to us to ask if we needed help. We nodded and jumped up and down and waved. The plane left and we retreated to the ‘warmth’ of the cars. We all climb into the Chevy at that point so that we shared a little warmth.
In the gloaming we eventually saw the headlights of three tow trucks with giant beach tires. They hooked us up and started towing in the MGA and the VW. Steve tells me that the Chevy was too weighed down with sand and they had to send for a bigger tow. I may not have known that because I may have gone in with the first contingent to start arrangements. Since I [supposedly] knew the area and people in the area, I helped get Don, Don’s friend, and Patti onto a bus home – they were all pissed that they didn’t get to stay, as I recall. The rest of us got a room at a motel and, the next day, the guys spent the day cleaning sand out of the engines. I thought this was extremely boring, but I got to stay where Steve was.

This is the same Steve who I have hooked up with, 40 years later.

My luckiest break-down was when Husband and I were in Grad school in Durham N.C. I was in a part of town that I didn't know and I was coming down a hill. I was driving a little blue Subaru (loved that car!) when the clutch cable snapped. No way I could stop coming down this hill and I was heading right for a busy intersection so I put on my flashers and started beeping my horn- fortunately-just as I get to the light it changed to green and I coasted right through it and into a strip mall. The car rolled just as gently as you please to the curb where there was a phone booth!-- This was early eighties- way before cells! So I called my husband, but he couldn't come get me for a while because he had a class he had to go to. That was ok though, because in this particular little strip mall there was a bakery and a used book store! How lucky is that?

And even better- he was able to rig a cable to get the car back to where we lived and did the repair himself so we didn't have a car-repair bill.

Holly, that was dramatic! And Kelly, you must live right, is all I can say. LOL

Along the Ohio River in Cincinnati, right downtown, is an area called the Public Landing, where the riverboats pull up. There is public parking there, or there used to be. In the mid-1970's I parked there for a short while when I worked downtown, until one day the river started rising fast. I must have heard about it on the radio, so I hightailed it out of the office early, fortunately, because the river was up to the tires on my car. Literally, I had to walk into the river to get in the door. Other car owners were not so fortunate; there were several already completely submerged.

When I was taking the Citizens' Police Academy a few weeks ago they had the Dive Team come and talk to us. One of the events they have worked is the biennial Tall Stacks Festival, when the various riverboats come to town for a week of festivities. To prepare for the first one they sonar-mapped the river, then hauled out all sorts of cars and other vehicles, especially at the public landing. I wondered if some of them were there from that day, so long ago.

I don't have an interesting story myself but one from a friend.

She and her sister inherited a huge, 25+ yr old, mint condition Buick from her Grandmother, named Mr. Emerson (the car, not her Grandmother). I don't remember the model, but it was distinctive. She broke down on the 405 far from home. A group of girls drove by yelling Mr. Emerson! They stopped to help. The girls were friends of her sister, they didn't know my friend but they knew "Mr. Emerson".

15 years ago on the New Jersey turnpike - cars only lane.

My husband and I were done with graduate school in NYC. After all those years living in NYC we had almost no money left. We'd collected all the book boxes from his school for months, carefully packing almost everything else we owned in these tiny boxes. We hired the cheapest moving company that would haul our stuff to Baltimore. We didn't quite trust these people, however, to handle our belongings with care. So everything breakable and/or valuable we packed into a rented car.

Among the valuable items were our two cats. They traveled so badly, they had to be drugged. One had a heart condition that could be life-threatening if she became too upset. The other would freak out in her cage and start throwing up.

It was the end of a long moving day. We'd thought we'd leave by 6pm. We left at 9:30pm. The car was stuffed full, the cats were drugged.

We made it through the Lincoln Tunnel and were just past the IKEA in New Jersey when the car went silent. It just stopped. 60 mph or thereabouts and we were suddenly gliding to a stop. We made it safe to the side. Fortunately, we had borrowed someone's cell phone (this was back when they were WAY expensive and two graduate students couldn't afford one... and the batteries barely lasted a few hours). We called for a tow service. My in-laws had insisted we join AAA. Turns out AAA isn't allowed to tow on the NJ turnpike.

Eventually, as the battery ran down while we sat there in the dark trapped by cars rushing on either side of us, we got ahold of a tow service to pull us to the airport car rentals.

The drugs were wearing off, however, and the cats were starting to freak. By the time we reached the car rental, I had to pill the now freaked-out cats (anyone ever pilled cats? doesn't go so well, does it?) in a lobby at midnight.

Eventually, they gave us this luxury car out of pity, we transfers all the junk we'd considered so important (and were now regretting packing) and at 1am, we were finally on our way. We reached the new apartment in Baltimore just in time to snag 2 hours sleep on the floor before the movers arrived with the rest of our stuff.

We were zombies by the end of that day. Finally, on a Sunday evening, all we wanted to do was have a drink. That's when we discovered you can't buy beer in Maryland on a Sunday.

1967, first family road trip, 2 parents, 5 kids under 11 . . .
We drove from Ontario to BC and back. On the way home my parents decided we would drive through the states. Just outside of Kellough, Idaho a car pulls up beside us and the driver yells, Your car is on fire!.
We all pull over, the nice man has cable in his car and tows us into Kellough. Nothing dramatic happened after that, but we did get to stay at a motel for 2 days with a swimming pool. The highlight of that trip. I was only 7, can't remember what kind of station wagon it was or what was wrong with it but loved that swimming pool.

Or there was the time my sisters Mini broke down, some part had fallen out of the gear shift. My dad got up at 5 in the morning, walked to where the car had stopped and drove it home - in reverse! That was the only gear left . . .

1974 - summer - age 20 or so - driving VW station wagon from California to New Mexico to visit my grandmother. Block of car cracked in the middle of no where. Man driving a truck hauling bombs stopped to give me a lift. Went to the wonderful town of Lordsburg - off of Route 10 in New Mexico. Called Lordsburg because the devil wouldn't take it. Stayed in ratty hotel for 3 days. Was lied to and taken advantage of financially (fortunately was not molested). Unable to get car fixed in Lordsburg - mainly because of the lies - finally got someone to tow me and car to Grandma's house. Fortunately the town had Western Union and Dad was able to wire me some money. What an adventure for a young woman!

Great topic! Wonderful stories, and I concur that Karen is in the lead for the contest!
The Ford Pinto that I drove in the '70's proves my best "worst" stories. Remember the recall for the exploding gas tanks? I found out later that Ford execs had known about the problem, but decided it would be cheaper to leave them as they were and pay the death claims. It broke down so often that I became a regular visitor at my neighborhood mechanic (the dealer had lost my confidence when they left the drain plug loose on the first oil change). For a while, it wouldn't start on rainy days (new plug wires fixed that). Then a loose connection would drain the battery (I had to remove fuses until a specialist found the problem). Finally, the clutch cable tore loose and stranded me on a remote stretch of road, with a full moon, just after watching a werewolf movie. My friend's boyfriend had learned to shift without a clutch (driving his wreck of a car as a teen-ager) so he drove it back to town for me the next morning (Sunday). We left it on my friendly mechanic's lot, and I put the keys through the mail slot and I called them Monday. I had gotten a ticket for "parking by a golf course," but when I sent the repair receipt along with the check for my fine, the nice people of Eden Prairie forgave the fine and returned my check. I finally abandoned the Pinto in North Carolina when a mechanic said they only way I'd drive it back through the mountains would be to rebuild the engine, which it was definitely NOT worth doing.

Since then I've had Toyotas, and the Prius is my all-time favorite. It can go from St. Louis to Louisville on one tank of gas, and it's the most comfortable car I've ever had. (Of course, I'd been deprived -- this is my first with cruise control and a remote for locking and unlocking -- and finding it in the parking lot). (The only time I had a repair issue with Toyota, I got immediate help by telling them it was feeling more like a Ford experience -- the truly offensive "F" word . . . with apologies to anyone who loves their Ford).
The Pinto had replaced the VW bug that was destroyed in an accident. I was an inexperienced 25-yr-old driver, only getting a license when Prudential offered to train me to be an agent rather than a secretary. I felt bad about killing the VW -- it was a reliable car, if a little cold in the Minnesota winters (no radiator, not much heat). There were times when I drove along, scraping the inside of the window as frost built up.

Gosh, I got nothing like these. Most memorable was when I got a flat in Philadelphia, and the local Firestone outlet didn't have a replacement--but the one in Wilmington did. So I drove back from Philly to Wilmington on I-95 with the space-saver spare. Do you know what traffic looks like on that highway when you can't exceed 50 mph? It was like an experiment into the Theory of Relativity, or something: cars went by so fast that it was like a rip in the time-space continuum.

I met Charlie Corvair when I needed him most. We became friends when I rescued him from the junkyard. We were inseparable. Job searching was my number one priority and Charlie watched me turn on my pixie charm as I tried to get a gas station attendant job. After admitting that I had no experience? we went the respectable route for office jobs. Charlie did not want me to get a job near a sausage factory so he stubbornly "died" in the middle of a busy traffic intersection. After pushing him out of traffic he mustered enough charity to let me reach the "job" interview. After parking on the railroad tracks and nearly killing both of us I mustered enough sense to park legally, raced to the desk and waited. A lady came out of her office and proceeded to tell me that the job had been filled. Charlie was suitably sorry and led me to the ultimate job. The fellows in the office made fun of Charlie and my coffee making abilities but I defended my car to the end. Later, Charlie croaked and I inherited a Caliente convertable. Somewhere, I knew I had Charlie's blessing and he knew that I had appreciated his rear engine that got me through the rainy season in Los Angeles. Goodbye, Charle

"cars went by so fast that it was like a rip in the time-space continuum"
That is a golden line!

So is this, Mary:

"Finally, the clutch cable tore loose and stranded me on a remote stretch of road, with a full moon, just after watching a werewolf movie."

Thanks, Karen. It was an interesting dilemma. I had panicked when the clutch didn't come back up, and hit the brakes, stopping in the middle of the road. I realized later that I could have driven on for a while in whatever gear I was in. A very sweet older couple stopped, helped me push the car off the road, and drove me back to my friend's apartment. (I don't think she and her date were especially glad to see me). I slept on the couch, and we dealt with the car the next day (hence the ticket, which was forgiven -- so unusual for a municipality to "play fair" that way.

BTW, any news from Sarah? I hope she's ok and that repairs are minor, quick, inexpensive . . .

Where didn't my cars break down when I was in high school and college? Let's see.

There's the traditional: at the local pizza parlor where I worked. Mint green K car (an Aries) never drove again.

There's the thought-it-was-okay version: first, on I-83, big highway going straight downtown into Baltimore (very impressive - billowing smoke, etc - killed the headgasket). Poor Camaro. It lived on, only to have me total it on the beltway very soon after; the extra power from the rehab job took me by surprise and I spun around and around while merging, hit another car, and caused my very own beltway backup).

And it wasn't a break down - but on the way to the hospital to deliver my 2nd child, 5:30 am on a weekday, we got rear-ended by another person. I was so nice, I didn't get out of the car and give the guy a heart attack. (Tempting but wrong, I figured.) We were both going slow, it had started to snow, no real damage to our car - but the tow ball on our old SUV did a number on his front grill.

Happy Spring Day everyone!

What's awful about being in an accident, aside from injuries, etc., is that if the car is totaled you never see it again. My beloved AMC Hornet station wagon with the Gucci interior was totaled when a Mack truck ran a red light going over 50 mph (on a city street downtown, if you can imagine) and broadsided me. I woke up in the hospital, with glass in my hair, with minor injuries; thank heavens I was wearing my seat belt. But my poor, darling car was smooshed, and I never again had the pleasure of driving it, with its lovely cream, green and red interior, with the "G" logo headliner.

That's when I got the Civic. Since then I've always had Hondas. Works for me.

We had a '70 Toyotal Corolla hatchback. Bought it brand new; had 145,000 miles on it. A hotel airport van (with a concrete filled, lead pipe bumper) was in front of him, stopped at a red light. Suddenly a huge Grand Torino plowed into the back of Dear Hubby (and our lovely corolla) going about 50mph. It pushed him into the back of the airport van. Both ends folded like a cheap lawnchair. Fortunately he wasn't hurt badly, but we had to get a lawyer because the fool that hit him did not have insurance. This was the days before the Uninsured motorist fund in MO.

Sometime back in 1965 or 66 I was traveling with my older sister (12 years older) from Nebraska to Corning NY. We were tooling along in her little red Corvair when in the middle of a bridge BLAM! her rear tire blew. No spare tire, no cell phones, and no town near by that we could see on the map. Fortunately after a few hours a trucker came along and drove us to a teensy garage about five miles down the road. The tire was replaced and we made it safely to our destination.

Then there was my 'I'm gonna strand you any time I can' Colt Vista van. I got stranded in that damned vehicle so many times Dear Hubby sort of got used to seeing it come home on a roll back. The worst time was on a back road, early evening on a Sunday, had young nephew with me, and we were stuck for about 3 hours until some very nice woman came along and used her phone to call for help. Yep, the car came home on the roll back again. I was never so happy to see the back end of a car as I was the day I traded that van in.

This was many years ago when I was just in my twenties and newly moved out of my parents' house. I had gone with my parents on vacation and my mom and I were coming back from getting my dog out of boarding. My mom was driving my car because my dog was all over me, happy I was back. All of a sudden the car is drifting toward the median . . . I look over and my mom's eyes were closed, she had some sort of black-out moment I learned later. I grabbed the wheel trying to stay on the freeway, which in turn startle her and she wrenched the steering wheel back the other way. We ended up in a spin and she hit the brakes. We ended up on the side of the road with a flat tire. But it could have been so much worse . . . we were on a FREEWAY . . .
It was like 90 degrees out and I was wearing heavy jeans. I knew how to change a tire but couldn't get the lug nuts off. I got out to walk to the next exit, which was 2 miles away, to call my father to come change the tire for us. When I was about halfway there, a car stopped and offered drive me the rest of the way. I politely declined - it was a two-seater and each seat already had a young man in it. I still laugh about it to this day. I had no clue WHERE I was supposed to have sat if I had been stupid enough to take them up on their offer.

I was covering a school board meeting in the dead of winter. There had been a small incident, not precipitated by me, but another reporter. The high school students had staged a protest against women's room matrons. The other reporter spurred the students into making placards, causing the protest to grow in numbers. He created the animosity I faced when I went to the board meeting.

I, and the newspaper I worked for, were lambasted by the board. I was shouted at by all the board members, and they were using words I now use in my books. At me. The other reporter was home, unaware.

I had to stay at the meeting, to cover the whole thing, and when I finally left at midnight, I was exhausted.

I got halfway home and my car stopped. Just stopped. On the highway. In the middle of nowhere. I was certain one of the board members had tampered with my car. (Although it turned out to be the timing belt)

I had to climb up a steep embankment in the snow, crossing an overpass, and finally found myself in the center of the small city. The police let me call my boyfriend to come get me. I woke him up. He wasn't happy, and we broke up a month later.

Okay....I'm back. Thanks Nancy! And what amazing stories.
Just to be clear, here's what happened. I left Vermont on Saturday with Anna to see Bryn Mawr in my Honda Pilot that Anna drives more than I do. As we're going along it feels funny to me. It SOUNDS funny. At one point on the Merritt Parkway, I open the hood and find the oil is bone dry.
Okay, trying not to panic. The sound gets worse. We park at Bryn Mawr and spend the night in Philly. (Got there by train.) Return the next morning. Oil down by half a quart.
I walk around Bryn Mawr, do the parents thing, leave Anna and drive to see my friend, Lisa (known each other for 43 years...have dedicated many books to her) in Bridgewater. Car is now roaring. My engine is dead!
Next morning, after a horrible night of tossing and turning, I find a Honda dealer who - seeing I am Vermont mother on my own and middle aged to boot - takes pity and diagnoses a missing or damaged wheel bearing. Five hours later I'm on the road to pick up Anna who's now wandering around Bryn Mawr aimlessly. Go back to Lisa's and realize right before I go to bed that a) I have no computer to blog and b) I'd planned on blogging from my own home that night. Write frantic email to the tarts and, well, here's what happened.
Anyway, I'm $300 poorer and I still haven't figured out the oil situation, but I'm back in VT and ever so grateful that you guys stepped in.
BTW - Anna and I stopped by Smith and Anna made her decision. Bryn Mawr. Took 1,050 miles to figure that out.
Now to pay for it.

Had to stop in one more time to see if you reported in, Sarah. Glad to know you made it back okay (and without spending gobs of money), and that Anna decided on a school! Yay for her.

After reading all these stories today I'm half afraid to get in the car.

Sarah, so happy that you made it back safely. Being a mom I remember my college aged daughter calling me from a toll box on the freewsy where her Ford Pinto had died. I raced to get her not really thinking about the fact that I didn't drive freeways. I found her at the side of the freeway where she had literally run across the freeway to make the phone call. I picked her up and got off at the next exit grateful that we were safe.

Marie -- you survived a Ford Pinto, too!
Karen, your "half afraid to get in the car." reminded me of a poem I wrote for Howard Schwartz's seminar at UMSL many years back, after reading that Ray Bradbury, writer of space travel, was afraid to even ride in a car and would never drive one.

by Mary Garrett

Ray Bradbury, the guru of space travel, will not drive a car.
More die each year from cars than from Vietnam at its worst,
And where are the marches in protest?

Instead, we daily enter thin sheaths of metal, and Auto-propel
Ourselves at impossible speeds over hard concrete.
Only a thin line of white paint separates cars on either side.
We seldom ask if this trip, this job, this play, this class,
This visit is worth the risk.

Highway rules are followed, most of the time;
Defensive vigilance is maintained by drivers, most of the time;
Guardian angels or luck protects us, some of the time.

When those fail, the first law of physics prevails:
Two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

Sarah....you were in Bryn Mawr and you didn't call me??? Helllooooo...tons of vacation time to use up over here! LOL!!!

And I made brownies, too!

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