Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Adventures on the Road

Last Tuesday, Skip and I began a car trip southwards to sunny Florida. We had bought a new cartop carrier for some of our stuff and had the rest of the car loaded with the rest of the things we'd need for our holiday.

All went well weatherwise and we made good time. We left the wintery blast behind us and followed after the tornado that ripped through northern Georgia. We decided we'd stay in Valdosta, GA the night before our last leg to Sarasota. About 100km (60 mi) before arriving at Valdosta, we decided to stop in at a rest stop and pick up a hotel coupon book. Back on the interstate, we had just regained our cruising speed when the car made a really bad clunking sound and billows of smoke blew out the tailpipe and from under the hood. Fortunately, Skip was able to safely get us over to the right shoulder where the car died and smoke continued to emanate from under the hood.

I calmly dialed the emergency number on the back of my CAA Plus card and a very nice lady said that since we were in a dangerous situation and a high priority, the towtruck would be dispatched immediately and should arrive to rescue us within 45 min. Within 15 minutes, the towtruck arrived. Initially, Skip thought we had run out of oil and the engine had seized but Jeff, our saviour, checked the oil and in fact, it was over full. We learned that it was probably antifreeze that had leaked into the oil reservoir because of a break in the head gasket. It also meant we probably were  going to need a new engine.
Jeff loaded our car onto his truck and drove us to the mechanic at the nearest garage in Sycamore, GA (pop. 711). The mechanic confirmed that we probably would need a new engine but he couldn't help us until the following Tuesday and had never serviced a Subaru. His wife got right on the computer and found a Subaru dealer in Valdosta and called them to confirm that they could service our car.

With CAA Plus we are entitled to 200km of towing. However, night was falling and the dealership in Valdosta was closing so it was decided that we and the car would be towed to and dropped off at the Best Western up the Interstate a few miles in Ashburn, GA (pop. 4152). The person checking us in took pity on us and gave us the most discounted rate she could and told us that we could get supper at the Shoney's next door.

The next morning, we again called AAA to request that we be towed to Valdosta and Michael and his boss showed up with the same towtruck that had dropped us off the night before. Michael was instructed how to get our car onto and off the truck as this would be his first time doing so. After the car was loaded, we dropped the boss off and Michael towed us the rest of the way. I can't tell you how happy I was to see the 'Subaru' sign when we arrived at the dealership.

We didn't have to wait too long for someone to assess our car problem. Because the oil was 'milky' it was determined that indeed antifreeze had seeped into the oil reservoir and we needed a new engine. Because the car is a 2006 model, the engine had to be a 'used' one and a search was begun to find one. Suzanne, the service manager, understood our reluctance to spend thousands of dollars on an 8 year-old car and offered to introduce us to the sales manager to buy another car but we informed her that the cost to import it into Canada would be prohibitive so we really needed to spend the money to get this one fixed.

After an hour or so, a used engine with more mileage on it than our current one, was found in Alabama. Without any reasonable options, we consented to have it shipped to Valdosta. Anticipating the need to have our car in the shop for several days, we decided to rent a car to get us and all our stuff to Sarasota and settled into the condo we had rented. And that is what we did.

We have a lovely 2012 Nissan Altima with a HUGE trunk. When I was able to get my golf clubs in longways - parallel to the sides of the car, I knew there would be enough room for the rest of our stuff, including what had been on the top of the car in the cartop carrier.

We arrived in Sarasota about 7 hours late, but were able to get the key and get the bare necessities into the beautiful condo and conk out for the night. The next day we slept in, went out for breakfast (which ended up being lunch because we got going so late), went grocery shopping and then unloaded the rest of the car back at the condo.

We both have been pretty baffed out since our arrival. Partly because of the 2.5 days of hard driving and partly because we were pretty emotionally wrung out dealing with our automotive crisis.

As of today (Tuesday) the engine had not arrived in Valdosta so we will continue to familiarize ourselves with our environs and soak up some of the Florida sunshine until we hear some news about our blasted car.

Skip enjoyed the SuperBowl on Sunday night and I finished the Trellis and Coin socks.

On Monday, we went outlet shopping. While enjoying a refreshment at the food court, I saw this butt-ugly wood stork just outside on the patio.
We have also found a taco restaurant nearby where we've already eaten 3 times. Basically they serve tacos and on weekends, tamales and some soups.
4 tacos de barbacoa and 1 Diet Coke = $6 US
This morning, Skip decided to check his bank balance in anticipation of having to move some money around because of our expenses. For some reason, he thought he'd check his VISA account and noted that there were several charges that were not his. The nice people at TD VISA began an investigation into the fraudulent charges that had been run up to $3000 between Jan. 31 and today. The representative, Sasi, assured Skip he would not be liable for the fraudulent expenses, however she was going to have to cancel his VISA card and would be sending a new one which will arrive within 2 - 3 days. Thank goodness I carry my own VISA and a MasterCard. I hope this isn't a case where bad things happen in 3s because I'm not really interested in a third bad thing happening.

We are making the best of a crappy situation. Skip is understandably concerned. We hope the car, once fixed, will work acceptably for the rest of our holiday and is able to get us the 2200km home.  I have decided that since I can't control the outcome, that I'm not going to let our situation ruin my holiday. Wish us luck!


  1. Here is nothing I can say.....enjoy your holiday.....worry about the car later.....

    I am terrified of credit card fraud......I had them turn of the swipe option....bought pizza the other night and they spied my card for payment before I could say it doesn't swipe....LOL....so much for it being disconnected LOL

    Good that you have your own card........

  2. Hi Geri, I hope you get your car fixed so that you can at least drive home!
    My mother always talked about things happening in threes....I think it's just an old wives tale.
    My older Siamese had blood in her urine and is not well so she is at the Vet's right now for tests and I am just panicking worrying about her and the costs (which will be high like everything else in life).
    At lease you can relax in a nice sunny spot :-)
    Take care.

  3. Holy Moly!! I'm just glad you guys are safe!!

  4. Holy crap! Glad you got to your destination safely. Hope your vacation is adventureless from now on. Good birding!

  5. Woodvillewarbler7 February 2013 at 09:22

    Holy crap! Glad you got to your destination safely. Hope your vacation is adventureless from now on. Good birding!