Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Day 2 (December 9)
You know what I liked about driving across Oregon? There were trains everywhere. Across the river from our rest stop, there were train tracks. Just about all our driving the night before had been next to tracks. Mountains were lit up by the trains' lights and it took me forever to realize it was a train, not amazingly bright lights from the truck(s) in front of us.
This was the morning of December 9, 2007, at the rest stop, somewhere near Hood River on I-84. You can't really see it, but there's a train there, really there is. You can see it over the patch of weeds.
So we packed up and headed out and got all of about half a mile before our V-belt broke. We called AAA and the wonderful guy who towed us to The Dalles (everyone pronounced this differently) took us to a parts place to get a new belt and then to a car wash his buddy managed and arranged for us to use a dry bay so Roger could change the belt out of the wind. A few hours later we were on the road again. We stopped by a place called Cousins to eat lunch--they made wonderful french toast out of their huge cinnamon rolls--and then we were on our way again. The rest of the day was uneventful as far as the van went; she worked like she was supposed to. (Well done, Roger.)
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Day 3 (December 10)
An uneventful morning, until about two hours on the road. We got up and were just entering Nampa, Idaho, when we came to some stopped traffic. And the van died as Roger slowed down. Great.
He managed to cold-start it by turning around in one of those emergency vehicle turn-arounds we'd stopped by (which sloped down to the oncoming lanes), and we went back to the last gas station we'd passed--and just as we were pulling into a parking space, it stopped again.
Roger's theory was that it'd been cold enough the night before to make our diesel sludgy, so all we needed was a place to warm it up. We called AAA again and were towed to a VW dealer in Boise. When we were pulled into the service bay, the writers all gathered around and asked, "Umm... what's this?"
None of the employees had seen an old VW van before. And ours, being from Germany (not as an import), was especially strange because the information was in different places. None of their computers could tell them anything about anything on our van. The VIN #
brought up nothing. The engine #, nada. Whatever other various ID #s they tried to use didn't help. They agreed to let us use the bay to warm up the van and see if we could start the van after the diesel had a chance to de-sludge.
It didn't work. They offered several places we could have the van towed to, since no one there had any experience with vans that weren't Eurovans. The first guy Roger called couldn't get anyone else in till the middle of January and the second guy, Phil, said he was pretty busy and probably wouldn't be able to get to it right away, but when Roger told him that we were supposed to be in Ohio on Thursday to get married, he said to have it brought in and he'd take a look at it. So we had it towed to Phil's Wagon Works.
I don't remember everything that was tested, but we took a room in Boise that night, the Ameri-Tel right next to the only major shopping mall in Boise. We walked over and got Roger's hair trimmed (which wasn't necessarily a great idea since we couldn't explain how it usually gets cut) at one of the department stores and got really turned around. The mall there is two stories and has these computerized directories that revert to the basic screen before you can get your bearings. Argh. We finally asked a mall employee how to get to the Olive Garden, which we knew was right outside one of the exits. Yummy dinner (but I miss the old breadsticks).
We looked up flights from Boise to Toledo, Ohio that night. And to Detroit. And to Columbus. And to Las Vegas (because we thought that we might be able to get cheaper flights if we detoured that way). No matter how we routed it, we couldn't fly at the last minute in December for less than $3000 round trip for the two of us, and the better flights for our schedule would've run at least $4000.
We hoped Phil would have good news for us the next day.
Day 4 (December 11, Tuesday)
We weren't going to hear from Phil till noon, so we went over to the mall to check out wedding rings for Roger. I'd gotten mine in June or something, when I found a ring I really liked (and I wanted to have the ring when we were finally able to be reunited). So we went to a few different stores, but only one had a ring that Roger liked (tungsten), that fit him, and that we could buy and take with us that day. (Everyone else had to special order or size the rings and it would've taken weeks for them to get a ring for him.)
So we got his ring while we were waiting for the prognosis for our van, and then we decided to stop waiting for the call--we had to check out of the hotel anyway, so we called a cab and decided to wait in the office for news.
It wasn't good.
They couldn't get the compression up. We might need a new engine. But they definitely weren't going to have the van for us that day. Phil asked if we'd looked into flights, but was appalled at the prices, so he called a couple of rental car places for us. One place wouldn't let their cars be driven more than one state away, and the other place couldn't have a car for us till Wednesday afternoon. Phil hung up from that phone call and handed us the keys to his own car (an '89 Audi--a fabulous executive car in its own time). I suppose he figured it was a good risk because he had our van, a vehicle not easy to find anywhere in North America. He made it very clear that he wouldn't normally be inclined to do it, but he had a very good feeling about us.
At three that afternoon, we were as packed as we could be into Phil's car. (Amazingly spacious, that car.) We had to be in Bowling Green, Ohio by noon on Thursday for me to make my hair appointment. And Roger had to do all the driving because I can't drive stick shift.