10/14/00 - Weekend in Brunswick, OH
As I write this, it just occurred to me that yesterday was Friday the 13th. Even though I knew it earlier in the week, even though I heard a woman say it at Denny's that morning, it only now sinks in. And I think it was also a full moon. That would be my explanation for what happened on the way back from dinner with the Webgrrls.
The engine stopped. I was at a light on Route 42 heading back to camp, initially hoping I'd get back in time to see the colors of the sunset which were already painting the sky in vivid pinks as I pulled out of the restaurant parking lot. But it was now dark and as the light turned green, I couldn't start the engine again. Think, think, slowly, calm.
I shut off my headlights and the heater, turned off the ignition, turned on the hazard lights and waited. OK, try again. The engine turned, but would not catch and start. Ignition off. Come one, come on. Careful not to flood the engine, I tried once more. Nothing. I fumbled for my cellphone. They say you can dial 911 on your cellphone and it will connect for free.
911 answered. "I've broken down. I'm in an RV. I'm from out of town. I'm blocking traffic. I can't get it started," I said clearly, but tears were already catching in my throat. I gave my location to a tow service that 911 connected me to. I needed to focus on being informative to control the panic I was feeling. Pushing through the panic was an overwhelming sadness and feeling of disappointment. Why was this happening? Everything was just getting started, everything was just getting going.
Cars honked, people glared or stared as they passed me. One man leaned out the passenger window and asked if I was trying to get into the turn lane to my left. "I've broken down." I held back a sob. He drove away.
Soon, I saw police lights flashing behind me which brought a sudden rush of relief that cut through my moment of self-pity. It's ironic somehow to feel relief from the sight of police car lights flashing in your rear view mirror. The cop came up to the window, shining his tiny flashlight inside. I explained what had happened and started to cry. He said he'd call another tow service which would arrive more quickly, then went back to his car, made the call, and directed traffic around me.
Tow truck arrived. Deja vu. At first, he wasn't going to let the Berts in the tow truck, even though they were in their bag. "They'll be fine in the RV."
"No, they won't."
"They'll be fine. Just leave them in there."
"They will not be fine."
"Yes they will."
Finally, I told him they were secure in their bag which would be on my lap. The cop even said "It's his truck" and I replied with "I understand," but got into the truck with the Berts in their bag anyway. So sue me.
He towed me less than one block away into Brunswick Auto and Truck Service. At least I had the common sense to break down half a block from one of the best garages in town, according to the cop and the tow truck guy.
Earlier, while I was sitting and waiting for the tow truck to arrive, I had called the campground to tell them what happened. Then I asked them to get word to Dan, one of the Shriners, to let him know what happened and where I was. I didn't know what he could do for me, but he had said if I ever needed anything on the road, just ask a Shriner. I think I wanted to see a semi-familar face, and I didn't have Cheryl's home phone number, only her office number, and wasn't sure of her last name.
As I got out of the tow truck at Brunswick Auto, a big white pickup pulled up, Dan leaning out the passenger window to see if I was okay. Tears were flowing, mostly from being so grateful that he showed up. I was able to explain what had happened and then tried to give a quick history of my last two weeks of engine woes to put everything into perspective and to justify my tears.
The tow truck left after backing the RV into a parking space. The Shriners, who always arrive in twos, suggested that I call the friends with whom I had dinner, but I didn't have their numbers. They asked what I wanted to do and I told them I might as well camp out right there. I have done it before. The one I didn't know, the driver, was from the area and said it was safe and that patrol cars are always around. "But it would be better if you went to a hotel. Not that I'm saying it isn't safe, though."
I opted to stay and was glad that they knew where I would be. They left, and I battened down the hatches, locked up, secured the RV, then read for a while. So many sounds of traffic and cars coming into the lot.
Midnight in a Parking Lot
Around midnight, a car pulled up right next to the RV even though there was a huge empty lot all around. I carefully peeked out from a corner of the window shade to see a guy in the driver's seat, drinking beer from a quart bottle. He was too close for my comfort and who knew how much he had or would be drinking. So I called 911 again on the cellphone. They connected me with the Brunswick Police and as I was describing his car, he began pulling out of the spot. I gave them his license plate number and they said a patrol car was on its way.
Again, I felt relief when the police car appeared. I figured it was better to be safe than sorry, as they say. I tried to sleep but couldn't for a few hours. Then I woke suddenly at 4pm, startled that I had been sleeping instead of being attentive. I read a book by flashlight, then fell back asleep only to be awakened at 7:20am by my Mom calling me on the cellphone. I didn't want to tell her right then where I was so as not to worry her.
Got up, made a cup of tea, changed out of yesterday's clothes which I had slept in. The garage opened at 9am and I gave the owner a Reader's Digest version of my RV engine situation. One of his mechanics came over and started the engine up on the first try. I felt elated and dumb at the same time. I knew I wasn't mistaken though, and after he brought it back to check, he confirmed a very weary, old fuel pump about to give out (giving 3 pounds of pressure versus at least 5-6).
The Verdict on the Vehicle
Fuel pump replaced. The leak is most likely the filler vent line but it cannot be checked without lowering the tank which is currently filled with 40 gallons of gas. Not mission critical to fix this exact moment, not dangerous to drive. Then the engine ran rich with black exhaust coming out the back. "Could need carburetor work," suggested the mechanic. A rebuilt carburetor for several hundred plus labor. Ka-ching, Ka-ching. Also not a mission critical or dangerous thing but if it continues to run choppy, better get it fixed.
I thought about it and decided I'd go to Columbus to see Columbus Webgrrls, then return to Brunswick Auto and get the leak checked, by then having burned much of the fuel on the drive to and fro. Then, we'd see if I was having black exhaust or choppy riding and consider the carburetor rebuild.
I need to find additional sources of income. This trip is turning into a bigger expense than I ever imagined.
Camp, Sweet Camp
Returned to Willow Lake and they were kind enough to let last night's payment go toward tonight since I wasn't here. Pulled up to the site and had to back into it. The woman in the trailer next door came out and toward me. "Need help backing it in?" Yes, I said, and she guided me. "We were wondering what happened to you yesterday. We didn't see you last night," she asked.
"Broke down." I replied.
"That's what we were afraid of," she said. "I was telling my husband that you weren't back here, and I said I thought you may have broken down. It happens."
Then she said they were leaving for the night and asked if I would watch their trailer. Of course, I said, and they drove off.
I plugged my electric cord into the power box and nothing happened. Hello? Anyone up there laughing at me as all these things go wrong? I called the campground office and they sent someone out to check. The box was faulty and we were discussing moving me when the neighbors pulled back up. "I forgot something," the woman told me and ran into her trailer.
Her husband overheard the talk about the faulty power box. "You can hook up into our power," he offered, leading me to the side of his trailer and lifting the cover on the electrical outlet. He meant actually plug into his trailer and share his power. "Just don't run the air conditioner!"
This is what having neighbors is all about! "Wife left her hairdryer," he chuckled as he got ready to leave again.
Dan, the Shriner, pulled up a little while later to say hello, and I gave him the update.
As I sit now in the RV on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, cool breeze blowing, sun shining earlier, I realize why I'm here. Despite it all, no matter what, you'll never convince me that this isn't the best way to live.