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The Day That Started Out Nice…

Today started out on a high: booting up my new Mac Mini Server with my old computer’s backup migrated onto it from overnight.

Today is ending on a pretty sour note: in a LaQuinta in Locust Grove, GA – an hour south of Atlanta – stranded with a burned out alternator… when we should be halfway through Tennessee now.

Here’s my story about a grandpa

My grandpa. Where do I begin? Now I don’t think my dad will take any offense to this since he would agree that it’s a good choice, but I can’t think of anyone in the living flesh that I could aspire to be and look up to on every area of life than my Mom’s dad. He’ll be 81 in November and has had diabetes for well over a decade, had both knees replaced a few weeks after turning 65 (his big retirement present after Thanksgiving), and congestive heart failure.

He’s had his ups and downs with his sugars, potassium, and all the stuff associated with things that go wrong when you have both heart issues and diabetes. I’d be a huge liar if we didn’t get concerned every time we hear that he’s having another issue like some skin cancer spots, kidney issues, etc. What can we say, we’re crazy about my grandparents and want to get every chance to see them that we can. Last year, we spent Labor Day weekend with them so we could go to their county fair: one of my fondest memories growing up.

Well, Monday morning we got an e-mail from my aunt who was visiting them that they took him to the ER at 2am with shortness of breath (we all know about that, don’t we?), O2 under 80%, and disorientation. She said she noticed last week that he’d had breathing and confusion issues. While he’s quite old by my present age, that is very much out of character for him.

We are the closest (willing) relatives to come give them a hand, so we packed up the Sorento after gathering things yesterday, clear up until 9:30pm, got up at 6:30, and were on the road at noon with a plan of driving straight through with a nap at a rest area to arrive at or after lunch on Thursday.

It was a good plan.

It was a good plan that wasn’t going to happen.

Oh… crap

We were in Georgia right about 4pm. A couple of exits past Valdosta, the cruise control kicked off. I looked at the gauges and the battery, ABS, emergency brake, and traction control lights were all on. A minute later, the gauges started acting funny before dropping to the bottom of their respective arcs and the car started running rough. We got off the exit without any gas because the manual said that it was a brake system issue. The brakes worked fine coming up the exit ramp.

I almost stopped the car there to shut it off and see if that reset everything, but proceeded on to turn right (not seeing a darn thing to the left). We passed a boarded up and overgrown BP station (great exit, Jesse) and saw a bunch of boats and Sea Doos just past that on the other side of the overgrowth.

I pulled in thinking that they surely had a set of jumper cables, battery tester, or more, once I saw that we had pulled into a marine shop off I-75 in GA (go figure). When I shut off the engine, we didn’t get anything back with a key twist other than the rapid clicking of “I can’t give you any more power, Cap’n!”  I looked to the car’s left after I popped the hood and saw that the belts were still on and realized that the sheriff’s car that was parked in front of the building was actually running. I went over to see if he could “serve and protect” us. No one there.

About that time, a lanky, greasy guy about my age came out to the front of the garage door and I put on my best Southern charm and explained that we just coasted in without so much as throttle control or gauges and asked if we could have a jump/charge to be on our way if it held. I figured we had too many things plugged in, the AC on, the lights on, and it was summer with a 14 month old battery.

He pulled up a tractor that must have been from before the second world war and we hooked them up and I got the car going. To my shagrin, he immediately disconnected them, but he went to get a volt meter. 10…9…8… the car stopped. I had noticed a big Interstate Battery banner in the shop and asked if they sold any marine batteries with posts. Sure enough, they had 750 amp and 1,000 amp batteries for $79, which is what we paid for the now-dead battery last June before we went to Tennessee.

We got that installed right-quick (since I am a big planner and brought my wrenches and other essentials), paid our bill, loaded up the dead core for a refund/trade-in at Discount Auto Parts where we got it.

On the road again!

I drove to be sure we were out of danger and then stopped so we could get some food in me before Macon when I’d take over again and Beautiful could eat her packed food. Strangely, we stopped at an exit we’ve stopped at before. After a less-than-pleasing experience with a Subway sandwich artist, we were back on the road with me stuffing my face with a $5 foot-long. I even took a nap and Beautiful overshot her luck by passing Macon without passing on the baton.

Now the car got to do it to her.

We pulled off at the nearest exit – another one we’d stopped at before when she wasn’t feeling well with what we now know to be allergies – and we backed into a spot off a BP with a McDonald’s beside a LaQuinta and Red Roof Inn. Inside the station, I asked the McDonald’s guy if he’d seen the station attendant. Nowhere to be found. Turns out he’s a handyman and had cables in his van, so he gave us a jump and directed us to a brand new WalMart across the way that wasn’t showing up on my Google Maps on my phone. We made it there on the jump.

The debate began

There we were, fretting over our dilemma. I was about to unravel. We didn’t fly because we were packing so much food for Beautiful and I was able to bring the whole computer and monitor to work away from home for however long we were going to be gone. Besides, it’s nice to have your own car on a trip. Now we’d already spent half of our gas budget on a battery that didn’t need to be bought, that battery was now dead, and ALL (1) of the garages in this po-dunk little town were closed at 8:03pm on a weekday! I was losing it.

Do we buy another battery or two and a charger, get a hotel room, and charge them all up and make it to the house to repair it there? Do we charge the battery/ies we have and drive to the mechanic to get a new alternator? Do we sit in the car at WalMart and see if the Rapture comes overnight?

We called the LaQuinta, asked and received a 10% discount on a king room that happened to have a fridge, micro, and a spa bathroom. We went back into the store and got a $30 charger for the battery, the car started on its own, and we drove directly back to where we got jumped.

I’ll bet we were a sight to anyone watching. We brought in a bunch of stuff. Then we went back out for more. And more. Oh, and more, including our car battery!

Our plan now is to go to bed, get up early, drive to Atlanta, and use a friend’s mechanic… maybe spend the day with her if that’s cool. Ronnie over at Run, Sickboy, Run introduced her to me to fix her WordPress site that was getting jacked up with another developer. Check her out at RockScar Love if you get a chance and buy a shirt if you have a scar.

I’ll get a photo up here later – my Gmail on my computer has locked me out, but my phone is working… though that doesn’t help me get a photo in here, does it?

Comments

  1. seanset68 says:

    Oh….crap indeed! You buy a new car for the reliability and this happens, sod’s law. I hope your not stuck for to long and can get to see your Grandpa soon.

  2. jerrymildred says:

    What a bummer, Jesse. We’re praying for you guys. And your comment about Grandpa didn’t bother me a bit. I feel exactly the same about him. He’s my hero.