I went into the office for a few hours on Friday morning, then took off just before 9 am to drive to Pocatello, Idaho to meet my parents to get our vacation started. The drive was supposed to take just under 11 hours, and I had all the food and drinks I needed to make the trip with minimum stops. I refilled my tank in Reno, then kept going East. A couple of hours later, I needed another bathroom break (I really need a lot of water when I’m screeching along to the music in my car). I saw a sign for a rest stop and hesitated to pull over because rest stops are:
3. A place where our battery died when I was a kid and my dad had to get a ride into town with a STRANGER in NEW MEXICO to get a new one. I was sure he would get kidnapped. I never forgot my anxiety about that.
Anyway, I do not typically stop at rest stops. As anyone with anxiety knows, you likely spend a lot of time trying to rationalize yourself away from your anxiety. Telling yourself that you are being ridiculous or are making something far more mentally anguishing than it should be. So, I told myself to stop being a wacko about rest stops and to just pull the hell over because what if I could not find a restroom in the next town? So, over I pulled, and it was a well-kept and clean bathroom. I was quite pleased with my decision as I got back into my car.
I pressed down the break and pushed the start button, but the car would not start. I thought maybe I had pressed the break wrong (how?), so I pushed harder and realized that it was difficult to press. I started frantically pushing the start button, but the engine would not turn over. Eventually I got it to turn the dashboard display on, and the battery and engine warning lights were on.
I was PISSED. Did my Jeep not know I was on vacation?? I MEAN. This was NOT IN MY SPREADSHEET.
So, naturally I did what any fully grown adult would do and called my parents. I had never had a dead battery that showed a check engine light and I was sure I had somehow broken the engine. My dad said it sounded like a dead battery regardless of the lights, and told me to call AAA.
Fine, except my AAA membership has been jacked up since we moved to California. Sari and I were supposed to be transferred over to a California AAA account, but we never received our cards. I intended to straighten it out, but never did (mostly because it required a phone call which UGH WHY). Thankfully, after about 20 minutes the nice folks on the phone got it sorted out, I paid our membership fee, and a tow truck was summoned with a guy who was going to try to jump it for me. And if that did not work, then he was going to tow it (not great, but better than nothing).
Typically, AAA has sent out a person who has the tools to check the battery and change it, but since I was in the middle of Nevada, then that was not available. It was going to be a couple of hours, but I was THRILLED that someone was coming because I am a pretty useless person (in general). So, I went to a picnic table to wait it out (or wait to get murdered – hard to say at a rest stop!).
Since my parents were also driving, they kept losing service and I could not update them. When they finally got to a place they could call me, my dad told me try it one more time while wiggling the gear shift. By some dad-invoked miracle, this time when I pressed the button, the car actually turned on. I started shouting in the phone and my dad just shouted back, “DRIVE DRIVE DRIVE TO AUTOZONE. DO NOT STOP.” So, I drove the 20 miles into Winnemucca and pulled into AutoZone (I also called to cancel the AAA service request on my way).
Much to my joy, I walked in and was intercepted by a young woman who grabbed the battery checking device and went out to my car with me. She quickly assessed that the battery was dead and set me up with a new one which she installed. I have been made to feel so stupid so often in these kinds of situations, and it was honestly quite nice to have a woman helping me. I watched her tighten everything and double check it. Just under 2.5 hours after my Jeep betrayed me, I was back on the road.
I stopped a few hours later just outside of Idaho to get gas and use the restroom. When I came back out, I noticed my fob was not working. I was also confused because my Jeep was not locked (I knew I had locked it before I went in). I opened the car door and there was silence. I got in and started pressing buttons, but nothing happened. The brand new battery was dead which could only mean one thing – fatal black vehicle death. I could feel a red hot rash crawling up my neck as my chest tightened with panic. I forced myself to CALM DOWN and said out loud to myself, “USE YOUR BRAIN, DUMMY.”
After briefly consulting said brain, I decided that the battery simply could not be dead already. I refused its death. So, I popped the trunk and went to inspect the engine area in the hope that something would be so obviously wrong that even I could spot it. Thankfully, it was. One of the cables was not connected to the battery. Unfortunately, I realized that I did not have any tools on me to tighten the nut and get them back connected. I noticed that the person next to me was a man in a truck wearing overalls, so I decided to risk speaking to a stranger and to ask him if he had a wrench. He whipped out his keys, and on his keychain was a little adjustable wrench!
He said that one of the nuts was stripped, so it probably wiggled loose on the bumpy roads (ugh, Nevada, your roads are NO GOOD). He just happened to have some extra ones in his truck and he replaced it, tightened it, and double checked everything. I was so grateful for his help and to be in area with people who keep tools on their person. I will never ever drive again without a wrench set (I purchased some before leaving that town). I arrived just after 10 pm at the KOA in Pocatello, and I am pretty sure my parents did not think I was actually going to make it.
Car trouble always sucks, but my brain just does not work in the way that can figure that kind of stuff out. I feel so useless and it makes me SO MAD. Thank goodness for nice people and my parents who have talked me through so many car troubles. I will also not be stopping at a rest stop again unless it is an actual emergency. At least if the Jeep had died at a gas station in town, it would have been a lot easier to get to a new battery than being stranded out on the side of an interstate.