Top Social

That time we broke down in Idaho

Monday, July 25, 2016

Turns out there was no reason to rush in Coeur D'Alene. We were only a few miles down the highway when the Big Rolling Crate decided it was time to take a break. It happened like this:

Sunday morning, we had noticed that the truck was making some new and usual noises. It sounded like a cat was stuck under the hood. Todd and Diane both noticed it but decided (stupidly, it turns out) to ignore it.

Sunday afternoon, when we got on I-90 East towards Missoula, we'd been on the road a matter of minutes when Todd understood something was wrong. It seemed he had lost power steering. At first he thought he'd just drive to Missoula (about 150 miles) and get it looked at there because power steering is nice but not essential. 

Thankfully, though, there was a very large "chain up area" on the side of the road where trucks can stop to put on chains in the winter so he pulled over. When he did, he discovered he also had no power brakes. At that moment, he realized the tack was also not working, so he figured it was the serpentine belt. This was just before 2:00 in the afternoon.

We rolled to a stop, he turned off the truck, and popped the hood, at which point we all heard a strange bubbling noise. The truck had overheated because the belt runs and the fan. Coolant was boiling out of the radiator. The situation was clearly not looking good.

Diane said, "Should I call AAA?"

And Todd said, "Shhhh, let me think."

The belt that had broken was a replacement Todd had put on before we left, and it hadn't been without its problems. It had jumped off the pulleys once before, although nothing like this where it was literally shredded and wound around the fan. When Todd put it on back home, he'd actually kept the old belt, so he decided the first step should be try to put that one back on. He got out his wrenches and the old belt and carefully (because everything under the hot was blazing hot) set about snaking it around and setting it. He planned to get that on, add a pint of water to the radiator, get more coolant at the next stop, and hope that was the end of the trouble.

He got the belt in place and turned on the truck. Instead of the usual rumble it sort of chortled, a plume of black smoke came out, and the old belt snapped in half. The problem, it turns out, was not the belt but the tensioner pulley. Diagnosis complete and time to call a tow truck because there was no fixing it ourselves.

Diane called AAA and after answering a ton of questions learned that AAA doesn't cover ambulances. Fat lot of good that membership is doing us. As we sat there, Diane also noted that this was the first time in her life that she'd been in a vehicle that broke down to the point of needing a tow truck. She recalls being a very little girl in her mother's station wagon, or maybe it was a minivan, and having it stall out or something on I-81 in Dunmore, PA and her mother praying that the tractor trailers coming up the highway wouldn't hit them, and instead a tractor trailer came up behind them, stopped traffic, and helped her mom get the car off the road. That event may have ended with a tow truck, but if it did, Diane can't remember it, so at the very least, this was the first time in her memory that she was in a vehicle in need of a tow. She has also never been in a car that ran out of gas, and she hopes she doesn't have to experience that on this road trip.

Todd googled towing companies and found one called Superior Towing who claimed to be able to move trucks no matter how heavy. The person we talked to said it would cost about $250 and his last truck just went out on a "winch out" job, so it would be 1.5 to 2 hours. What choice did we have? We had to wait and we had to pay. So that's what we did.

It was the hottest time of the day and getting uncomfortably warm in the Big Rolling Crate, so Todd put one of the sun deflectors over the front and opened up all the windows. He took me out for a little stroll along the highway and Diane made calls to a hotel and a local Chevy dealer. Diane and Todd started packing things up for a hotel and around 3:00, the tow truck arrived! He was early! They didn't need him on the winch job after all. We said a few prayers of gratitude and stood back to watch him prepare the Big Rolling Crate for towing.

This guy was a true pro and as nice as can be. If you ever need a tow in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, call Superior. They get the job done. I had to ride in the Big Rolling Crate while it was towed, while Todd and Diane rode in the tow truck. It was a little scary, but the ride wasn't too long.

In the end, it cost less than $190, which was a pleasant surprise for Diane, since she'd told Todd she'd pay for the tow, whatever it cost.

The Chevy dealer had the tow truck park the Big Rolling Crate around back and we left the keys for the service department for the morning. A really nice salesperson named Mark offered us water and asked how we were getting to our hotel. At that point, we honestly had no idea. As far as we know, there are no Ubers in Coeur D'Aene and even if there were, Ubers and other cabs aren't big on dogs. Mark offered to give us a lift, so just before five o'clock, we piled our stuff into the back of his pickup truck and he took us the 4.5 miles to our hotel. People in Idaho are so nice, you wouldn't even believe it.

This hotel in Post Falls, ID is the cheapest we've stayed at, and, not surprisingly, the least nice, but it's good enough for me. Once we checked in on Sunday, Diane and Todd walked across the street to a truck stop and got subs from Subway. Todd had turkey and Diane had an Italian BMT and I got to have a little of each. 

There's a pool, which obviously I can't go in, but Diane and Todd went last night and today, too. They thought there was a hot tub, but there isn't. The pool is indoors, though, and so thoroughly heated that it's like a giant bathtub, so good enough.

There's free wifi (hence the flurry of blog posts) and free coffee and a complimentary breakfast that's not half bad. I had some of Todd's scrambled eggs and some of Diane's English muffin with peanut butter and found them both satisfactory.

Diane woke up at 7 and called the Chevy dealer right away to explain our predicament and see if we should book the hotel for another night. The nice technician said he'd call back ASAP. Around 10 AM he gave the bad news that we should book another night in the hotel, and he sent a shuttle to take Diane over there and get a courtesy car, so now we've got a brand new silver Malibu with a moon roof and leather seats, but Diane and Todd haven't let me ride in it because I make a mess out of cars.

Diane and Todd took the car for a spin into Coeur D'Alene this afternoon and had lunch at a place called Crafted. The leftovers were the best ones yet. Sweet potato fries and a chicken Parmesan sandwich! Yum! 

The heatwave has reached Northern Idaho, so they didn't do much else but eat and come back, and I was glad, because hotels make me nervous. 

This evening we got word from the Chevy dealer that the Big Rolling Crate will be ready by mid morning tomorrow and we'll be back on the road. Next stop Missoula, and we mean it this time!

After all, we're supposed to be in Maine on Saturday... 

This might be the last update until we get back to the East Coast, but don't worry, I'll let you know how everything turns out once we get there. It's just I've learned that when we're covering a lot of miles in a short amount of days there's no time for blogging.

Wish us safe travels and no more road mishaps! We've had enough of that.

Post Comment
Post a Comment

Auto Post Signature

Auto Post  Signature