Last week, unfortunately, I don't think I was at my best, really, since all the packing-up-of-the-apartment took much, much longer than I anticipated, to the point where even though I was planning to be on the road bright and early on Sunday morning, I was up till 2:30 on Sunday morning packing, and woke up again at 6:15 to pack again. I ended up not getting everything packed and loaded until around 1 on Sunday afternoon. I was staggered, quite frankly, at how much stuff accumulated over six years.
Still, I thought that all's well that ends, as I set out on the road. Now, I was driving my mid-sized sedan, pulling an 8-foot trailer. This sedan is not a pickup or SUV, as you may have guessed, and does not have a lot of engine power to spare for big loads. Granted, I was fully aware of this, and did what I could to have mechanics look at it before the move--checking the oil, transmission fluid, belts and filters, etc. etc. etc.
The trip started out fine, though I'll say this right off the bat--when you're pulling a trailer with a mid-sized sedan? You can just forget about those fancy-pants things called "acceleration" and "gas mileage."
Then, on I-80 just past Gretna, I noticed that my engine RPM's were dropping and that the car was shaking to a stop. I pulled off to the side of the road (an adventure in itself, since the shoulder around there is sand and rock and wild scrubland, it looks like, and don't forget all the traffic whizzing by at around 80 miles an hour), shut off the engine, and tried to restart. Well, the same thing happened--the engine would start, then the RPM's would drop and the whole car would shudder to a stop.
Cue me, panicking. Granted that two miles east of the Gretna exit isn't exactly in the middle of nowhere, but it's a hell of a long way to walk. So, freaking out, I was on the phone with apis_mellifera, trying to use her internet connection to find a phone number for my insurance company's emergency assistance number. After about an hour of searching (punctuated by me putting my head in my hands and saying "this isn't happening, this isn't happening"), I finally got connected to a tower who got me to an auto shop somewhere in northeast Omaha. So, that was my first stroke of luck.
The second stroke was that the guy who owned the shop was willing to come in right then and there and take a look at it. Remember how I said a couple paragraphs ago that I'd had all the filters looked at? Well, apparently, nobody had checked the fuel filter--I'd been driving around with the same fuel filter that the car came out of the factory with. So all the rust and accumulated nastiness in there had ended up choking off the fuel flow--with the result that the fuel pump itself had finally given up the ghost somewhere along I-80.
Which brings me to my third and greatest stroke of luck: The guy actually got the chance to put in a new fuel pump and filter right then and there. And so I was able to get back on the road again. I have to say, I was having nightmares of the car being in the shop for a week or something, or the whole engine having to be rebuilt. But fortunately, I was back in action by around 7 that evening. For all you Omaha-area folks: George's Cars at the corner of Military and Bedford really deserves your business.
However, what with all the excitement of the day, I wanted nothing more than a good long lie-down, so I checked into a motel by Eppley Airport.
Undaunted by the events of the previous day, I set out early. apis_mellifera informed me that if I was able to make it to Toledo by that evening, I could still hew to my original schedule. (My original itinerary was that I would leave Lincoln early Sunday morning, make it to either Chicago or South Bend by that night, stay with lasafara in Bloomsburg, PA on Monday night, and then make it to Delaware sometime on Tuesday afternoon. However, since lasafara ended up having to work Monday, that put the kibosh on that. Which, I suppose, it all came right in the end, since what with my breakdown I wouldn't have been able to make it to her place on Monday anyhow.)
For all you non-Midwesterners out there, I'd like to point out that Iowa is a really, really, really wide state. By the time I passed Iowa City, I was saying "you know, any time Illinois wants to show up, that'd be okay by me." Though I did get to stop and stretch at the Iowa-80 Truckstop, which bills itself as the largest truckstop in the world. Though I must say I haven't experienced all that many truckstops for me to make a valid comparison on that front.
Made it to Illinois, which is like Iowa with half the width. Heh. Of course, I made it to Chicago (City of Perpetual Freeway Construction) right at rush hour, so that was a thrill and a half, let me tell you. Doing stop-start driving when you're hauling a couple thousand extra pounds--yeah, that'll wake you up in the morning.
And then, Indiana. Indiana has trees. Actually, I dare say that everywhere east of Chicago has trees. I couldn't believe it. Oh, and I-80 through Indiana and Ohio (as well as I-76 through Pennsylvania) is a toll road too, one of the ones where you pay the toll if you exit, so I had to stop for food and gas at one of those tollway service plazas. And I ate what might possibly be the largest fast-food hamburger I've ever eaten. My arteries, I'm sure, are still shrieking "You bastard!!" at me.
And then, Ohio. Painful as it might have been to a Michigander such as myself (yes, there's a geographic rivalry between Michigan and Ohio. There was actually a war fought over it in the 1830s or so, which is how Michigan ended up with the Upper Peninsula. The United States is a strange place sometimes), but my route lay through it, so I had to go. I ended up making it to Wauceson, which is about twenty miles west of Toledo, so that wasn't too shabby, I'd say.
Flipping through the channels at the motel, though, I ran across an episode of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain's new show. (For those of you who don't know, Mr. Bourdain is a culinary adventurer, somewhat in the style of James Beard meeting Denis Leary.) Anyway, he was in Iceland and he ate fermented shark(!), which he described as "the nastiest thing I've ever put in my mouth." So, I'll certainly not be ordering the fermented shark any time soon.
Back on the road early again, to drive and drive and drive some more. Made it through the rest of Ohio without incident; saw the Cuyahoga River, which didn't seem to be on fire this time.
Driving through the mountains of Pennsylvania wasn't quite as stressful as I was expecting, so that was good. I will say, however, that my car does not like going up hills while pulling a trailer. It doesn't like that at all. And that's real fun while eighteen-wheelers are coming up fast behind you.
But I made it alive, though I should say that Pennsylvania, in terms of driving, is basically Iowa with mountains.
Got off the tollway at Harrisburg, finally, and started the home stretch of the trip, which ended up taking me through Lancaster and Amish country. And I saw Real Live Amish People In Their Natural Habitat. (apis_mellifera assures me, though, that these are Tourist Amish, which opens up an interesting avenue for postcolonial papers, but that's more for another day.) And if I thought taking this trailer on the freeway through the mountains was fun, taking this trailer through the backroads of Pennsylvania is even more fun.
And finally, Delaware. The best way I can describe the part of Delaware I'm in is this: Lincoln people, imagine how it's like along Highway 2 and Cornhusker. That's basically how it is all around here.
But I'm here and safe, and that's all that matters.
And now to unpack... ^^;