Quotes I like:

“Not all those who wander are lost.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Planes, trains and automobiles?

On my recent travels my car broke down in a small town in North Carolina. I stopped in this little town to get some lunch, parked the car and when I came back it wouldn't start.  Of course it was pouring down rain and I didn't know anyone in this town or what to do about the car.  I decided to stop in one of the little stores that inhabited the strip alongside where my car was parked to inquire as to where they suggested I call about my car.  I was told to take it to a local place that everyone swore by.

I called for roadside assistance and a tow truck showed up within the 45 minutes promised. Unfortunately I was parallel parked and there was a car behind me and one in front.  I expected the tow truck driver to be very peeved with the situation and I tried running from store to store in an attempt to locate the owners of the cars to get them to move.  I have to say that the people there couldn't have been nicer.  When I explained that I was only passing through town and was going to be stuck there several of the shopkeepers offered to help. One offered to take me home with them to stay the night. Another gave me a free bagel.  The guy who owned the little wine and gourmet store gave me his card with both cell and home numbers and made me promise I would call him for "anything at all". And he really meant it. It seemed as if the Christmas spirit had really taken hold of the town folk. I was amazed and really felt blessed. The tow truck driver stayed around until the cars were moved and didn't even charge me anything extra. I was starting to feel like I landed in some strange Brigadoon-like place where everyone was nice until they all vanished the following day.

Once the car was towed and the guys at the shop had looked at it, they told me it might take a few days to repair it.  Somehow I expected this to be the case and began to calculate the cost of staying in town along with the cost of the repairs which all started to add up to quite a lot.  As much as it would have been nice to hang around the lovely little town, I really wanted to get back home.  I decided to rent a car and drive back thinking I could always get back to pick up the car later.  I started calling car rental companies and was turned down by several who either had no cars at that time or did not rent one-way.  I began to get desperate and started thumbing through the yellow pages for an option to get home.  It was too late to get a plane out of town.  The local rental companies were beginning to close as it was nearing five o'clock.  I decided to try U-Haul because I knew they rented one way.  I figured I could drive home in a truck if needed. Unfortunately they had nothing small to rent and I really didn't want to drive a big honking truck all the way back (7+ hours).  I was really beginning to despair when I got a call back from one of the car rental companies that had a car if I could get to the airport to pick it up.  Hurrah! I called a cab and we took off in the pouring rain for the airport. On the way to the airport the cabbie told me he had to stop for gas and asked if I minded. I told I would mind more if we ran out of gas along the way.  He pulled off the highway into a gas station, got out and then came back and got in the cab without getting gas. I began to wonder what was going on and asked whether there was a problem. He explained that he couldn't use his credit card at that gas station. I asked if it was a cash only station and he said "No, they just don't take my brand of credit card here".  OK, I know this is a small place, but what kind of credit card could he have that wasn't accepted at most gas stations?  Fearing that I would be stranded once again I offered to pay for the gas if he would only get me to the airport before the car rental place closed.  He got the gas and we took off again.

I made it to the car rental place in time to get the car and then had to drive back to the car repair facility to retrieve my suitcases from my car.  I hadn't wanted to drag them in the rain to the airport so had to go back and get them.  As it was still raining I managed to get soaking wet during the transfer of items from one car to the next. Cold rain had plastered my hair to my head and was running down my back managing to soak my clothes from the inside out as well as the outside in. As soon as I finished getting everything into the rental I took off on the highway for the very long ride home. 

I had to drive through the mountains in either pouring rain or dense fog.  At one point I was only able to follow the taillights of the car in front of me to know where to go.  I kept praying that the rain would stop.  Well, you know that old saying about being careful what you wished for?  It stopped raining. It turned into snow. The roads got slippery and the going was slow.  I really began to once again think I would not make it home.  A seven hour trip turned into a nine and one half hour trip and at 4:30 AM I pulled into the driveway at the house.  Whew!  I don't think I was ever so glad to climb into bed!

Unfortunately, the saga continued as the next evening I had to return the rental car to the local airport and it was still snowing.  Took extra time to get to the airport and on the way back we had to take a detour as there was a jack knifed tractor trailer in the road.  We managed to turn a 45 minute return trip into 3 hours.

Sometimes when you hit the road, it hits you back. Big time.  Think I'll stay home for a bit.

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