Well this was unexpected.
So my first work trip went smoothly and I was back in Boston, about to board my commuting flight (as a passenger) to Detroit. It was getting pretty late; my flight was scheduled to land at 10:30PM. We obviously don’t have a groove yet with respect to getting me to/from the nearest airport when I work, so we’d been discussing how to go about it. I’m not crazy about the idea of loading the kids into the car to come get me if there’s another option. This time, however, Tacco had some things she wanted to do with the kids in Detroit, so she offered to hang out a bit later and come swoop me at DTW (you’ll have to excuse me, I tend to use airport codes a lot). Sure, I thought, why not.
Things started going south when I got a text from Keeper telling me that mom was having a problem with the car — “the clutch is stuck.” Stuck? Wait, so she can’t drive? “no, it’s OK now, she pulled it out.” Um, what??? Unfortunately I had to board the plane, so we went into a comms blackout after a few more short, confusing texts, but not before I was able to make contact with Tacco and ensure she was comfortable driving the car, even though I wasn’t liking the sound of things at all. I far prefer texts to phone calls, but sometimes they just don’t convey things well.
The next text I received, while airborne, and here I need to revisit this idea that I’m having difficulty imagining how we managed to do anything at all before cell phones and texts and in-flight wifi… anyway the next text informed me that the car was completely dead somewhere in Detroit with just about everything I hold most dear in it. Immovable. Clutch will not engage. What’s more, and this was a confusing set of data, particularly since I was trying to put it together via clipped texts in the air while Tacco had her hands beyond full with the kids on the side of the road, the car evidently had been “braking by itself” and had died a few times before giving up the ghost entirely. Now, if you read some of the other posts you might remember that I had ventured solidly out of my wheelhouse to install a supplemental braking system in the Outback whose job it was to physically apply the brake pedal, and had been patting myself on the back for a job well done. And now I’m told that my family is stranded somewhere in Detroit with a car that not only had a worthless clutch, but was braking by itself.
This is bad. Potentially really really bad. Yet it made no sense. There’s no connection whatsoever between the clutch and the braking system, how in the world is it possible that they both failed at once? I kept getting drawn into that rabbit hole while trying (still in flight) to deal with the most important thing, which was to figure out how to get to them. Tried to make a rental car reservation but the website said they all closed at 11, and we were slightly delayed. I wasn’t going to make it. I could Uber to them, but then what? I’d been texting Keeper with all my questions since TC was busy, but he started answering cryptically and then not at all. I learned later that he became suspicious when I was asking so much about where they were, and thought someone may have stolen my phone and was trying to get their location. Excellent, Keeper, love the line of thinking, but I’m sure you could’ve come up with a way to verify my identity… After getting their location from Tacco, I booked them a hotel room nearby, or so it looked on Google Maps, thinking they could just walk there and get some sleep and I’d deal with the car. Turns out it was 2 miles away. And shoot, those brakes! How?!?
I could go on and on about the mental spinning gears and the chaotic way everything kept unfolding, because it kept going and going and going, but I’ll skip to the end, which was that I finally landed, managed to get a rental car and get to them after all, the USAA towing service took our car to a local mechanic, and we drove back to the campsite, thoroughly exhausted, pulling in at about 1:30AM. Everything else could wait until the morning. And once we were actually able to discuss it, we solved the brake/clutch mystery — there was nothing wrong with the brakes. It was all clutch. Relief.
Although, while I was relieved to have things settle out, it was clear that we were facing our first semi-major forced change of plans. We’d planned to drive to either Traverse City or the Upper Peninsula (“da U.P.!”) in morning, now we were stuck in Detroit somewhat indefinitely without a guaranteed place to stay. We do have family near Lansing, but that’s even farther away from the car and the airport (rental car return) and let’s just say we haven’t yet reached the level of comfort to rise to a Christmas Vacation level of imposition. “Hey! You don’t mind if we drive up today and park our RV and car in your driveway a while do ya?” Though we may get there…
Final thoughts on this one. We got off light. Things never spun off into extremis, but I was beginning to be able to see it from where we were. One dead cellphone to shut off comms, a less auspicious place to break down, more serious equipment failure, severe weather, an actual accident… it’s making us think about applying a bit more forethought and “what if?” planning to our times when the two parents are in different parts of the country. You know, like we used to do before we counted on all our “stuff” working as advertised and being able to contact anyone and everyone instantaneously. Whether we would’ve even attempted this trip without that level of connectivity is another question altogether.