When you read my title you may think I had a good weekend. I will tell you how it went, then you decide.
On Thursday morning, we were all set, gassed up and luggage loaded to make our journey to Hershey, Pennsylvania for our Territorial Congress (really big Salvation Army event). Both of our vans were ready to go. Soon all of the people were picked up and we were ready to hit the road. I drove our full size van and Elaine drove the Sienna.
It was 1:15 and we were entered I-395 to begin our trek. Things were going smoothly, albeit slowly as I was not able to drive the speed I normally do with someone following me. Oh well, I was in no rush.
Shortly after 3:00 PM, I passed someone on the Merritt Parkway around Greenwich. The transmission in the van downshifted as I passed. A minute later, I looked in my side mirrors and there was smoke everywhere coming from underneath the van. The Merritt is a narrow parkway, so I found the first patch of grass that was wide enough and long enough for both cars to stop safely. I opened the hood and saw nothing out of the ordinary, I looked underneath the van and saw transmission fluid everywhere. I had a feeling that our trip and taken a dramatic turn and would be altered. Elaine and I discussed the situation and agreed to get off the next exit.
I began to notice that the van was starting to run rough. Upon exiting the parkway, I saw signs for Westchester County Airport. I knew that if we got to the airport, we could at least rent a van to continue our trip. The airport was a few miles off the road, and the transmission was starting to slip really bad. I pulled up in front of the terminal and Elaine went in to get us a rental van. After a few minutes the police came over to me, and I reassured them that my transmission was gone and that I was securing alternate transportation. They were fine and very friendly. I would later get to know Westchester's finest rather well.
We were able to secure a minivan and a mid size car to continue our trip, but AAA would soon prove to be a major influence and not for the better. I finally got hold of AAA at 4:00 and they explained to me that they could not tow my van on airport property due to local government agreements. They suggested I try to move it to the first street off the airport, then call back. I informed the police and they wished me good luck. I got into the van and tried to move it. It took a few seconds for the transmission to catch, but soon I was underway. It kept slipping as I drove off the airport property. As soon as I exited the airport, the transmission was slipping, so bad that there was no more power going to the wheels and a whole lot of smoke coming from under the van, I pulled off and quickly coasted to a stop.
I then got on the phone again with AAA. This time, they claimed they did not know what street I was on. I explained to them several times exactly where I was, still no luck. After an hour, I flagged down one of my new friends...a Westchester County cop who gave me a physical street address, still they had a hard time. It took 2 hours for the them to figure out where I was! I received a call at 6:19 telling me that they would pick up the van by 8:19. I told Elaine to load up both minivans with our people and I would remain alone to wait for the tow truck. I sat on a flower planter in the middle of the traffic circle about 100 yards from the van, so that I could show the tow truck where to go. That was the advice of the Westchester County Cop.
The minutes dragged on. At 8:00 I called AAA asking them for an update. They told me it would be 50-90 more minutes. I was hungry, but unable to get food, getting chilly, and had no jacket or sweatshirt. I was getting very discouraged! My new cop friends would come by occasionally, check on me, share a laugh with me, and provide what assistance they could.
I soon started to feel like Forrest Gump, just sitting there on the wall. Occasionally people would point at me, laugh, probably saying to theirselves, "look at this idiot just sitting there." If they only knew my ordeal!
At 9:00 I called AAA again. They told me 90 more minutes! I was quite aggravated and gave them an earful about being stuck now for 6 hours. It was now 5 hours since I first called them! It was dark and increasingly dangerous for me to keep walking to the van and my rental car. I soon noticed that my battery was now dead in the van from the flashers being on for 6 plus hours. Fortunately, my rental car was still flashing just behind the van. I received a call at about 9:30 from the tow truck saying they would be there in half an hour. I explained to him the exact location of the van which he was able to understand. Finally, I could leave the wall in the middle of the traffic circle and go sit in a car! At about 10:00, the tow truck arrived and started the process of picking up my van. It took about a half hour to get it secured on the flatbed, and at 10:30, some 7 and a half hours after the breakdown, I resumed my trip to Hershey.
I was able to make good time, and finally at around midnight in Clinton, NJ, I was able to get something to eat, but at that time of night/morning, only a pepsi and snickers could satisfy! I arrived in Hershey around 2:00 AM. I would be waking up to get ready for Officer's Councils with the General in just 4 hours.
Councils was okay, but my mind was just not into it. I was incredibly tired and stressed. I decided after councils to not join our corps people at Hersheypark for the afternoon. I instead got a good lunch and relaxed which was good considering I had only had a snickers and a pepsi in 24 hours!
After a good meal and some rest, I felt much better and was able to enjoy the Friday night program. Things were starting to look up.
More to come...