| A bit of a late start to the trip but I was on the road by 1pm. It would be a little late, but not overly late by the time I found a spot in Maine for the evening. The first few hours of driving were pretty uneventful. I stopped for lunch at a Subway somewhere near Magnetic Hill and continued onwards, expecting to cross into the US sometime shortly after suppertime.
Weeks before, I had been having a few minor issues with the car so I took it to Canadian Tire to get checked out a few weeks before the trip. For the low, low price of $1700 they ended up replacing the oil pan, brakes, brake calipers, wheel bearings, and a few other odds and ends. After getting it back the car seemed to be a little slow accelerating and whenever I came to a stop the oil light came on momentarily. I figured this was just a temporary thing after the repairs and didn't worry too much over it. I checked the oil and coolant levels before setting off and everything seemed fine. However, I started to notice a noise (kind of like sticking a piece of paper in a fan) every time my speed went over 110 km/hr. Then, shortly after passing Fredericton, it started making the noise at lower speeds and losing power. All of a sudden the temperature gauge leapt up into the red and I barely had time to pull off the road before the engine stalled. Coolant was pouring from the engine and steam (and possibly smoke) was billowing out.
At least I was prepared enough to have a big container of coolant in the back seat. I waited for about half an hour for things to cool down and then I filled it up and cautiously turned the key in the ignition. Just a bunch of clicking noises. Maybe it just needed a little time. I waited for a bit, trying it occasionally, with no luck. With the sun starting to go down I decided it was about time I got out and went searching for assistance. I couldn't remember how long it had been since I passed an exit but I saw a sign up ahead so I started walking that way.
Unfortunately, all I found there was an unmanned weigh station and a sign for a campground some unknown distance down an old side road. I decided to head back to the car in the hope that maybe it would start this time. It was completely dark by now. Every time a car came towards me I was pretty much blinded, unable to see the ground in front of me. If there had been a deep ravine in my path I would've walked right in. After an hour of walking I finally made it back to my car and tried to start it once again. No luck.
Now that I knew the exit number up ahead I was able to check out my location on my laptop map to see what my best option was. Unfortunately, I broke down in a particularly dead area of the Trans Canada Highway. The only sure bet was to walk back to Fredericton, which would take about 5 hours. Not something I would've been too excited about doing in the daytime, let alone the dark of night. So I put the hood up and turned the hazards on, hoping someone might stop. But the evening wore on and no one did. I started to realize just how convenient it would have been to have a cell phone on hand.
It was starting to get very cold. (The low for that night was 3 C.) I suppose I could've grabbed the glow stick I had in the emergency kit in the trunk and started waving it about to get someone's attention but I really didn't want to create such a fuss over little ole me. Instead, I started to make plans to simply stay the night there. I had all my tenting gear so I inflated one of the air mattresses and got out my sleeping bag, planning on putting the back seats down and sleeping there. My supper would be a chocolate chip cookie and some Pepsi.
Then, 3 1/2 hours after my car died, my hero arrived. A lone woman in a car pulled up beside me, rolled down the window, and asked me if I needed any help. She had a cell phone and called her husband, who got the number of a towing company. I called them up, returned the phone, and thanked her profusely before she took off once again. I never even got her name. How many women, traveling alone at night, would've stopped to help some stranger on the side of the road?
Half an hour later I was still shivering in my car. Part of me regretted not having taken up the woman's offer to wait in her warm car until the tow truck arrived while another part of me was glad that I hadn't made her wait there for so long. Then a car pulled up behind me. I got out to talk to them and was surprised to see it was a police car. The officer explained that he had seen the car with a long trail of liquid leading up to it and steamed up windows and figured someone was having problems. Once I assured him that a tow truck was on its way he continued on his way. I can only imagine our encounter if I had been fast asleep in the back of the car when he had pulled up.
Finally, the tow truck arrived and I had a nice warm ride back to Fredericton. I got dropped off with my car at the local Canadian Tire and walked to a nearby motel to collapse for the night.
It didn't take long for them to offer up a verdict on my poor car. It was dead. The mechanic explained that the engine was basically leaking oil out of every orifice and that they could probably replace the engine for $2,000 but that there was no guarantee that it would last long. He reccommended a number of scrap companies that might be willing to pay me $100 to take the thing off my hands. (They'd make about $35 just siphoning the remaining gas out of the tank!)
I ended up renting a car and moving everything from the old car to the rental. I traded my Taurus wagon, which had served be faithfully for 3 1/2 years and taken me twice to Florida and back, for 5 $20 bills. I then headed back to Halifax, needing to figure out what to do next.