So we headed out from Dave’s place in Oakland to try to get to our hotel reservation in Atascadero that night and avoid Super Bowl traffic on Sunday.
Around 1:00 in the morning, we rolled in for gas in Gonzales, CA. We return to the RV to be greeted by a dead battery. We call AAA and get a jump. Ok! Back to the road!
2:00 the power steering goes out on the freeway, lights dim and the RV all but stops. We get it to the side of the freeway on it’s last push. We’re right next to an exit in Greenfield, CA.
Luckily, we have AAA with RV coverage. Unluckily, they informed us that, while the RV was covered for a free tow, our trailer was not, and it would be up to us to arrange a separate tow for it. Even more unluckily any truck that was big enough to haul the RV would be unavailable until after 8:00 am the next morning. Even more unluckily still, the towing company that they recommended we call for the trailer kept hanging up on us.
Jared explained that, “I have my family with me, including our two-year-old son.” This got two different responses from two separate AAA operators: one suggested I call 911 and talk to CHP to have them arrange a paid tow, the other felt for our plight and tried calling some of their commercial towing affiliates.
CHP was able to send a squad car to sit behind us with lights ablaze and deter drivers from smashing into us, and they sent for a couple of very expensive tow trucks. Finally, we got a call back from AAA. They found a truck that could tow the RV free of charge.
We just needed to get to the auto parts store a mile away. We needed to have them test if the alternator was dead , which was Kim and Jared’s diagnosis. AAA will be by to get us in an hour…or so. By 4:00, we are all snuggled up and sleeping outside of O’Riley Auto Parts…except Rudy, who now is wide awake from his excitement of riding in the front seat of the tow truck. Never mind that he was squished into one seat with Sandi and me! Now, at 4:30 in the morning, he wants to play steam roller with mom. Ugh.
7:30 am – O’Riley Auto Parts opens up, and by 9:00 Kim and Jared have the alternator pulled out and are trying to assess the problem. Sandi and I took Rudy to McDonald’s for breakfast and actually had a wonderful time meeting new friends. 4 little girls were absolutely smitten with Rudy’s baby blues, and came right up to hold his hands and touch his hair and talk to him. “Spiderman spins webs” was all he could come up with. What can I say, he gets his game from his father…
Turns out, Greenfield is a tiny town full of very helpful people. Obviously, it’s a Sunday, so no shops are open for car repair. Super Bowl Sunday, so doubly so. But, a girl at O’Riley says her cousin has a shop and is working today. So, around noon, Carlos rolls up and Kim (against all she’s been taught, but trusting her gut) gets in his truck to see where his shop is so she can direct Jared when he returns from the restroom. As Kim puts it, “I asked the guy if he was going to kidnap me.” He spoke very little English, so when Kim let him know that she was “no punk”, it was probably lost on him. But he did laugh and smile and Kim felt at ease. And, as she put it later, she was “feeling pretty gangster”, so if he did try anything, my money would have been on Kim, hands down.
Anyway, we all got over to the shop that had 3 generations of men working on cars. They took a look at the issue and determined that they need to Frankenstein a completely new alternator – oh you know…no biggie. Kim was glowing. She got to watch these guys totally custom-build a piece for our engine, AND they let her help! Rudy was doing puzzles, dancing with dad and napping, and Sandi and I were in charge of hospitality. Which meant getting beer and preparing plates of food for us to eat.
Spirits high, we passed the time walking through the one street of the town, hanging in the RV, and dancing to the mariachi music coming through the radio. We’d given up on catching the Super Bowl, but with any luck, we still hoped to get to our hotel that night. We had 70 miles to go. So, almost 3 hours into the process one guy hops into the driver seat and turns the key, moment of truth…it started!! Sounding beautiful, we all cheered and jumped up and down. THEN, the guy from the auto parts store (O’Reilly Auto Parts, by the way) drove over with his gear to test the alternator. Good to go! Then we waited for the other shoe to fall. What will this cost us? I kid you not, they asked for $280. Total. That’s it. They must have thought we were crazy. We made them all take a picture with us and gave everyone hugs. I’m certain they have never had customers like us.
Finally on the road, windows open in the warm air, we headed to Atascadero to claim our reward of beds and sleep.
We finally made it in time to catch the last 10 minutes or so of the game. We were grateful to see Peyton win the game while we all into the couches. Our turn to retire too…for the night.