So, there we were, on a Saturday afternoon in the quiet little town of Ocean Isle Beach NC, a place we have visited several times before, having enjoyed our stays. We decided to beat the madding crowds to dinner, so we set out about 4:15 for the nearby town of Shallotte, home to our destination, Jerome's Steakhouse. A trip of perhaps 10-15 minutes on most days.
Not today. (Yesterday, actually.)
First, the engine died as we were backing out of our parking spot. Not good. After several attempts to re-start the vehicle, I succeeded, only to have the check engine light stay on. Never a good sign.
Well, we believe we saw a Firestone in Shallotte as we passed through on Friday, so we decided to go there first. Our preferred Mr Fix-It, Johnny Lad, was back home, so that was not an option. As we drove toward Shallotte, the car decided to have a little fun with us, balking and surging ay a whim, and keeping the accelerator floored got us up to a max of 40 mph. We had to use our emergency flashers to let other drivers know we were not a pair of 83-year-old's who could barely see over the steering wheel on our monthly big night out on the town. As we finally neared Shallotte, I had to brake to take a corner whose max safe speed is 15 mph. Our lovely Hyundai Sonata, an otherwise reliable car, decided it was time to surge and provide more power as we rounded the curve. Much fun. We made it to the main drag and headed toward where we believed the Firestone was located. Nope, wrong direction, apparently. Gingerly reversing course in a parking lot, we headed back the way we came, but again did not see the Firestone. It was now after 5:00, and it being (1) a Saturday evening, (2) a holiday weekend, and (3) a small town in NC , some of whose population may have been biased against Yankee flatland tourists invading their piece of the South, our options were very limited. I pulled into a grocery store lot, left the car running, and inquired as to the whereabouts of the local Firestone. The young lady behind the office counter smiled and said, "I've never heard of a Firestone." So much for our collective memories.
She did point out the Advance Auto about 200 yards away, and thinking this was probably the best we could do, headed there.
Inside, I told our tale of woe to Big Rick, who was indeed a big guy, and whose name, Big Rick, was stitched onto his Advance Auto shirt. H
AT THIS POINT, MY CRUMMY INTERNET CONNECTION MUST HAVE KICKED ME OFF, SINCE I WAS ABLE TO SEE A COMPLETE POST THAT NIGHT.
(h)e ran a diagnostic with a hand-held machine, and gave out some mumbo-jumbo (to my ears) about P1 and P0 codes, and said a crankshaft angle sensor was needed. (Never heard of that one before.) They had one in stock ($50-$80 depending on the manufacturer) but was not allowed to install it, for liability reasons. We asked about reliable, honest mechanics, and he recommended two, Jim's Auto Service and Big H, who, he said, was a really big guy, but he did have a mobile service for touristas such as ourselves. Jim is a Master Mechanic and a workaholic and was probably still in his shop nearby. We tried him first, but only got his answering machine. Big Rick said if we swung by and saw a big rig out front, it meant Jim was there, even after hours.
Uhh...Big Rick, the car isn't safe to drive, remember?
So, we tried Big H with equal success.
So, we placed a call to AAA and were told a wait for 45-50 minutes was expected. Great.
I had visions of an old, balding, very overweight good ole boy reeking of cigarette smoke and probably with a wad of chaw in his cheek, and a continuous loop of Dueling Banjos being played on an 8-track player. Fifty minutes later, our help arrived for our tow. Despite the large metal studs in each earlobe, he was pleasant, polite, and did not reek of smoke, although he did light one up later when unloading our car. The inside of his truck was as clean as a tow truck ever can be, given the nature of the beast.
We had called our Mr Fix-It, Johnny Lad, who was able to tell us the nearest Firestone was in Wilmington (NC, not DE), and that he had talked to Chris about the problems we were having. Chris' shop closed at 6:00 that evening; it was almost 6:30 before we got on the road to Wilmington.
40 miles away.
In the meantime we contacted both Robert T's Beloved and Handsome Son to check for a phone number for Enterprise Rent-a-Car at the Wilmington Airport, which we were told was the only one still open. When we called, they were closing in 15 minutes. Great.
Mr Enterprise said to call Alamo/National, their sister companies, who actually were located at the airport. (Why not brother companies?) We did, and were told cars were available until around midnight, when the last flight came in.
We had also gotten three phone numbers for cab companies for use after we dropped off our car. Fortunately, our driver took pity on the out-of-towners and said he would swing by the airport after he cleared the call, so we left him a big tip for his efforts.
We did end up with a nice new black Dodge Avenger, which was a very nice riding vehicle. The drawback: rental charges and repair bills that were not planned on.
Suffice it to say, we returned back to OIB about 9:00 p.m., and our dinner, such as it was, consisted of leftover cheese pizza from Joey O's, pbj on toast for me, and a toasted blueberry bagel for Mrs North.
A far cry from the steak I was going to get at Jerome's.
The hand-held gizmo at Advance diagnosed the correct problem, according to Firestone, and after our We Know Johnny Lad Discount, we were "only" out $213 for the repair. Better than I expected, overall.
Perhaps we had "take pity on these tourists" stamped on our foreheads for all to see.