This will be short. I haven’t yet gained enough distance from the events to be able to recount them with a light humorous touch. Suffice it to say the car needed more work. We checked into a motel for the night (which did allow pets but only 4 people per room and which had no adjoining rooms so we sneaked in a kid instead of the dogs) and the following morning I attempted to drive the car (still attached to the trailer) back to the auto shop. I got a few blocks when the check engine light started blinking rapidly, and as we had looked up “Check Engine” light in the manual the day before I was already aware that a blinking CE light was a much more dire warning! “Do Not Drive Your Car if the Check Engine Light is BLINKING!” the manual stated in bold letters, so I pulled into a parking lot and called the AAA. Good thing I sprung for a membership, eh? They towed the car for free – the trailer wasn’t covered however so I handed over $25 and they took it back to their towing yard for safe keeping.
Long story short – the mechanic discovered that there was a leak in the power steering reservoir or in the hose connected to the reservoir and fluid had dripped all over the wiring harness causing all sorts of shorts in the wires. Why was there a leak? Who knows – I had all sorts of work done on the car in the past month, including a power steering flush and fluid replacement, and wiring work in the area below the reservoir and no one had noticed or mentioned a leak. He was able to find a replacement wiring harness and reservoir at the junkyard and after working all day got the car back to me at 6 PM for a grand total of $607. By that time we had passed the late checkout and had booked another night at the motel. It just wasn’t possible to sit outside in the 105 degree heat with kids and pets for the 4 hours after the 2 PM checkout and the 6 PM completion of the repairs. And speaking of heat – for some reason (which the mechanic denies having anything whatsoever to do with his repairs) when I finally did pick up the car the AC was no longer working! Over the course of the next day we discovered that it does eventually work, but each time you turn off the engine and turn it back on (or even sit with it idling for longer than 5 minutes), the air comes out of the vents as if you had the heat turned up high. After about 10 minutes it begins to cool and after about 20 minutes it is back to AC.
Unfortunately staying another night, in a fairly empty motel, made it obvious to the manager that we were one person over the room quota so we were charged a fee of $100 (on top of 2 nights bill for the cramped and uncomfortable room and the $25 pet fee). And naturally adding another 2 days to our journey had cost implications in terms of food, although it was so hot that I at least could not conjure up much of an appetite. There was no microwave or refrigerator in the room so we had to eat out – and as we had no car our choices were limited to places within walking distance. We made the mistake of eating (I use the term loosely since all of us mainly just pushed the food around on our plates after taking a bite or two) at a Chinese buffet restaurant the last evening – it was absolutely terrible food – all dry from sitting under heat lamps long past the optimum time.
We left very early the following morning (let’s see, that would be Saturday), after retrieving our trailer, happy to be putting “Barfstow”- as we had begun calling it- behind us and drove cautiously to Williams, Arizona. I spent the entire drive clutching the steering wheel with hands with crossed fingers, attuned to every noise the car made, every shudder of the transmission. I was probably chanting “I think I can, I think I can” under my breath!