So Thursday started off more or less as expected. The night before, I set an alarm to make sure I got up early enough so I could leave Pburg with enough time allowing me to make the trek down to SoJo to both catch my mom for lunch and then continue on to my dentist appointment to get this molar fixed. I woke up to the alarm, which was about the last thing that went smoothly that day. Mere moments after awakening, I was to peer out the window and find that the world outside was blanketed in a snowstorm. Since I don't habitually keep track of the weather forecasts, this came as something of a surprise. I pondered the wisdom of attempting the dentistry journey at all, because for all the wonderfulness of the Cakemobile, it is not at all known for its ability to maintain good traction in snow.
By chance, Professor Tallcake was actually around that day, and I was advised that several weighty bags of rock salt were kept around expressly for the purpose of loading up weight in the back of the Cakemobile for a better shot at traction. So we loaded said bags, and I tentatively set off to at least try to get a feel of how the vehicle would handle. It turned out...not so well, as the trip down local side streets mostly informed me that I was pretty much unable to rely on the brakes to stop the truck. This was due to the road surface, though, and not the brakes themselves, so I figured if I made it to a plowed pavement, I'd be okay, and surely from there I could navigate the highways just fine. So I made my exceedingly cautious 10 MPH way to the main drags, which were plowed, and things seemed to be fine after that. I soldiered on to SoJo.
Because of the late start getting the Cakemobile prepped for the drive, and also because I took my sweet-ass time for most of the trip, I got down to my mom's 'hood much later than planned, although we did manage to meet up for a quick lunch at the local diner. From there I went further south to the dentist, sat in a chair for an hour or so, and walked out with one side of my face numb and a reconstructed molar made up of a combination of original and after-market parts. Dig it.
Back to mom's to finish up more family business I was there to conduct, then I once again hit the road to make the trip back up north to Pburg. This was always destined to be a one-day trip, you must understand, because very early the following morning, I was to take the Cakemobile in for some much-needed maintenance back up north, so I had hoped to spend the night back at Chateau Tallcake.
I've mentioned this before, but the layout of New Jersey highways is odd enough that when I drive down to SoJo, I generally go through Pennsylvania to get from North Jersey to South Jersey. So I was in eastern Pennsylvania, maybe 20 or so miles from home, when I was surprised to find that the truck's heat had apparently gone out; the vents were blowing cold air out. "That's strange," I thought. I turned off the "heat," and continued on, and I found myself idly wondering how car heaters worked, like if they had heating elements or just used the heat from the engine somehow, or what. It was in the middle of this reverie that I became aware of an unpleasant smell, like a burning sneaker. Moments later a red light activated on the dashboard advising me to "CHECK GAUGE." I cursed the terseness of that message and its near-uselessness to an automobile ignoramus like myself, but I scanned the dashboard for anything that looked out of place. I saw that the little dial indicating what I took to be "temperature" was pointing to an unpleasant-looking red bar on the "hot" end of the scale, so I quickly put my emergency plan Phase Alpha into action: I swore loudly and profanely, turned on the hazard lights, slowed down, and looked for an exit from the highway.
Soon enough I found one and pulled off the highway. Upon slowing the vehicle, the bad smell I had noticed before drastically increased in strength. Of a more pressing concern, however, was that, when I came to a stoplight and stopped moving, I became aware that the truck appeared to be wreathed in it's very own self-generated cloud. "Hmm," I thought to myself, "I appear to be on fire."
I considered just ejecting right then and there and making a run for it, but I felt that would probably be an inconsiderate and likely unnecessary move. It was far more likely that I was seeing steam and not smoke, so I figured I could at least find a nice, out-of-the-way place to park before I ejected and made a run for it. I kept making turns further and further off the main drags until I found a nice, empty parking lot for a closed Wachovia bank. I bundled up and stepped outside into the bitter, windy cold of that night. After several frustrating minutes looking through the cab for the hood release, I finally popped it and went around to open the hood. In doing so, I was greeted by a billowing eruption of steam jetting from the engine. Sweeeeet.
I waited a bit, just to see if the steam started to subside after a while. (It did.) I waited further to see if anything seemed to be actively burning. (It didn't.) Those things accomplished, I called Professor Tallcake for advice. I was told that I was probably out of coolant. I could verify this with a particular dipstick attached to one of the caps holding fluids in this mysterious engine device, and the filling of little hollowed-out discs would inform me of the current level of coolant in the engine, and how much more I would need to add. I checked the dipstick to find that not only were no little indicator discs filled, but the dipstick itself was actually bone dry. Unfortunate. Luckily, an emergency supply of antifreeze is kept in the truck for just such occasions. Under instruction, I pour said emergency antifreeze into said engine device, taking care to ensure that there wasn't just a complete hole in the radiator and I wasn't just pouring antifreeze right through the engine and directly onto the ground. This didn't seem to be the case, so got the coolant level back up to what appeared to be an acceptable amount, and got back on the highway.
It only took another mile or two before the same steps from before were repeated: bad smell, overheating warning, steam billowing from under the hood. I once again pulled off the highway and parked. The coolant level was fine. After some experimentation, I determined that even just idling the engine could lead to overheat, so even my plan of trying to somehow limp the Cakemobile home very, very slowly was looking impractical. Some more phone consultations with Professor Tallcake, and it was eventually determined: Yeah, it's busted. Thankfully, by then I was close enough to home that there were familiar landmarks around, so the good Professor advised me to make my way to a local grocery store, where I would be met by both the Professor and AAA. I crawled the truck to said grocery store (which was, thankfully, open 24 hours, because it was getting pretty late by this point), and hung out there for a while at their little in-store cafe, reading the book I had luckily thought to bring with me.
After a while, the Professor arrived, and the two of us followed the Cakemobile being towed back home. Actually, it got towed to the Professor's local garage which, you'll recall, I was supposed to be at the next morning anyway, as the truck had been scheduled for maintenance -- one day too late, as it turned out. Can't win 'em all, I guess. :)
So that was my adventurous Thursday. Yesterday, Friday, I spent the entire day in a mode I've nowadays come to think of as Useless Human Being. I was wiped out from the previous day's shenanigans and attendant lack of sleep, and basically I just spent the entire day zoned out in front of the TV. At some point I celebrated my new tooth by ordering some Chinese food. In the late afternoon, I actually fell asleep in front of the tube, an incredibly rare occurrence for me, and slept the evening away. I got up again, finished the Chinese food and my DVD, and eventually made it to bed, falling sleep reading.
News from the truck isn't too bad: a hose needs replacing, and it'll be in the shop over the weekend. I ran a few errands today, but I think mostly I'll devote the afternoon to catching up with online stuff, which I now know will spiral completely out of control if I let things go for more than a couple of days.
And that, friends, is what I've been up to lately. Carry on. :)