September 4, 2016: Adventures in Driving

We didn’t even manage to escape New Jersey before, on Interstate 80, the car suddenly had the check engine light, the skid light and the error code come on the dashboard.  Not good.  We made it maybe five minutes before the car started to lose power, quickly.  Lots of power, so much so that we could not keep driving.  I had to immediately pull over on the side of the highway, in the middle of nowhere, about ten minutes east of the Delaware Water Gap.  Argh.

So it is now around three in the morning, and the car is dead, and Maria and I are stranded in the dark, on the side of an empty highway, in the middle of north Jersey, on Labor Day Weekend.  I had already scouted out the hotel options before leaving on the drive last night and knew that there was effectively nothing left available anywhere from Newark to Rochester, so stopping at a hotel was not even a reasonable consideration when the car worked and could drive us to one.  So this is extra bad.

Thank goodness I remembered that Liberty Mutual had roadside assistance.  I called them and they had a wrecker come out to get us, for free.  That sure helped to justify keeping a car with good insurance around!  We didn’t get off of the phone with Liberty until about three twenty.  It took the wrecker until nearly four thirty to get to us and then maybe twenty minutes before it was up on the flat bed.  So getting close to five in the morning when we were in the truck and on our way somewhere.

While we were waiting, someone did stop with another truck and took a quick look at the car and noticed that there was a smell of fuel, so he guessed that something was wrong with the engine causing it to misfire.

Once she knew that we were in a truck and that he could drive us somewhere, Dominica set about trying to find us a hotel, anywhere.  This took easily half an hour, maybe an hour.  She called everywhere.  While she did that, we were driving around looking for a garage to take the car to, but we never found one.

Eventually Dominica found that the Baymont Hotel didn’t have any available rooms but would let us hang out in the lobby until someone checked out.  Good enough.  So off to there we went.

It was almost six when we got to the hotel.  We started to drop the car in the parking lot but the front desk guy told us to drop it at the Mavis next door and said that it would be open tomorrow.  We were skeptical but he was pretty adamant, so we figured that we could as easily tow it from there tomorrow as anywhere else so… whatever.

The hotel actually had a room that had broken AC so they gave it to us for half off.  Pheww.  At least we don’t have to sit in the lobby.  But the room was ridiculous, too.  There wasn’t even a private bathroom in it.  The shower was open to the sleeping around and the toilet was right there.  It was kind of a gross room.  Thank goodness that there was a public facility right out in the hallway that we could use easily.

Maria was asleep before I even returned from dropping the car in the parking lot and getting all of the paperwork wrapped up for the room.  Maria managed to get several hours of sleep.  I was up talking to Dominica all night trying to figure out what to do. I was working at the computer by seven and at nine thirty was out walking around and managed to get the car into the shop next door – it was actually open on a Sunday!  We are saved, sort of.

I got back just in time to wake up Maria five minutes before the end of breakfast so that we could eat.  Breakfast was good, eggs, hashbrowns… more than I was expecting.

After breakfast we went over the checked in on the car.  Then we hung out in the lawn for a while, not much to do.  We were checking in on the laptop from time to time.

Danielle left early this morning to come down and get us.  We were sure that we were not going to have any car to drive back in today so it is what it is.  But it is still four hours for her to drive to us so it was going to be a while before she could get there.

We checked out of the hotel knowing that Danielle was coming shortly after noon.  So we just put the luggage and stuff in the auto shop.

At ten this morning, when Maria’s flight was scheduled to arrive in Rochester, Art and Dominica drove up to Rochester and retrieved her suitcase.  She felt much better knowing that at least we had that in hand, even if we had no car.

So the shop determined that we have a dead cylinder in the car and are not going anywhere and that there is nothing that they can do to get me moving again.  They think that it might only be a spark plug, but they can’t be sure.  But there is nothing further than they could do.  But they felt that a local Chevy dealer would be the best bet and thought that we could limp it up there.

Dominica was insistent that we try to drive it the hundreds of miles back to dad’s place.  I kept assuring her that that was impossible.  This went on for hours.

We made the attempt to drive from where we were to Mt. Pocono to the dealer there.  Moving the car around the parking lot wasn’t too bad, but the moment that I needed to pull out onto a real road, I was not sure that the car was not going to just stop sideways in the middle of the road.  Zero power, zero acceleration and I could not tell if it was going to just stall.  Very bad.

After a bit of practice, if I babied the car and did not have an incline I could eventually coax the car up to 30 mph with the needle over the red line.  The car does not shift when the engine is having problems so this made things so much worse since it is an automatic (boy do I hate automatics.)

It took a very, very long time in terrible bumper to bumper traffic to get to the dealer in Mt. Pocono.  We stopped at a gas station and I topped the car off with 93 octane and it immediately improved.  Instead of missing every fire on that cylinder, it only missed them when not at a specific speed, that I could kind of hold while driving about 20 mph. So that is what we did when we could.  We got an octane booster, too, to see if that would continue to improve things, but it did not.

We met up with Danielle at the dealer, dropped the car off with the key drop and headed out.  Four hours back to home, now.

We stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Binghamton and introduced Maria to a lot of Americana and cuisine.  We had her eat okra, hush puppies, hashbrown casserole, corn bread and more.  She loved it.  Quite an introduction to America (or this part of it, at least.)

It was moderately late when we got up to the farm.  We were all exhausted.  Zero sleep for me, not a lot for anyone else.  We visited for a while, the kids were so excited to see Maria.  It’s been a year since they have seen her.

I took Maria over to Geneseo, showed her around town so that she would know what there was and where to go for things.  We went to Pizza Paul’s and she got two slices of New York pizza.  She was very impressed – both by the quality and the size.

Then we went to Walmart and got some stuff that she had not wanted to fly with (tooth paste and other cheap, bulk items.)  Then I got her checked into the Hampton Inn in Geneseo so that she could get to sleep.

It was after midnight when I got home and off to bed, zero sleep in two days. So tired.

September 3, 2016: Maria Comes to New York, Sort Of

Today is Maria’s travel day from Panama to Rochester.  She was up and left for the airport at seven this morning in Panama City.  That part of her day went relatively well.  The plan is that she is going to fly United from Panama City, Panama; to Houston, Texas; to Dulles, Virginia and finally to Rochester, New York arriving just before midnight.  I will be running up to the airport to pick her up when we see her flight getting in.  We have concerns about delays (or worse) because of the tropical storm named Hermine that is currently hanging off of the US east coast and is battering Maryland and Virginia a little bit, but right now, further to the south.  So fingers crossed all day.

We were watching her progress all day, certain that things would end up going wrong.  We are at dad’s house today as we watch for Maria to arrive.  We are all a bit tired, even the kids, after a full week of a ridiculous amount of driving.  At least it was spread out, but we’ve been driving six hours or more every day this week!  We are so tired of driving.

Maria’s trip from Panama City to Houston went fine.  But things starting going wrong once she landed in Houston.  United only allowed her about two hours for getting off of her plane, getting through immigrations and customs, getting to her new gate and boarding her next flight on to Dulles.  The line at US immigration was incredibly long and after being in it for more than an hour she still had more than seventy people in the line!  She was an hour or more farther back in line when she was already supposed to be at her gate!  A security guard (probably a TSA agent) told her that there was no way that she was making her flight and to prepare for being stuck.  So at least she had some warning.

To make things more complicated, United has essentially no additional north eastern bound flights for the evening and definitely none going to Dulles and/or Rochester tonight.  So this means that she is missing her flight tonight, totally.

She got through immigration and then customs and went to the United desk to find out what they were going to do since they had scheduled an impossible flight connection and left her there even though she had arrived on time and gone directly from gate to gate as fast as was possible.  United was rude and ridiculous and treated her like it was her fault that they hadn’t scheduled their flights correctly.  They refused to do anything for her, would not even get her a hotel or anything.  After a bit of cajoling they finally decided to allow her onto a flight to Newark, New Jersey tonight that would get in around midnight, but would not get her on to Rochester until tomorrow and told her that she was “free to sleep in the airport”.  Um, Newark Liberty Airport?  That’s scary and totally inappropriate to tell her to sleep in.  That airport is not safe and is totally abandoned late at night.  We are not at all happy that United suggested something so crazy.

Maria had a few hours of waiting on her new flight, it was not set to leave until around six.  We knew that leaving her in Newark was not okay, so I got ready and left the house at six to drive down to Newark to meet her when her flight got in.

I got to Dansville and already her flight was getting very delayed due to mechanical issues on the plane, so I stopped at Subway and got some dinner.

The drive down to Newark went fine.  I continued listening to the history of the Wright Brothers that I have on Audible.  Maria’s plane finally took off only about an hour late and is scheduled to arrive at one in the morning.

Dominica, Art and Danielle went up to Rochester tonight, while I was out getting Maria, so that they could scout out bars on East Ave. for the conference next week.  Dad stayed home with the girls all evening.

It was nearly one in the morning when I got to the airport.  Maria’s flight had just arrived.  The timing was perfect, I had to do one lap of the airport while she was waiting on her luggage… which never arrived.  It turns out that that was sent on to Rochester and would be arriving there tomorrow morning around ten in the morning.

So we got Maria in the car, thankfully her important stuff was all in carry on bags so only her clothes and things that she can easily replace are in her luggage en route to Rochester without her, and we were on our way west again.  I already did over five hours of driving to get here, now to do another five or more to get back.  This is going to be one long night.

September 2, 2016: From Ohio to Dad’s

I had to get up this morning before eight to move the Chevy Spark because we had parked behind Don’s truck and he needed to get off to work.  The girls slept until almost noon, so Dominica and I got the car packed up and then spent the morning hanging out with Aunt Marlene in the kitchen.

Uncle Don said that it was too nice to work today and came home around noon.  So we saw him for a few minutes before we left.  Once the girls were awake and ate some breakfast we were off on our way.  We stopped at the McDonald’s in Louisville on our way out of town to grab some protein as well.

The drive went great.  Nice weather, traffic was not bad.  We got up to dad’s in the early evening.  Only about five hours of driving today.  It’s been a long driving week, though, and I am very relieved to be done with the driving and to be able to set up the laptop and get caught up a little.  I’m worn out.  A week of driving and being offline is tough.

SGL is caught back up, though.  Whoo hoo.

The girls were totally wild and out of control all evening.  We had to send them to bed at ten thirty so that dad could get a break.

Maria gets into town late tomorrow night so I have to coordinate getting her at the airport tomorrow around midnight.  There is a tropical storm hitting the US east coast so we are a little concerned that that might create some delays.

September 1, 2016: Ohio

I woke up at a quarter till nine this morning and breakfast at the Home2 ends at nine.  I had promised Liesl that I would get her up in time for breakfast in the hotel so I told her quickly to get up and we got ready to run out of the door.  Dominica and Luciana got up too and raced to get ready, and followed a few minutes after Liesl and me.

Breakfast was sparse, but good.  We had an enjoyable breakfast and really liked that the Home2 kept breakfast open as long as we were there and didn’t kick us out.  It was very comfortable, we like this hotel a lot.

After breakfast the girls and I went outside to check out the fire pit.  It had rained the night before and I did not realize it and I ended up sitting on an outside couch and getting my butt very wet.

We stayed in the hotel until half past noon.  We are Silver members so get late checkout and the Hilton really takes care of us.  I had good, solid Internet so did a bit of posting while I had my laptop working.

We checked out, packed up the car and drove over towards Belden Village and went to the Bob Evans there.  The family enjoyed it so much yesterday that they decided that they wanted it again today.  The girls did a great job eating their food, too.

From there we drove over to Louisville to Aunt Marlene’s house getting there about two thirty.  We hung out with Aunt Marlene and Uncle Don for most of the afternoon.  Aunt Cheryl came over for a little bit but just gathered up the girls and took them off to the local park so that they could play on the giant rainbow playground there.  They were very excited about that idea and we’ve not had a break from them in a while so it was a nice bit of quiet.

Later on we all went over to the playground too.  Grandma, Aunt Gayle and Monica met us over there as well.  We were there for a few hours until the girls were really worn out.  Then we went back to Aunt Marlene’s.  Joe was the last one to join us in the evening after he was out of his apprenticeship class.

We got Domino’s for dinner, which was very good.  Everyone was really tired and we were all in bed by eleven.

Aunt Marlene’s new dog, which is only four pounds and named Kloe, is a bit of a terror and has Luciana very scared and her and even cornered Luciana in an upstairs bedroom at one point.   Even Liesl gets chased around by her a little bit.

August 31, 2016: Indianapolis

I got up at nine at the Comfort Inn and Suites.  I let everyone else sleep and I was out of the room before ten.  We were just ten minutes, and one exist on I70, away from Scale and they were very easy to find.  It’s not all that hot in Indiana this morning, but the humidity is ridiculous.  You were wet the instant that you stepped outside in any way.

The girls slept in as long as they could and then checked around at 12:30 and went to the Bob Evans that was in the same parking lot so that they could get a nice lunch.  Dominica had decided that we would just pack up and go after I was done visiting with Scale today rather than spending the night in Indianapolis and then having to drive out to Ohio tomorrow.  She did not tell me this until late, though, and I did not have cell service at some points during the day so I was not able to plan around it well.

The girls loved their lunch at Bob Evans and want to go there a lot more often.  Dad is excited to hear this as he really likes that restaurant and has been wanting us to go there in Batavia.

I had a good day in the office.  Got to meet lots of people and got a tour.  Did lunch with the tech support group and got Vietnamese from Pho36 which was awesome.  The food was amazing.

I left at four thirty and raced over to pick up Dominica and the girls who had been hanging out in the lobby of the Comfort Inn for three hours as the hotel would not hold their luggage past that point behind the counter (which is pretty obnoxious for a hotel to do in general, and even moreso given that we are very highly rewarded members of their rewards club and have like a decade track record of being very loyal – I was not impressed at all with the customer service last night or especially today at the Comfort Inn.)

We got right on the highway and fought Indianapolis rush hour for a while, but did pretty well getting underway to Ohio.

It’s just over five hours from Indianapolis, through Dayton and Columbus, up to Canton.  It was going to be around eleven when we would arrive in town and we knew that the family would be asleep so we got a room at the Hilton Home2 Suites, which is Dominica’s favourite hotel to stay in, and crashed for the night.

The room was great and this is my first time getting to try out the Home2.  I liked it as well, although I like the Hilton Garden Inn better, I think.  But Hilton remains our favourite hotel chain, they have been so awesome to us.

I set up my laptop but pretty much was off to bed in half an hour.  I’m very tired from all of the driving and am looking forward to a nice night of sleep.  The Hilton beds and pillows are always so nice.  Liesl made me promise that I would wake her up in time to get breakfast in the morning, she is excited about getting breakfast.