Welcome to part II of Mental’s BABE Rally misadventures. Read on about his tempting of fate, the security of his marriage and his own personal safety by dragging his wife across the US in a $400 minivan without AC. Spoiler alert, his wife didn’t kill him but he did have to sleep on the couch for a while. When we last left our intrepid traveler, he was in a hotel parking lot at 7 AM on his way to the “Tail of the Dragon.”
It’s 7 AM, we have had a shower and I have downed my 5th styrofoam cup of coffee. Our Luminia MPV is covered in sidewalk chalk and rally stickers. As we made ready for departure, the Miata needed some attention, so we were already late.
Departures had started at 7. We got under way around 9 and within 10 minutes we were off paved roads climbing Appalachian peaks. The very tired MPV rattled and creaked alarmingly, but made the crossing.
Our treat was scheduled for around noon, where our path would take us to the famed “Tail of the Dragon.” After lunch at the Deal’s Gap Pub and Grill, as well a photo shoot in front of the Tree of Shame, we started out to conquer Hwy 91. My wife was less than excited, but I was as wound-up as a 5 year old watching The Power Rangers.
As luck would have it, when pulling out of the parking lot, I managed to get behind the only vehicle that would be slower, a Mercedes 2 liter diesel. Seriously? What are the odds a 150,000 mile minivan would be the one held up? My wife wisely suggested we simply pull off and put some distance between us. Good plan! She’s a smart woman, well aside from marrying me.
The drive was spirited, but by no means sporty. Then, on our descent, disaster struck! The struggling 3800 simply quit. I immediately shifted to neutral and attempted to restart. No joy. The whole drive right up to failure can be watched here (be warned, its almost 20 minutes and I sound like a jerk when I talk to her. Fear not, she doesn’t put up with that kind of behavior normally);
Ultimately we deadsticked the van to the bottom of the hill, where the rest of our team was waiting, and there the first instance of the crapcan fraternity took hold. With the hood up and the team working to diagnose the issue, no less than eight other BABE cars stopped and provided assistance.
One brilliantly constructed Dodge minivan equipped with a keg and a tap outside the vehicle (not violating open-containers laws that way) provided refreshments to the non-drivers. Another volunteer ferried my wife with a list to locate the nearest auto parts store, over an hour away.
Lawn chairs came out and even Killboy came to photograph the party waiting at the bottom of the dragon. My wife was in awe that folks we had never met were voluntarily knee deep in the engine bay to help.
Several hours later, the MPV was actually running, but not very well. We set off in what was Tweeted as “the most pathetic convoy ever” and headed to our next destination in Ft Payne Alabama, home of the Alabama Museum. Not the state mind you, the band.
Our Lumina was defiant. The dash lights began flashing in a random pattern. The rpms slowly bled off and within another hour, we were dead again by side of I-59, and still in Georgia. The sad convoy continued on once they were assured that AAA was en route. We were towed to the hotel on a flatbed. Having now been awake for just over 40 hours, we took turn making delirious small talk with the tow truck driver and cat napping for the remaining 115 miles.
An entire parking lot had been reserved on the back side of the hotel, wisely away from the rooms. Our arrival and diagnosis are captured between 10: 20 and 11:50, again at 15:18; and 16:15 to 18:20 in a three part documentary from a film student, you can watch here;
I have been accused of the occasional embellishment in my stories, but I do not exaggerate what happened between the exchanges in the video. Professional mad scientist Eric (in the glasses), Marlboro hanging from his lip, listened to my recounting of the breakdown, walked to the van, reached into the engine bay and pulled out a handful of stray wires.
“Try it.” He mumbled through his cigarette. It started. It didn’t run well, but it did run
“I’ll have it fixed tomorrow. You look like shit, get some sleep” Harsh words from a guy several beers and a head gasket change into the evening.
In addition to our wounded minivan, the Two Horsemen of the Carpocalypse’s 1973 Plymouth Valiant blew a head gasket. The gasket change was wonderfully time lapse filmed;
Thank God Mental’s wife is Catholic or she’d have left him. She was half asleep when he relayed the van actually ran again. The next morning she asked if she dreamed the conversation. She was probably more upset, because they had to keep going. The rest of the day she constantly quoting Forrest Gump saying “Al – La-BAMA!” Clearly the heat was getting to her …