Sunday, July 8, 2007

Change of plans

We left Minden early on July 3rd to drive out to my brother Randy's house in Colorado to get there in time to watch the town of Avon's fireworks from his condo's balcony. It was hot for Colorado--- well into the 90's, and we had been driving hard and fast all day. Rather than stop in Denver for a break, we decided to drive through town and start heading up into the mountains.

The stretch of I-70 just west of Denver has perhaps one of the steepest grades in the country. You literally climb a few thousand feet within a few short miles. My new Subaru's temperature gauge had been running slightly hotter than normal all afternoon, but I didn't really think anything of it until we got to this mountain incline. As soon as we hit the first big climb, my temp gauge shot up and teetered on the borderline of overheating. I pulled off to the first exit and called my brother who suggested I just open the hood and let it cool off for an hour. He also gave me his Subaru dealer's number down in Denver, and they gave me the same advise.

What normally would have been a two hour drive from Denver to Avon, took us nearly 4 hours due to having to stop a few more times to let the engine cool as we climbed up the mountains. Fortunately, we never overheated, and we still managed to make it to Avon in time for the fireworks show and a terrific dinner my brother and his friends had prepared for us on the balcony. It was a terrific way to end the day!

We stayed in Avon the next few days so my Mom could visit with my brother while I worked. I tried calling the Subaru dealers nearby to see if I might need a transmission cooler installed, but they all replied the same that no cooler was made for the 2008 Outbacks. So, I decided to leave things "as is" for the rest of our journey.

After leaving my brother's, the next leg of our trip was to drive up to Glacier National Park and then on to Banff. We planned to stop in Jackson, Wyoming and Yellowstone on our way up to Glacier, but we had gotten a late start out of Avon and ended up staying a few hours south of Jackson in some dusty, forgettable town on I-80.

The next morning, we heading north to Jackson and Yellowstone. The day before, at a couple of brief moments climbing up steep passes, the car had started to veer towards the borderline of overheating again, but for the rest of the trip, it performed just fine.

After stopping for gas around noontime, Mom drove another long incline towards Jackson. All of a sudden, blue smoke started pouring out from under the hood. We quickly pulled over to discover that my transmission had blown a gasket and was leaking fluid all over the highway. We were 10 miles from the closest town, but fortunately, still at the very edge of cell phone coverage, so I was able to call Subaru Roadside Assistance. They were happy to send a tow truck for me, but said it'd be about a 3 hour wait, and they also would not be able to tow my trailer. Fortunately, I also still had my Good Sam RV towing service. They were fantastic and life-saving! Good Sam arranged to send 2 trucks to rescue us, and promised to drive us all the way into Jackson (a 60 mile drive!) so that my Subaru could be taken to the dealer there. For lodging, they arranged to tow my trailer to a KOA there in town, and I also was able to get a rental car.

As we waited for the tow trucks to arrive, a number of people stopped to offer assistance. It seems like the vast distances in the West make everyone help each other a bit more than they do in the Midwest or East. Finally, our trucks arrived, with only one small problem....Millie would not be able to ride with us in the cab of the truck, she'd have to go either in the trailer or stay in the Subaru. Temperatures were again in the 90's that afternoon, so I left her in the car and rolled down the windows. What a look on her face when they hoisted the car way up onto the flatbed tow truck!

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