I flew up to Rhode Island to join Ann and Jack on Saturday. The plan was to head up to Vermont to see my sister Kris, whom I haven’t seen in a year. From there we were going to head to Wookstock, NY to see my mother and another sister. From there, we were going to head to Hastings-on-Hudson to see my third sister and then head home.
But I found out that I was going to be giving a major presentation on Friday for this project I’m working on and decided that it would be best if we got ourselves back home quickly.
We decided to drive back on Tuesday instead of Wednesday and that we’d do a quick pit stop at Ann’s friend’s Laurie’s house in the middle of New Jersey. And so we did. And we were so dead that we decided it was best to just stay there and then finish the drive early on Wednesday. We figured that if we left by about 9, we’d be home between 12 and 1 and I could work the rest of the day from home and start getting ready for Friday.
At 10:45 (or so) we were heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike. The car in front of us hit a piece of truck tire
that was in the road and bounced it towards us. The first time I saw it was when it came out from under the other car. Some instinct (which likely saved our lives) told me not to attempt a big swerve at 65ish MPH and so I hit it head on. It made a solid WHAM sound immediately followed by a weird vibrating noise. I was convinced that a piece of the tire had gotten stuck in my wheel and was causing that noise. So, I pulled off the highway to check it out.
(Note how the trucks are moving out of the way of the debris)
The first car that hit it and the car that hit it after me both stopped and their drivers got out to survey any damages. The third car must have knocked the tire to the side of the road. Both cars soon were under way again. We, however, were not.
When I looked under the car I saw that the pipe leading out of the exhaust manifold was lying on the ground. The vibrating sound I had been hearing was my engine running without any muffler whatsoever. Obviously, we were not able to drive the car. The first thought that went through my mind was that we had a 2 year old with us and how awful this day could get.
I returned to the car and broke the news to my wife and proceeded to start making the necessary phone calls. First, I called the state troopers and informed them of a disabled vehicle on the side of the road at mile marker 33.9 south.
Then I called AAA to get a tow truck. That was when I found out that our membership had lapsed and we’d never been informed or asked if we wanted to renew. So, I hashed it out with the nice woman on the phone and she renewed our membership and gave me our new membership number over the phone (moving from RI to VA means new club and new numbers).
By this point, the trooper had arrived and started getting information from Ann. He informed me that I could not call my own tow truck on a private road and he called one for me. After answering all the questions and getting my documents back from the officer, he left. This royally pissed me off as the main reason I called for a trooper in the first place was that I felt we were in an incredibly dangerous place, on the side of the highway and all, and wanted something with big flashing lights to warn off any traffic that might stray over and hit us.
After about an hour from the start of this mess, a tow truck arrived. We moved Jack’s car seat into his cab and got Ann settled up there as well. Then I got back into the car and the tow truck operator hoisted the car up onto the bed of his truck. I have to say, that 6 mile ride to his service station was pretty damn scary. I was bouncing around up there and generally feeling very out of control and sick. Maybe the adrenaline from the accident was wearing off or may be it really was a harrowing ride. Either way, I was glad to get down when we reached our destination.
His station did not handle exhaust system work so I called AAA again and arranged for a tow down the street to a muffler place. We waited for an hour outside for the tow truck and were very hot, very stressed, and very annoyed. We couldn’t go inside the station where it was much cooler as the guys inside were chain smoking. So we sat on the curb with Jack, sweating, and told him the same story over and over and over (hey, he kept asking for it).
When the next tow truck arrived he informed us that he wasn’t allowed to let us ride with him nor could we ride in our car. So we called a cab.
30 minutes later and 3 miles further down the road, we waited in the smoke-free, air-conditioned waiting room of Bargain Brake and Muffler. Jack drew with the crayons they had while Ann and I tried not to stress over the situation.
In the end, they were able to fix the car up on the cheap and all was well. Four hours later and $140 poorer, we were on the road to home.
It was a very, very long day.