It’s the summer of 2020, and after months of being home, we decided to venture north to Georgia where unlike Florida, their beautiful state parks still have ample camping availability. But it’s 2020, so we would be foolish to expect a trip without a little drama, right?
Andrew starts us off for a couple of hours before we do the driver switch at lunchtime. I’ve been driving along 301, several hours from home and not far from Jacksonville, when our beloved check engine light turns on. We drive a 2003 Yukon XL and she has a few quirks. One is that her check engine light turns on with some frequency. She did this to us on day one of last year’s epic road trip, where we logged more than 8500 miles, as well. Everything else seems to be fine though, no other lights warning us of anything important, and experience has taught us that this usually goes away on its own after a break and a top off. So we forge ahead.
Soon we start thinking about getting gas. We’ve got a bit more than a quarter of a tank still and only about 8 miles to I-10. We soon pass a Mobil but since we think the stations by the freeway will have more space for us to maneuver our rig, we pass it by.
Suddenly, the gas pedal stops working. I’m pulling a 33’ trailer and we’ve got our four kids in the car and I’m losing power. Fast. I turn on the hazards and start moving off the road, slowing down to ease our inevitable and imminent transition onto the bumpy grass shoulder. Soon after we hit the grass, the steering cuts out. The battery light flashes briefly and then nothing. Our car has officially broken down.
We pop the hood, and after a brief evaluation we swiftly decide to call AAA. We eventually are told to expect a call from a tech within 20 minutes and that time of arrival should be within 2 hours. Two hours.
If only we had stopped at that Mobil. It turns out from a quick google search that it’s only 0.8 of a mile behind us. At this point, of course, we still aren’t sure what the problem is. There are so many possibilities! But what if it’s as simple as gas? Andrew decides it is likely faster to walk back and get gas himself. He soon recruits a strong teenager and gets an eager 9-year-old along for the hot and humid trek.
Three of us wait with the trailer. We are being passed by two lanes of busy traffic with breaks every few minutes. I didn’t get very far off the road before we broke down completely so our whole rig shakes with each passing car, especially with the trucks. Andrew calls me to suggest I put out the emergency triangles, which I do. We should have done that right away. It actually makes a noticeable difference: more people seem to make the effort to move over compared with just the hazards. Not everyone, by a long shot, but more. We wait.
Enter our super heroine!
Unbeknownst to us, a woman driving a Class C heading in the opposite direction saw us broken down at the side of the road. Nearly a mile down the road, she saw Andrew and two of our kids walking along the grass shoulder lugging two heavy 5-gallon containers of gas. These weigh some 35 pounds each. She actually took the time to make a U-turn and stop to offer them a ride. They gratefully accepted, after making sure she was OK with two large containers of gas in her vehicle. They piled in the back, joining her friendly tail-wagging dog, for a much-appreciated ride back to our camper.
With just a quick wave, she was gone!
What a kind woman and fellow camper! Especially in these times of COVID19, as only my youngest was wearing her mask at the time. We all really appreciated her taking the time to help out some strangers.
Now we had gas! The gas container was a bit different from what we were used to but despite traffic screaming by at 60 MPH, the guys soon figured it out. It’s easy. Once you know, you know!
When we finally had the better part of 10 gallons in the tank, we tried the ignition, with baited breath and all fingers crossed that this was actually it.
The engine turned over! We were in business! Did I mention it was now raining? Perhaps our kind heroine knew the rain was headed our way and I can only imagine how much worse it would have been to lug those containers through the rain. We appreciated her all the more!
And wouldn’t you know it, literally 30 seconds after we breathed that big sigh of relief, AAA showed up.
We explained that we’d gotten gas ourselves and that our rig seemed functional so he offered to follow us the 5 miles toward the stations adjacent to the freeway to make sure we got there.
And we did!
As it turned out, we still had 7 gallons of gas when we broke down. From my scant understanding, our dear Yukon apparently has some sort of main gas tank and an auxiliary gas tank, with a pump in between. This pump has been deemed “weak” and even though we took her in for a check-up and new fluids last week to prepare for our trip, this didn’t come up. That seems to be why we never got a low fuel warning and why we ended up stuck on the side of the road. We had the gas, but the Yukon just couldn’t access it all.
So suffice it to say we’ll now be stopping for fuel when she’s showing her tank half full! And she’ll be getting some work done when we get home…
Of course, we are all happy everything turned out well and it was really a relatively minor thing! While Andrew and I had thoughts of possible major expenses, huge hassles, vacation cancellations, awkward towing and so on, the perspectives of kids are so different. I had to laugh when I saw my daughter’s entry in our camping journal. ❤️