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Roadtrip adventures part 2: car trouble

I broke camp early on Sunday morning with a long drive ahead of me from Virginia back to Toronto. I didn’t get far though. A short distance out of Buena Vista, my car started over-heating. Before it got really bad, I turned around and headed right back to the campground.

My new friend George was super-helpful. We took a look and could see where the radiator was spitting out what coolant remained. It was Sunday. I wasn’t going to be able to find a mechanic open. I really didn’t know what to do. George drove me into town and we got more coolant and some stop-leak goo in the hopes we could stop the leak long enough for me to get home.

The stuff did its job and within a few minutes the leak sealed up. The system refilled with coolant, I was on my way. Everything was going fine until about half-way home in central Pennsylvania, when I started overheating again. I pulled over to the side of the secondary highway I was on. I figured I would let it cool down, refill with coolant, and hopefully that would get me home. Unfortunately this plan was a fail. The leak was back and had expanded and even with more coolant in the system, it was running very hot very quickly.

I learned from a fellow who lived across from where I stopped that I was just outside of Philipsburg, and this town had both a motel and a mechanic. I was able to drive into town without incident and pulled into the motel parking lot as steam began again coming from under the hood. There was nothing to do but get a room and find the mechanic in the morning.

Monday morning I was able to get to the garage on a cool engine without overheating too badly. It was only a few blocks away. The mechanic took a look at it and said the radiator needed to be replaced but everything else seemed OK.


He made several calls in an effort to get me a radiator Monday. Unfortunately, the one I needed was a special order and they said they would not have it until Tuesday afternoon. I left the car with the mechanic, threw a clothes bag over my shoulder and walked back to the motel to book another night.

Food choices in town were somewhat limited to pizza, Subway sandwiches, McDonalds and a small Chinese buffet. Philipsburg is a quiet place without a lot going on for the stranded traveler. Fortunately, I had a book with me, Cabbagetown by Hugh Garner. This excellent novel is set in the original Cabbagetown neighbourhood in Toronto during the Depression. It traces the lives of a boy we meet as a 16 year-old named Ken Tilling, and the people he knows as they cope with poverty during several years after the crash. It’s an excellent novel and I recommend it.

After completing the novel, with plenty of time on my hands I checked out television. It seemed as if most of the channels down there played a huge number of commercials, many of them about insurance schemes or ads for miracle drugs with super-dangerous side-effects, from suicidal thoughts to liver failure to projectile vomiting. Always as the voice-over describes the side-effects, we see smiling people walking together, glowing with good health. I found a channel that showed nothing but bad Western tv shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke and The Virginian and The Big Valley. I gobbled them up.

Check-out time Tuesday was 11:00 AM. The radiator wasn’t due in until some time in the afternoon, but with no place else to go I walked back to the garage. To my surprise the radiator was in and the mechanic was finishing up the job. I was on the road at noon and home in time for supper. There was a time when I would have been quite anxious about a situation like the one I faced, but this time I was fairly relaxed about it. After all, I was safe, the car was safe, I had a warm place to sleep and some food to eat. It was sure good to see Tuffy P and the menagerie, though, that’s for sure!

I partially unpacked last night and did up my laundry. I still have all kinds of stuff in the car though, to deal with today. I’m stalling.

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