I Pit my vacation (long story)

Murphy’s Law Vacation
By Russ White

Well, I’m back from my 2 week vacation to visit friends in Richmond Virginia, back and rested up and raring to go, it’s amazing what a vacation will do for you, and considering this is the first vacation i’ve had in over 5 years, i really needed it :wink:

How did it go, you ask, it was, well, interesting, interesting and WET, unfortunately i had Murphy riding shotgun in the passenger seat for the whole two weeks…

I packed the car up and left on a Friday, i had mapped out my route on MapQuest, and it looked to be about a 12 hour drive, easily doable in one day, and the route was simple, 89 south to 91 south, to 95 south all the way to my friends house, couldn’t be much easier, right?

wrong, i had my first inklings of trouble when i went to put my kayak on my Thule Kayak Stackers (J-bar kayak holders) and two of the brackets cracked under the weight of the kayak, so i took off the stackers and strapped the kayak directly to the roof rack instead, i figured this was a sign of things to come…

once the kayak was secured, i headed down 89 South to 91 South, there were no troubles or delays until i arrived in in Massachusetts, where i ran into construction zones that dropped the speed limit to 45, but with traffic, i was lucky to do 20 MPH, Connecticut was pretty trouble free.

I get into New York, where 95 becomes the Cross Bronx Thruway, and traffic again slows to a crawl, and due to lack of decent road signs i worry that I’m on the wrong road, i see no signage telling me what road I’m on, after what feels like 2 years in the car, i pass an overturned 18 wheeler on the side of the road, and pass a sign that tells me I’m still on 95 south, I’m delayed again, but not lost, as i exit the Bronx, traffic thins out again, and I’m finally able to get back up to speed…

then just as i was getting back into the swing of things, i hit the New Jersey Parking Lot (otherwise known as the NJ Turnpike), i hit the longest line of traffic i had EVER seen in my life, no exaggeration, it would have been quicker to walk, i sat in that jam for well over 3 hours, fuming, i found myself wishing for some form of phasing cloak or even a “Stargate” style teleporter system…

after what felt like 3 Presidential administrations in that parking lot, i finally was out of NJ (and there was much rejoicing, yaay!) (no offense to NJ natives, the non-industrial parts of Jersey are quite nice, very verdant) and had a non-eventful drive thru Maryland and Delaware, little traffic and minimal delays, i finally rolled into Virginia about 14 hours later, and hit…ANOTHER TRAFFIC JAM!!! (at this point i was wishing for tactical nuclear weapons attached to the car, I’m sure I’m mature enough to handle the responsibility :wink: ) after another 2 hour delay (and me using language that would make a sailor blush), i arrive at my destination, 16 hours later, i greet my friends, talk with them for about a half hour and then stumble upstairs and fall into a deep, comalike sleep

i awake around noon-ish, maybe 1 PM, looking forward to doing some fishing or maybe mountain biking, to discover that it’s raining, ranging from “drizzle” to “torrential downpour”, fishing and biking are out, so we go to the Virginia Air Museum which happens to have my all time favorite aircraft on static display on the front lawn, the Lockheed SR-71 BLACKBIRD!!

it’s my absolute favorite aircraft, and i feel privileged to be able to see one in person (it’s smaller than i expected it would be), but i also feel it’s a sacrilege to have such a beautiful aircraft sitting idle on a lawn, when it should be up in the stratosphere, screaming along at Mach 3+, this bird was meant to be FLOWN not sit on display…

the rest of the week was similar, weather-wise, rain, rain, and more rain, we still had fun just hanging out, we went to the Bass Pro Shops store and i picked up a couple of Tornado spinnerbaits, an exclusive Bass Pro lure i always wanted to get, but never got around to ordering, and we did go fishing on one of the less rainy days, although we didn’t catch anything, it looked very bassy there, it was still fun.

we went to a couple of all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurants, which made the mistake of having all-you-can-eat Sushi and snow crab legs, so needless to say, we got our money’s worth from those restaurants :wink: (they were seriously starting to get annoyed with us, we were “eating” all their profits, as it were… :wink: )

we were hoping the next week would be less rainy, it was, somewhat, it didn’t have the constant drizzle of rain, but when it did rain, it rained hard, there were a couple of nice sunny days though, and we were able to go on a nice all day kayak trip up and down the quieter portions of the James River, very nice river, ranges from flatwater to class 5 rapids, and go on a leisurely stroll down the Pony Pasture nature trail which runs parallel to some of the more rapidy areas of the James (Class 2 and 3)

Murphy was with me on my Kayak trip for sure, i strap the kayak down to the roof rack and proceed to pull out onto the road, when i begin to break, my car jolts, shudders, and proceeds to make a horrible screeching noise when i hit the brakes, after a couple of braking tests, the noise disappears, but the pedal still pulses slightly, i figure it’s corrosion on the rotors from sitting idle in a week of nonstop rainstorms, and since the James River is less than 10 miles away, i decide to chance it and have the car checked out the next day, after all, i need a lube/oil/filter job anyway…

we go on out kayak trip and on the drive home i notice a distinct reduction in braking performance, so i drop the car off at a Firestone shop first thing in the morning, (an actual Firestone service center, not some mom and pop shop), tell them precisely what i need to have checked, lube/oil/filter and check the brakes, I’m hearing a grinding noise and feeling pedal pulsations when i brake.

I get a ride home with Danielle, at around 4 PM, having heard nothing, i call them, getting the standard “we’ll call you back” message, around 5:30, no callback, so i call them again, and am told the car is ready, were the brakes checked, yes, both front and rear, yes, they test out fine…

i pick the car up, the grinding noise is gone, everything appears to be normal, i park the car for the rest of the week, because we use Ed and Danielle’s cars anyway, they know the area

i get the car packed up on Thursday morning and head back home, this time using Ed’s directions, it’s a longer drive mile-wise, but it cuts out over half of the NJ Parking Lot and 95, instead, sending me up the New York Thru-Way into Plattsburgh, where i grab the ferry across to Grand Isle, and get on 89 South back to Barre, this time, traffic is nonexistent, except on the NJ Parking Lot, but that’s only in the southbound lane, northbound is clear

right around the Albany area, i begin to hear a familiar and unsettling noise when braking, but I’m 8 hours into my drive and can’t simply turn back, i have to tough it out

by the time i reach the ferry, I’m sure that there’s something wrong with my brakes, the distinct sound of metal-on-metal scraping is not good, i keep a safe distance and following speed from other traffic and gingerly coax my way back to Barre, 12 hours later, I’m back home, i collapse into bed…

the next day, i wake up around 10-ish and take my car to my local, trusted mechanic and have them check the brakes…

just as i expected, the rotors are gouged beyond the point of repair, i okay a brake and rotor replacement, it’s not like i have a choice in the matter, as brakes are a kinda’ important safety system, once the car’s been repaired, my mechanic brings over one of the brake pads, telling me that he’d like me to see this…

he hands me one of the inner shoes, a brake shoe that’s MISSING HALF THE PAD, it’s cleanly broken off, no sign of it anywhere, it’s obvious the Firestone shop didn’t check the brakes at all, i call the shop and explain my disappointment with their service, they refund my money (free lube job, WOOHOO!) and the manager goes to chew out the mechanic who “checked” the brakes, i offer to send them a digital photo of the pad, but they either don’t want it or don’t care (they claimed they have no e-mail at the shop), they’re just lucky i didn’t get into an accident after they declared my brakes “safe”, there was no way they were safe, I’m not a litigatious person by any means, but if i was involved in an accident due to their negligence, i’d sic my insurance company on them at least, but since nobody was hurt it’s not an issue, I’m just a little ticked off at their lax attitude, looking at it cynically, they had an opportunity to make a lot more than the $30 they billed me for a lube job/check out the car thing, so why didn’t they do it, they were just too lazy

still, i had fun, yes the weather could have been nicer, and i wish the traffic wasn’t so heavy on the drive down, but i still had a fun, relaxing vacation, i just wish Murphy didn’t tag along…