He sent me a text message at dark o'clock (aka 5:30am!) and then rang me at please-leave-me-alone-to-sleep o'clock (aka 7:20am), to say that he had finished work early and would be at the block a lot earlier than originally expected so, once I woke up a bit more, I tried to hurry the packing along.
We managed to leave the house and be on the road to the block a full hour and a half ahead of the original schedule, which I thought was pretty good considering that I didn't even have to go back to the house for any last-minute bits and pieces. I had remembered to check the oil and water in the car, put petrol in it so we wouldn't get stranded on the side of the road with no fuel, pack almost everything asked for (except the camera .. some scrapbooker I am!) and still managed to be nice to the children and the dog.
We were about 1.25 hours into the trip (roughly 100kms from home) and having a lovely drive, singing long to the music on my iPod because the radio station had just started to drop out, when the car started making a funny rattling noise. I thought it was just struggling a bit to get up the hill in cruise control and was reaching to turn the cruise control off when the car decided to save me the trouble and turned itself off.
So there we were trying to use the momentum to keep going as far as we could so I could pull off at a safe point, when Alex asks from the back seat, "Did you check if the battery was connected this morning Mum?" After wrestling the car to the side of the road (no power steering without power!), I
I popped the bonnet (hood for the Americans/Canadians) and had a quick look around the engine bay to see if anything obvious jumped out and screamed "Here I am!! I'm your problem right here!! Yoohoo!! Over here!!" and when nothing did, I rang Peter and said "Your car's broken. Come and fix it." After talking to him for a few minutes, I tried to start it and it worked so we limped along a bit further before the horrible rattling noise suddenly got drastically worse and the Pajero drove itself to the side of the road, threw up its metaphorical hands in defeat and cried "Rrrrr - rrrr - rrr - rr - r - ..... "(insert silence here), which I believe means, loosely translated of course, "Get out and walk 'cos I give up!"
I rang Peter again and he said he would come and pick us up but it would take approximately 1.5 hours for him to get to us. Biting down on the urge to scream at the world, I once again popped the bonnet and when, once again, nothing jumped out at me, I got the kids out of the car to stretch their legs by taking the dog for a little jaunt into the roadside vegetation for a potty stop. This little jaunt also afforded me the opportunity to curse, quite profusely, whatever gremlin had decided to pick this day and this particular long-range trip to befoul my best laid plans.
It was at this point that my subconscious piped up the reminder that I had recently rejoined the RAC roadside assistance service and also furnished me with the phone number. (All I can say is that as much as I curse our phone provider for so many of the mindless things they do, at least they provide coverage in the areas I need it.)
I managed to get through to a real person the third time I phoned and after explaining that I did indeed have a membership and have the $190 scar on my credit card to prove it, she finally accepted that a) I was a member, b) I was in fact a premium member and c) I was stuck on the side of the highway far from home with three kids and a dog. I then had to explain numerous times that I didn't know exactly where I was, apart from on the side of the main east-west highway across the state somewhere not too far past a turnoff to Irishtown (yes it's a real place). Then we got to the real doozy ... she asked what the problem was.
Being a non-mechanically minded person, my description of the problem was limited to some very poor imitations of the rattly noise along with a very weak follow-up of "it just won't go". Her response was "So it's not a flat tyre or battery then?"
Deep breath ... "No. No it's not."
"We'll have someone out to you as soon as possible. It could be up to a 2 hour wait."
I thanked her as politely as I could, then settled back to play the game of waiting to see who would arrive first .. Peter or the RAC man.
It was during this time that I started to wonder about the state of the world today. So many people drove straight past a car with the bonnet up surrounded by 1 woman, 3 children and a dog. Most of them seemed to purposely look in the other direction to avoid getting involved. i suppose they figured that in this age of mobile phones that I had already called for help and given that I wasn't jumping up and down on the side of the road like a woman possessed, that I didn't need their help. Trying to give them the benefit of the doubt here, people!
Anyway the RAC man turned up first, asked a series of questions then got me to start the car. It would still start but wouldn't stay started unless I kept the revs really high. He made the universal symbol for 'kill it' (dragged his thumb across his throat) and then pointed out that there was hardly any water in the radiator. (At this point I would like to remind you that I remembered to check the oil and water in the car and I topped them both up to the correct levels. I had also been keeping an eye on the temperature gauge and it hadn't moved from the halfway point .. at all!) In the process of trying to explain possible causes for the overheating that had caused the water to boil off, he managed to burn himself on the very hot engine not once, but twice .. not a great confidence booster but he was nice enough and he had come to try and rescue me so I let it go.
He couldn't fix it so he arranged for a tow truck to come and get the car (and us) and take it back to Northam to the workshop. I had mentioned that Peter was on his way from the block so he made arrangements for us to wait at the workshop for as long as it took Peter to get there. Then he got into his van and drove away leaving us, once again, on the side of the road in the middle of almost nowhere waiting for the next knight in shining armour to arrive, which he did in his lovely air-conditioned tilt-tray tow-truck with plenty of room for the kids and the dog.
Once we got to the workshop, we settled in for rather a long wait and I would like to say I'm very proud of the boys for the way they just took everything in their stride. There was hardly any fighting or niggling each other, no complaints of 'I'm bored/hungry/tired' and they listened and did as they were told. Thank heavens for small mercies .. and a handbag full of treats and a cold drink machine at the shop across the road!
Peter turned up a while later and we packed as much from the Pajero into the ute as we could and then headed back home. Again, the boys did really well, especially considering we had gone from an airconditioned car with plenty of room to a non-air-conditioned ute with not much leg room, arm room or any other kind of room. Throw the dog into the mix and they all acquitted themselves quite well.
We arrived home at about 5pm so, when all was said and done, it took 6.5 hours for the boys, the dog and myself to travel roughly 200kms. An interesting day out but not one I want to repeat in a hurry!