Well, my first major roadtrip by car out of DC and it was quite the adventure, to put it mildly.
Warned that traffic out of the metro area is beastly the Wednesday before the holiday, I postponed departure for southern New Jersey — to see my friend Lin and her family — until Thursday morning.
No problem getting out to the Beltway or up I-95 in the busy corridor between DC and Baltimore. But for some reason, everyone wanted to get into Delaware, as the backup of traffic to the tollbooths there lasted a good hour.
My cell phone had died a few days before and Verizon was giving me the runaround about a replacement, so I didn’t have a phone to call and let my hosts know I’d be late. Thankfully, they were very understanding.
Then on the return trip my car radio died going through the tollbooths into Maryland from Delaware, and then the speedometer needle started spinning wildly and then settled permanently on zero. I started pulling over to the shoulder, and the whole car died.
Without a cell phone, I just settled in for someone to call the police for me. An hour later, I realized that everyone assumes travelers carry cell phones with them, and no one was making that call. So I started walking down busy I-95 toward a rest area a couple of miles away.
A nice guy stopped soon into my trek and offered to let me use his cell phone to call roadside assistance. He then insisted on driving me back to my car, which required a few miles up to the next exit and then turning back several more miles to get to where my car was parked. He offered to wait with me for the towtruck, but I let him know he had been so kind already and that wasn’t necesary. He pulled out a cold bottle of water for me, though, before he departed.
I learned that he is in the Army and recently home from his second tour of duty in Iraq (with a tour in Afghanistan inbetween). He’s a mechanical engineer and helps design military vehicles to keep the troops as safe as possible. Before he left, he took a look inside the car hood and confirmed his suspicion that the trouble was the need for a new alternator.
Thankfully, the towtruck driver was, after several calls, able to find someone who could replace that part that afternoon. $270 later, I resumed my trip and got home without further incident.