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Audis, Lawn Mowers, Big Men (LONG)
Bonnie and I have just returned from another great Northeast Region Audi
Quattro Club event at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. This story is not
really about that, or maybe it is.
After packing up both of our cars with all the track paraphenalia and
weekend luggage we bid fond goodbyes to all our friends and headed out on
the three hour drive home towards Portsmouth, NH. As we left the last road
leading to the entrance of the track we noticed Chris Miller leaving behind
us in a different direction in his '91 200TQ. I was slightly disappointed
to notice this as I thought it might be fun for the three of us to drive
back together as he made his way back to Windham, NH.
As Bonnie and I made our way through Salisbury I took a wrong turn up 41
by the White Hart Inn, but we continued along this slightly longer but
equally enjoyable route. We enjoyed seeing the pheasants and wild turkeys
in the rich green rain soaked fields of grass as dusk fell slowly under a
drizzly grey sky. As we rolled by Great Barrington and Stockbridge
Massachusetts and back onto the preferred route, we noticed by pure chance
that Chris Miller was in our mirrors and we were pleased and surprised to
find our paths had joined again. We all stopped for gas together and
discussed stopping for dinner in Springfield to break up the trip and
extend an already long, but enjoyable day. We continued on our way a few
miles north to the "Pike" when just as we arrived at the ramp my warning
guage indicated a low voltage situation only to be confirmed by a guage
reading 11.7 volts, and reconfirmed again by channel 11 on the climate
control. It had been so wet all day I hoped that it was something
temporary, but also remembered the spare brush pack in my track toolbox.
I watched the guage continue to dip with no sign of relief and got on the
portable radio to let Bonnie know that my ship was going down. I failed to
remember that we were on the loneliest stretch of the Pike save the drone
of the 18 wheelers and some 30 miles from the nearest exit. It was
Saturday night and auto parts stores were closing their doors rapidly. At
about mile 15 the ABS system shut down. This is the last warning of
impending shutdown. At mile 19.9, under a bridge, my steed would go no
further. Chris who was still in tow had no idea what was happening until
we came to a stop, but I quickly explained the situation to him as I began
to remove the plastic cover hiding the alternator and darkness began to
fall. Chris broke out the flares I had and dropped them on the highway as
the trucks and cars buzzed by.
We discovered that the alternator belt was loose and in fact had worn and
twisted on itself when Alan Belavance appeared with his '93 90Q and trailer
to offer assistance as well. Alan was on his way back to Canada and
certainly didn't need the delay. He had already spent the last two days as
Bonnie's instructor at Lime Rock. You'd think he'd had had enough of us by
then, but he didn't hesitate for a moment to offer a hand as we broke out
the tools. AAA was called somewhere during this mess and they were
somewhat typically unhelpful to our situation. AAA basically offered to
tow us backwards to a hotel until we could get the car fixed on
Sunday....great. We all decided to forge ahead at that point and see if
we could extend the life of the belt by reinstalling and tightening it up.
As a twist of fate would have it, Chris Miller had the very belt that we
needed in his car until that morning when it he took it out. I think he
said that it had been in his car for two years and he just decided to take
it out that very morning. We got the job done together with the old belt
in about 10 minutes and decided to make a go of it. The belt lasted about
60 seconds, but we limped forward with Bonnie in front, me in the middle
with lights off, and Chris lighting up my rear bumper.
We made it a few miles when I we spotted a State Trooper coming up fast.
We were all sure he was coming for the mystery car with no lights when we
peeled off into a maintenance area together and he just sped by. Chris
hooked up the jumpers to get me a small battery charge and off we went
again with me as the dark and disabled filling of a 70mph automotive
sandwich. I had even pulled the fan relay to keep it from eating valuable
electrons. It began to rain again and the wipers didn't have juice enough
to run. When we saw the Blandford rest area, we knew it was time to bail
off the highway for safety if nothing else.
I'll spare you all the details of phonecalls to another AAA towing
company, an autoparts store that "couldn't do a thing" and an attempt to
reach Sears automotive (closed at 6:00) only to be put in touch with Bed
and Bath. Chris was still with us when he suggested the lawn and garden
department of Sears about 15 miles away in Holyoke. "They have all kinds
of belts for lawnmowers" he said. I don't know whether it was desparation,
gratitude, or amazement that he suggested it, that put us all in Bonnie's
car to beat their closing time of 9:30 PM. It was now 9:00. We sped down
the Pike and reached Sears with only 10 minutes to spare. We ran through
hardware and before we knew it we were staring at a wall of 30 and 40 inch
belts designed for the likes of a Toro and not a 9 year old German car.
One more look revealed a few odd belts further down the wall. All one
size. All model 7133356. One choice is a choice of one and in fact, no
choice at all. It looked "about right" though.
Chris grabbed one and I grabbed another and we took off to hardware to
find a metric ruler and see if we were right. It was close. Within 2mm in
width and within a few milimeters in length. Those with no choice, don't
make choices, so I bought two and I crossed my fingers. A few minutes
later we back on the Pike westbound and decided to stop at the Burger King
across from the rest area where my car was for a little "food." Again, a
case of no choice. After we ate I got to do something else I hadn't done
until last night......pull a u-turn on a highway....and we were back.
Again, with Chris's help we put "lawn mower drive belt" #7133356 in it's
new home and fired up my old grey nag. Things looked good. I was getting
13 volts. It was now close to 10:30PM and we were rolling again. In fact,
we continued to roll along for the next 150 miles with Chris close at hand
for half of those when we lost each other around Worcester.
We got home feeling tired, lucky, and grateful. A lawn mower belt! If I
had been forced to stand on the highway for a week I don't think I would
have thought of that. Chris Miller did though, and Bonnie and I were glad
that he did. His continued assistance was appreciated more than he knows.
The remaining five Tuckerman's ales I gave him was a pretty short gift for
his troubles. My hat is off to Chris....an extremely tall man in an
average size body!
Lawmower parts! I still can't believe it.
Paul Royal aka "8 Rings of Torture"