Thursday, December 03, 2009

A 'first' yesterday....

...and I hope it was the last.

It rained all day and a lot of the night Wednesday. Not the kind of day to be doing hours of driving, but that's exactly what my day held. One of the contributing factors took place late Tuesday afternoon, where I'll begin.

When I get busy in whatever work mode I'm in, my nose is to the grindstone and doesn't come up much. But I had a bank deposit I needed to put in by day's end, so late in the day I put the pups in the wagon and took out...just in time, as I got there 10 minutes before closing.

As I left the bank, I realized I needed gas, especially with the next day's driving....and I pulled into a station I don't normally use because they had a good (fairly decent) price for gas listed in big numbers out front. Pulled up, got out, swiped my card, hit the 'regular unleaded' button...only to realize a ruse I'd seen a lot at many South Carolina gas stations: they add a surcharge for using a card of any type. Well, that burned my butt so I stopped after 4 gallons or so and chose not to pay the 'new' not-so-decent gas price to tank up. That practice is a pet peeve of mine, not clearly marking the giant price as 'cash only'. Grrrrrrrrr.

The next morning the rains were falling...which means the pups were seeing how long they could hold it because they hate going out in the rain. I finally got on the road and was toodle-looing along well enough. There were a few stretches ahead where there were no gas stations or any services anywhere, but I didn't think twice about it. I had done some basic mental calculations as to how far I could go, and while I knew I might cut it close on gas, I still didn't think too much about it.

In my mind I was bound for a FastStop mart on the right of the road in the next city of my regular stops when going that route. As I got into the city limits, the car faltered coming out of a red light but quickly got going. Plenty of gas choices on the left side of the road, but traffic and rains were equally heavy and I continued to aim for my mecca on the right a mile or so ahead.

I headed down hill, through a light, WallyWorld on my left and there ahead was FastStop, just uphill a tad. Finally, I'd made it.


Cough, sputter, silence.

200 yards short of plenteous fuel, I ran out of gas for the first time in my life. However, there was no road shoulder, just thick heavy grass that sloped to a drainage ditch. The car got on the grass and bogged to a stop...with my bumper maybe a couple of inches from the white line on the side of the road.

Your mind runs a lot of scenarios pretty quickly...I'd seen too many reality tv shows where cars on the side of a road get creamed by careless drivers, and there was plenty of driving drivers and rain to complicate the issue.

I chose to call the local police as I was a big traffic hazard, and knew I had to get out of the car. Figured they'd be there quickly to pull up behind me and protect me from traffic. Weeeellll, let's just say I'm glad it wasn't a real emergency as it was not the fastest uniformed response I've seen. But the officer had swung by HQ to get a gas can, hence the 'delay', and then came that time where one is actually thrilled to see flashing blue lights.

So we have police, with gas can, store 200 yards ahead, and we go up to the station in the squad car while a second unit arrived to cover the car. The officer apologized because the smaller 'normal' gas can was gone, and all they had was this massive container (20-30 gallon?)....with no spout. Got the gas,wheeled around the back streets to get back to the car...and then I had to think a whole lot more.

The car tilted downward to the right toward the drainage ditch...that's the side where my fuel port is. I have a monster container with a gallon of gas but no spout or funnel. I had no choice but to become.....


I rummaged through the junk I carry in my car and found a heavy cardboard box that originally held 400 grit 5" orbital sander discs. I rummaged further and found a long metal file I use on flutes (I wondered where that one had gotten to!). The pounding rain was making this all the more fun, I might if you couldn't tell. While I did have my gore-tex jacket from the Weather Channel, which is a great severe weather coat, it was 37 degrees which made for numb fingers and feet.

I undid the box seams, flattening the corrugated cardboard out into a long rectangle. I bent into a vee shape, and tore off a few longer side edges that would get in the way. The fuel inlet has a metal flap that a spout would normally push the file had to be maneuvered to hold it open. I had the policeman hold the file just right to keep the flap up, while I lined up my cardboard sluice...and then picked up the Bahama-mama container and said 'here goes nothin'!' and started pouring. It was very cumbersome to hold steadily, so the officer took their free hand and helped tip the container with me. We didn't see it run down the side of the car, so the gas got into the tank well enough, at least the portion that didn't splash on our hands or soak into the cardboard!

I also had a roll of blue shop towels, which are excellent to have on hand for any garage or work area, so we cleaned up after the mess. The old Subie cranked right up, and the rest of the story gets back to boring...drove to the station, tanked all the way up, and resumed my trip after a 50 minute delay.

Just one or two weeks ago I'd seen the orange low-fuel light come on, and I checked the manual to ensure that I still had over a gallon of gas left. As luck would have it, the light never came on this time, and I chose to shift my trust in the 'no light on' facet instead of my mentally calculated mileage limits. Bad choice. But an interesting experience as I go back over it all.

Just another 'adventure' in the Life of Bob that I'd just as soon not repeat! May your tanks be full and your tires properly inflated this holiday season!


Bill C. said...

HA! Great story. All the right elements for the perfect storm story.

Bob Child said...

A perfect storm it was, my friend! Ugh!