Kim said she didn’t feel comfortable pulling the trailer on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even though we were only on it for two miles, and only to get to our campground, her fears were not unfounded.
We both thought we smelled the distinctive almond-like aroma of anti-freeze a couple of times on the drive from Asheville this morning, but no visible leaks, and it wasn’t hot. We got off our exit at Fancy Gap, VA, and followed the directions a short distance to the “Fancy Gap Campground”. (Note to you, faithfull reader, DO NOT let me pick a place to stay on the road).
From the road, the place, high on a windy ridge, looked deserted, a large “For Sale” sign on the building should have been an obvious clue, but I went to the office.
I was greeted by a girl who looked like she may have been the sister of the banjo playing boy from Deliverance. She stared blankly at me when I said I’d called to make a reservation, and was clearly confused trying to figure out how many nights Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday would be. After several minutes at a calendar counting, and re-counting, she was then lost trying to figure how much 3 times $31.50 would be.
“$94.50″, I said, which drew a suspicious glare.
Several more minutes struggling with a calculator, she said, “That’ll be $94.50 for three nights.”
Agreeing, but hesitant, I signed the credit card slip, and we drove up over the ridge to the campground, where we were met with what looked like an abandoned old Winnebago, partially covered with a tattered blue poly tarp. It was partially sunken into the red clay, and surrounded by piles of junk.
On down a few sites was a rusty, grey primered mid 80′s Dodge van, which also looked like a permanent fixture. Or a meth lab.
We both agreed we were creeped out enough to not want to stay there, and I went back up to the “office”, which was also the kennel for a snarling pit bull (“Doan’chew worry, she won’t bite”, Deliverance girl assured me), to unwind the deal and refund my credit card.
“Ah cain’t do that, ah don’t know how, and the owner ain’t here ’till Satu-day”, said Deliverance girl.
By that time, I figured it was worth $94.50 NOT to have to stay ther and we headed back up the Parkway to find a KOA listed as close-by.
We got less than mile, and the car made an odd high pitched whistle, and began to miss badly. We were headed up a rather steep grade, and before I could say, “This can’t be good.”, we came to a halt.
It seemed to idle fine, but wouldn’t pull itself, and the anti-freeze smell was back in a big way. I shut it off, and it restsrted,and still idled OK, so I figured it couldn’t terminal.
When I opened the hood, the problem was immediately evident. The lower radiator hose had been rubbing on the lower control arm, and had a tiny hole in it. The engine had gotten hot enough, briefly, to confuse whatever sensors deal with heat, and it quit.
As I was rummaging around my emergency kit and tools for something to temporarily patch the hose, a good Samaritan, “Dave”‘ a newly retired surgical perfusion tech (the guy who runs the heart lung machines for your cardiac surgeries), and a devout gear-head and hot-rodder, stopped to see if we needed help.
Did we ever! I had a roll of what was purported to be radiator hose repair tape, which we wrapped the injured hose with, and he started to lead us to a garage where we hoped to replace the hose. We got about 4 miles when the tape (predictably) let go and we once again lost all the coolant.
I pulled off in front a distressed looking mobile-home, and a rustic looking gent came out to see what was the trouble.
As I was telling him, he turned and said, “I got a floor jack and tools, let’s got that hose off!”
He returned with the same, I jacked the car up and pulled the hose.
With directions to an “Advance Auto” store just a few miles up the road, my new best friend “Dave” and I set out, leaving Kim and Ari with the rustic looking guy with tools, the car propped up on cement blocks. He very graciously drove me 8 miles to the nearest “Advanced Auto” store, where I bought a new flex hose and some coolant.
Half an hour later, we were back, Kim, Ari and the car were still there, and I got the new, better fitting, hose installed, the radiator filled with more coolant, and we were good to go.
With many thanks to both the fellows who helped us, and a few bucks for the guy with jack, we were off.
The KOA turns out to be a gem, I will no longer claim they are all by the freeway, next to a railroad yard, and under the flight path of a major airport. We got their LAST site, went to Galax for some great pit style bar-b-que and a beer, and are looking forward to a great day tommorow!