Breakdowns in New Orleans

My first full day in New Orleans I was driving around the French Quarter looking for a place to park. I wondered just who thought it was such a great idea to have a 25,000 person conference in New Orleans the same time as a major festival. I wondered just who thought it was such a great idea to take a camper in New Orleans. Ever. I had just finished my third pass through the insanely crowded Quarter and was approaching Canal Street, a major boulevard that is the southwest border of the Quarter when Walden stalled, conked out, and then would not start again. The gas gauge, which I hadn’t noticed in a while, was very low. Could I really be out of gas? Really?! I was sure that I’d seen the gauge lower than that, but Walden wasn’t starting. The light had turned green and the people behind and around me who were also desperate to get out of the Quarter were not happy about being stuck behind me.

I put my friend behind the wheel and managed to push Walden out of the intersection and head down Canal, which was ever-so-slightly down hill. I pulled to a stop halfway out of the street and halfway in to what might have been a parking space if not for the fire hydrant. Still no joy on the starting of the car. I called my good friends at AAA. They sent someone out, saying that since I was in front of a hydrant and everything, they’d try to hurry.

My friend walked off in search of a credit card that had been misplaced the night before and I waited in Walden, hoping that I would not have to explain to a cop why it was I was half-parked in front of a hydrant. It was sort of hot. I thought that perhaps I should drink a beer. Sure, I was illegally parked in a disabled vehicle, but hey, it was New Orleans. I consulted textually with a friend whom I count on to help make difficult decisions. She confirmed that a beer was in order.

To be on the safe side, I poured the beer from its can into a wide-mouth thermos (that I’d use in a couple of days to take to a little league game). I’d finished about half my beer when I saw a cop approaching. I put the beer down. The cop continued his approach.

I rehearsed my spiel. Out of gas. AAA on the way. Yes, I was sorry that I was parked in front of the hydrant. Yes, I was sorry that I was partially blocking a major thoroughfare the day of a festival. Would you like a beer, officer? Stuff like that.

The cop got to my car and kept walking. Without breaking stride, he got into the car parked immediately front of me and drove off. “Cool,” I thought, “I can pull into that space and be parked legally.” I picked up my beer, so as not to spill it. (“Don’t drink and drive,” the saying goes, “You might hit a bump and spill your drink.”) Hoping to use the starter to push me the 10 feet into the space, I turned the key.

The car started.

I wasn’t out of gas. “It must be the water-in-the-gas problem that I’d been having sporadically since Montgomery,” I thought. Now I was in the car and it was running. Should I drive to a gas station now and fill up, leaving my friend in the Quarter and the AAA guy looking for me? No, that’d be rude. I got out my guitar and decanted another beer into the wide-mouth thermos.

After a couple songs the AAA guy arrived. He poured in some gas. I gave him a fiver for his trouble, and poured in a bottle of HEET 28202 Iso-HEET Premium Fuel-line Antifreeze Water Remover and Injector Cleaner. My friend returned from a fruitless card-retrieving mission, and we headed out.

A couple days later, I was driving out to a coffee shop to sit quietly and use a WIFI connection. Again, Walden stopped and refused to start. And refused. And refused. I considered calling the good people at AAA again, but in order to do so, I’d need to have somewhere for them to tow me. How in the world was I going to find a Volkswagen mechanic on a Sunday? What was I to do? Perhaps this whole “live in a van” thing was indeed a stupid idea. Perhaps a home that didn’t break down and had a real bed and a full kitchen and a dishwasher was what I wanted after all.

No. I would prevail. I went to the back of the camper, pulled out a couple bottles of HEET 28202 Iso-HEET Premium Fuel-line Antifreeze Water Remover and Injector Cleaner, emptied them into the tank, let the fuel pump mix it up a bit, cranked up the car and after only a few more minutes of miserable uncertainty, was again on my way.

After my visit to the coffee shop, I headed for an auto parts store and emptied the shelf of HEET.

I hope that these spells are a result of the water that is still in the system just getting stirred up again and not the result of more water getting in to the system. I don’t know of how water could make its way from other parts of the engine into the fuel system and several of these incidents have happened on beautiful days, so I don’t think it’s getting in through the filler.

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2 Responses to Breakdowns in New Orleans

  1. bogart says:

    Hmmm.  Makes a good story.

    I’m no expert, but I can tell you that even with the high-end plan there comes some point when AAA decides you have called them too often.  My father, who wasn’t into fixing things he could make other people’s problems, found this out (fairly recently, with a AAA membership I gave him for Christmas one year).  I mention this just in case it may be useful.  It’s a safe guess my dad called AAA 1001 times, so the threshold (at least with the high-end plan) is probably pretty high.

  2. pfaffman says:

    Yeah, Bogart. I’m aware of that. Since I got Walden and upped my membership, I have had two tows and one gas. I’m hoping not to make a habit of it, but I’m not off to a very good start.

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