They say bad luck comes in threes…

There is an old saying that says bad things always happen in groups of three, and if that is true, I am sure glad, because right now I don’t think I could stand anymore…And I KNOW our wallet couldn’t!

It all started with a trip to Newport for Chinese food. My son and I both like a buffet, but the wife prefers to get take out. So we promised to bring her home an order of lo mein from the restaurant across from the one with the buffet.

It was sunny when William and I went into eat, but by the time we were ready to head home, it was dark, and it had rained a little bit and this made visibility poor at best with the headlights reflecting off the wet surfaces.

Making a right hand turn OVER this divider proved very costly! (photo credit: Google Earth)

As I went to pull into the entrance to the restaurant I misjudged where I was, and drove up onto the curbing that separates the parking lot from the road. Going up onto the curb there was hardly any bump at all. In fact, I didn’t know there was an issue until the front wheels dropped into the parking lot, and by then the damage was done.

The undercarriage bottomed out. And I mean THE WHOLE undercarriage. Backing up was not an option, as our Dodge Grand Caravan groaned in protest, so I pulled forward….That was when the exhaust protested.

The next day, we had been in Augusta for a Pro-Second Amendment rally, and we decided to get some estimates for repairs to the exhaust.

We found out I did a great job of breaking things… starting by stretching the flex pipe at the catalytic converter to the max, and beyond, then crimping, and denting every corner in the exhaust, and finally tearing a hole in one section to the tune of some $1,200 in damages including parts and labor.

We had no sooner left the garage from getting that estimate when the next thing went wrong.

A week or so back, there was a grinding noise from the rear brakes.

We had changed the front pads and rotors back in Nov and knew the rear would need changing soon. We set it up for a good friend to do them for us this coming Monday morning. Before we got home, we were also actually supposed to pick up the parts. I figured we had plenty of time because the brake light hadn’t even come on yet.

We got down the road about a quarter mile from the garage and stopped at an intersection. It felt like the wife had stopped a little hard…But she hadn’t done it on purpose. The rear passenger’s side brake had locked nearly solid.

When my wife stepped on the gas to get out of the busy intersection, and into a nearby parking lot we took off with such a mighty roar of the Dodge Ram 6 cylinder, and a screaming tire that for a moment it felt like we were in a drag race.

Once safely in the parking lot, I called a mechanic friend who was too busy to get us in for repairs, but he suggested we put the van in reverse and give’r the gas to see if that would free the frozen calipers, and thankfully he was correct! That was when the brake light came on.

We made a bee-line for the Meineke shop over on State Street in Augusta where fortunately Earl and his crew were able to get us right in.

While having my buddy do the brakes on Monday would have saved us a little money, we were lucky that our delay in service ended up costing us less than $400.

We were also very lucky we were able to free the brakes and avoid a towing fee, and that Meineke was so close at hand. Had the brakes locked on one of the many rural roads we travel, the cost could have been much higher!

On the way out of Meineke, Jen noticed a steady “thump-thump-thump” as she drove, and the tire pressure indicator light came on. So we headed for a travel stop to check the air in the tires, and perhaps get a coffee for the trip back to the Newport area.

We pulled up to the air hose, and I deposited the buck fifty in quarters it takes for three minutes of air, and I went to take the cap off the front tire. When it came off, I was blasted in the face with stale air as the tire released all its pressure from the broken stem that I was now holding in my hand.

That was when I remembered that I had broken my 4-way lug wrench a couple months ago when I changed a flat tire in my driveway and that my jack was sitting right next to the pieces…still in my driveway.

$65 later, a roadside service had our donut on, and I headed to one of the local franchise repair shops where I was told it would be a couple hours before they could get me in for some new tires.

We just had four new tires put on last summer, but they were having a rough life. Two of them were punctured by sharp rocks and had to be patched, and the road service guy had pointed out that the tread on the tire he changed had some large slices in it.

The guy at the franchise was able to replace the stem on the front tire, so we could at least get home, and make arrangements for replacements at a later time, but he didn’t have time to swap out the donut, and replace the front tire.

So we decided to try our luck elsewhere. We were not comfortable driving from Augusta to Newport on the donut, or even to Waterville, and the “thump-thump-thump” was a concern as well.

What could we do? I felt the only choice we had was to pay a visit to our good buddy Earl at Meineke…(I consider him a buddy now because I talked the poor man’s ear off while his crew did our brakes…Many people don’t know this about me, and it may come as a shock…But I tend to ramble!)

I explained everything to him, and he assured us his crew would get our front tire back on, and see if they could pinpoint the cause of the mysterious thump.

I was in the middle of telling him a great story when I heard the roar of our van being returned to us. It had only been a few minutes! The front tire was back on, and it turned out that the “thump-thump-thump” was from the flat spot we had made in the tire as we drove to the parking lot with a locked brake!

I thanked Earl and his crew with a big grin and asked what we owed, as I reached for the debit card.

“Seventy-nine fifty” was Earl’s reply. My smile faded fast, as Earl’s grew! He was just messing with me. Quite a character, that man! He assured me there was no charge, and wished us better luck as we headed out.

At highway speeds the “thud-thud-thud” was kinda terrifying, so with only 45 minutes to spare before closing time, we pulled into a tire repair franchise, where I spilled my guts, and explained my situation.

While I was met with sympathy, I did NOT get much of a deal. I won’t mention the name of where we went, but the last tires we bought came directly from a new car dealer in Waterville and were the same brand offered at this discount tire warehouse (wink-wink) and it cost us just about $300 for two tires, whereas last summer we paid just under $500 for all four.

I told this to the guy behind the counter, but he said it was the best he could do. Since it was getting very late in the day, we really didn’t have much of a choice and told him to go ahead with the service. We were north bound by 6pm, home safe and sound, but a lot poorer, just about 45 minutes later.

It was a day that I wish I had just stayed in bed. But I am so thankful that it all worked out the way it did!

No matter how bad things get, I always remind myself how much worse they could have been. Nobody was hurt, that is the most important thing! But I sure hope we are good to go for repairs on the van for a LONG time now…once we get the exhaust fixed that is!

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.