I wrote this to a friend that wasn't able to attend STPR this year shortly after returning home.
The trusty LeBaron broke down just east of Bloomsburg, PA on Friday around 1 PM. It broke the timing belt. (Hell, it only had 120 thousand miles on it! Talk about bad PM.) Ed diagnosed the problem just as the PA State Police came along. SHE called for a tow truck and it showed up about 1/2 hour later. He towed us to his garage where he assured us they worked on Chrylsers all the time. FIRST MISTAKE - should have had him tow us to the dealer. Well, they go (probably to the dealer) and get the part which they put on. We walk down town to Wendy's for a tour of hisitoric Danville, PA and a liesurely lunch. They finish up around 4:45 PM and all looks well. Just a few hours delay. Should make the Steak House by 8 PM if we don't dawdle.
Then they (Ed and the mechanic) take it for the dreaded test drive. After they were gone for too long, a guy from the area stops at the garage to inform the other mechanic that they are broke down about a mile from the garage and will need to be towed back to the garage. Out goes the rollback and the LeBaron gets its second ride for the day.
They bring it back to the garage and another mechanic (the first ones went home at 5PM) begins to look at it. He starts to say that it is this or that electronic part, but he can't fix it now because he has to take the rollback out on another road call and he leaves. Here we stand in the middle of the garage with no transportation.
Another guy shows up and says he is not a mechanic and the other guy will not be back for at least an hour or two. He calls around and finds us a rental car back in Bloomsburg and a taxi (also has to come from Bloomsburg) to get us there. We push the car out into their parking lot. This guy now leaves and locks up the garage behind him. It's going on 7 PM and here we stand in the middle of this parking lot hoping the taxi can find the place.
The taxi finally shows up and drives us back to Bloomsburg where we find the car rental place locked up tighter than a drum. Not a soul - not a note - nothing. So, here we sit in a taxi in Bloomsburg - 15 miles away from the LeBaron and no rental car in site.
He drives us over to the other rental car place -- locked up too. Ed sees the U-Haul place next door and bolts for the door as the place is closing up.
Well, it turns out this guy is a savior (sort of). He rents us a U-Haul and a trailer for a cheap rate with the proviso that we have it back in Bloomsburg by 8 AM Saturday as he already has it reserved for another customer. At this point we say yea, yea, anything to get wheels.
This guy finishes closing up the place and then drives with us back to Danville and uses his pick-up truck and tow strap to help us get the car up on the trailer. He does this on his own time, mind you, so I give him a Merril sized tip.
We then drive the U-Haul with the LeBaron in tow to Wellsboro. We arrive around 11:30 PM. We pull up to the motel and the office is pitch dark. Oh, shit! Wait - what's that sticky note on the door say? Diane Houseal - You are in room 110 - the key is in the door! Pays to stay at the same motel for 15 years in a row!
About this time we bump into Ted Mendham and friends and Ted says, "What's wrong with this picture?" I try to convince him we have put an invisible cage in the LeBaron and we are planning to run tomorrow. He doesn't buy it!
The pre-rally party is winding down and we still have to borrow a car to drive to Bloomsburg and back so we can return the U-Haul by 8 AM. There is almost nobody there so we start walking around town. We find Don Taylor and Brian Goss working on Lesley Suddard's car. She is nowhere to be found. Don says off-load the car and push it into the parking space next to Lesley's and we can try to troubleshoot it in hopes of fixing it and driving it to Bloomsburg.
After a quick look around, we give up on this proposition and head off to the bars looking for late partiers. No luck, but when in the bar at the Penn Wells, I jiggle the door to the press room - it's locked, oh well. Then Ed Jacobs (the new press guy) sticks his head out the door to see who was there. I introduce myself and in the same breath ask him, since he's not going anywhere until Sunday, if I can use this car to drive to Bloomsburg and back. I promise to have his car back by 10 AM.
He gets this incredulous look on his face, stammers around a bit, mumbles something about rear shocks or bearings or something being shot, but hands me the keys.
Ed and I decide to get a good nite's rest before we head off to Bloomsburg. In the sack at 1:30 and don't have to get up until 4:30.
We get up, dress, drive the rig over behind the Penn Wells to pick up Ed's car and drive everything into the Acme parking lot where we put Ed's car up on the trailer -- why drive two vehicles when we have a perfectly good trailer. I get a jumbo coffee at the Dunkin' Donuts and we head off for Bloomsburg.
It's 95 miles one way, we make good time in the early morning light and see lots of deer along the way.
We get to the U-Haul place, off-load Ed's car, settle up with the owner of the place and praise the hell out of the guy that helped us the night before. Ed (Brennan) and I hop into Ed (Jacobs) car and proceed to drive BACK to Wellsboro.
Since we haven't had anythng to eat except donuts since lunch at Wendy's yesterday, we decide to have breakfast at Harland's before we do anything else. After breakfast we returned Ed's car and thanked him for the loaner. I think he was still a little confused. What a great first impression.
By now the cars are lining up around the Green and we decide if we are going to see anybody at this rally, we'd better take the time now to meet and greet around the Green. Once we've made our way back to the 80th car, we decide it's time to go figure out what's wrong with the LeBaron.
Don Taylor is still in and out of the parking lot since he hasn't left for service yet and makes some additional suggestions. It's none of those things. We work on the car for a while. Keep coming up with dead ends.
The cars arrive back in town for the second parc ferme and we head over to the service area and start scrounging for suggestions and substitution parts. We get a later model distributor from Henry and Cindy Krolikowski. We go back and put it in -- now at least it runs - like shit, but it's running. Progress.
We carefully drive it back over to the Canyon where we are staying and ask Jim, the owner and a second generation Chrysler man, for suggestions. We think it is the electronics plate in the distributior that has the hall effects devices on it.
All the parts stores in Wellsboro are already closed and the ones in Mansfield will be closing shortly. What's the chance of them having this part? Nada. Maybe we can get one from the dealer on Monday. Great.
Dave Sekella and John Stephanik, the stage captains for the BMR stages 6 and 9, stop by to see if we will be coming out to play in the woods. We tell them don't look for us anytime soon. It doesn't look good. Somewhere in here we walk back over to Harlands for lunch. We fiddle around with the car some more and listen to the rally on the HAM scanner. About dark we give it up. Ain't going anywhere under its own power.
We continue to listen to the rally on the radio, have some donuts for dinner -- just too tired to go eat -- and decide that we'd feel better if we were clean. We take showers and continue to listen to the radio. There's an accident on stage 6 and the stage is shut down for a medical emergency - a comptetitor has a broken arm - sure, we don't show up and it gets exciting! They take care of the emergency in a timely fashion and the rally still finishes on time. What an improvement!
Finally the cars come back to town. We go over to the pizza party to see if we can scrounge a ride in the direction of home. It's either this or stay in Wellsboro until we can get the part and we're still not positive this will fix it. I suggest looking at houses for sale.
Dean Fry offers the use of his trailer if Ed and I drive the rally car back to Reading. I say sure, forgetting how dusty the rally was.
Next morning Dean shows up at the Canyon about the same time Eric Burmeister shows up to buy the lights we had carried up there for him. Eric knocks on the door which wakes us up. We overslept. I had planned to get up an have breakfast before anybody showed up. WRONG.
Eric buys the lights. Ed and Dean get the LeBaron up on his trailer. I check out and thank Jim profusely and profoundly for holding our room for us.
The BMR entourage assembles and I go to hop into the Subaru. Dean is saying something about the rough ride -- I am looking at the filthy dusty rally car I have to ride in for the next 4 hours. Oh, well, beats walking! We all head off into the sunrise, saying goodbye to Wellsboro until next year.
We make an uneventful drive back to Dean's house, stopping once to fill up the BOG with gas and to empty us and get a snack. So far today Ed and I have had (now pretty stale) donuts for breakfast and a Tastykake for lunch.
Once back to Dean's we empty the BOG of any valuables and Ed and I head off for Trenton. We haven't BOGged for quite a while but the driving idiosyncracies of towing with a 4-by Suburban comes back pretty quickly.
Once home, we drop me and my stuff off and Ed takes the BOG back to his place and parks out in front of his house. It just fits. He comes back with his van and we go pick up a pizza - finally, a good home cooked meal!
On Monday we went out and got the part and put it in the LeBaron right on the trailer. We then towed over to Bristol where Dean works and dropped off the BOG. Off-loaded the LeBaron and drove it home. Well, almost. We stopped to run and errand and Ed turned the car off. It wouldn't restart. Got a jump start from a good samaritan but that wasn't it. We got help to push the car and pop started it and drove it home very carefully. The timing was still off.
Ed thinks he's finally got it straightened out and we will take it for a test drive tonight.
THE END (I hope.)