So I left Tuesday at noon-ish, in order to avoid the worst of the shit in/around Chicago. Things were fine through the first 240 or so miles of Wisconsin, and then just west of Madison, the weather went to shit. There was a lot of blowing snow, but not so much that the roads were unpassable. In fact, the pavement was generally pretty dry. The closer I got to Chicago, however, the worse it got. All in all, the trip to Chitown took about nine hours.
I arrived at Dave and Kristin’s around 9:30pm, unloaded my stuff and we hung out and talked and had some wine and such. Always good to hang out with them and chat. I woke up the next morning way earlier than them — they’re both full-time students (she’s a Ph.D. candidate, he’s in the MBA program at Kellogg), and looked out the window and said, “Aw, hell, that doesn’t look too bad.”
It took about an hour to get my car free. During that time, I let it warm up, and shoveled a nice escape path for it. During the schlepping, I smelled what I thought was paint, and thought, “Ah, well, that’s just Chicago.”
Not so. It took me about an hour to get on the Kennedy Expressway — Lake Shore Drive was closed, so I had to use Google Maps to figure out a new route. I went about two miles and the windshield was icing up. Suddenly I smelled a bit of burnt plastic and coolant, and then, suddenly, brown smoke started pouring in through my vents. Holy shit! I pulled it over and hit the hazards. A look under the hood indicated no fire, but nothing else horribly awry (other than some sort of fluid leak and burning coolant. A cop pulled over while I sat on-hold with roadside assistance. He asked me if the car ran, and then asked me to get it off the highway. I complied. Pulled off the road and parked it under the bridge. Called roadside assistance again and sat on-hold for 40 minutes before giving up.
Then I used Google Maps to search for local Subaru dealerships. AND THERE WAS ONE ONLY TWO BLOCKS AWAY. I got my bearings and drove over there, with the engine temp spiking toward the high side of normal. Visions of a blown head gasket were doing evil dances in my head. Got there and they were closed. Except for the guys who were cleaning the sidewalks. Then they realized that Tony was there. Tony let me in, wrote me up, and was incredibly nice about the whole process. I was calling around looking for rental cars everywhere — Enterprise was sold out through the city.
I relocated to the Starbucks across the street from the dealership while they closed-up shop. They were super-supportive. I managed to wrangle the last car at O’Hare, thanks to Hertz. And then I discovered that where I had been parked after getting off the expressway was right under a Blue Line station. I gathered my shit and schlepped back there, tweaking my knee slightly in the process. I got on the Blue Line and after 20 minutes of enduring a train that smelled like a urinal, I arrived at O’Hare. Twenty minutes later, I was in a Mitsubishi Galant and back on the road.
In Chicago, it was overcast, but it was barely snowing. The interstates were a mess, but I managed to get out of the city, only to discover that the lake-effect blizzard was still going full-bore in northwestern Indiana. No one was out, and conditions were far worse than Madison the night before — I even got briefly stuck on the way into a toll booth. Ouch!
Weirdly, though, as soon as I got onto I-94 North into Michigan, the snow stopped and the roads were clear. Like almost instantly. I was able to drive at 70mph again, and two of the three lanes were clear. I finally got in to Lexington around 9:30pm last night.
So I’m here. I’m in one piece. The funeral’s done. I got a call from the dealer — some radiator lines exploded and the thermostat was a casualty of this too. They replaced those. Also, my drive belts were completely shot. Those were replaced. And they flushed/filled my radiator and transmission, and gave me an oil change. It came in well under a thousand bucks. Thank god.
Tomorrow, I hope to head down to Detroit to spend some time with my brother and his wife. Early Saturday, I’ll head back, drop my rental car at O’Hare, then take the train back down to the Subaru dealership, and get back on the road to Minnesota. For now, though, I’m at a Starbucks in Port Huron so I can get some work done. I’d better get to it.