Monday, October 15, 2007


There are the components of this flashback moment and it involves the greatest combination of odd/strange elements in it to make this one of the strangest and most memorable moments I've ever had while on the highway.
The setting: Traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 going from Texas to Florida. The time was near 2:00 a.m. and all was dead on the highway. I had just passed through Louisiana when I spotted a car sitting on the shoulder of the road headed east also. A woman was standing outside the car waving for help, so I decided to stop. I am driving a company pick-up truck with a toolbox behind the cab and towing a small 5x8 single axle trailer with my possessions in it. I made a U-turn and drove the front of my truck up to the front of the disabled car, got out and ask the lady what was wrong.
The Situation: Two ladies, one, a woman who was blind and her daughter were coming from New Orleans where they had been to the greyhound dog races, and were heading back home to Pensacola, Florida. Their car suddenly simply went dead and they were stranded, not to mention they were scared to death being alone, broke down in the middle of nowhere bayou swampland.
What is wrong: Being around construction equipment and an avid auto racing fan, I knew somethings about the workings of an auto engine so I proceeded to check for the reason the car wouldn't start or run. After extensive checking, gas, wiring, etc, the diagnosis I came up with was the car had no spark to the spark plugs, that was the problem, simple, no fire, no starting or running. So there we were, a dead car, in the middle of nowhere at 2:00 a.m. and it was dark as hell.
More shit happens: Sometime during my inspection of the broken down car another car stopped pulling in behind my truck. There were two guys in the car and they walked back to us at the car. Now I think they only saw the girl standing by the car and didn't see me under the hood, as they seemed surprised to see me. They proceeded to ask some irrelevant questions that immediately got my attention and scared me as to why they stopped. I had a gut feeling they were up to no good, and they went back to their car but didn't leave, they just sat in the car. Now I'm getting worried as to their intent, why don't they take off and go on their way? Well it happened that I carried a loaded .357 magnum in my truck, so I got it, stuck it in my belt and made sure they could see it if they came back, and proceeded to work on the car. Sure enough they came back again, so I kept the truck between me and them at all times, so thankful for the reassuring feel of the magnum in my belt. Again they went back to their car and again they didn't leave. By this time the blind lady in her car was crying she was so scared, she kept asking me if they were gone yet, I told her no, they didn't leave yet but I had a gun and would take care of them. This seemed to reassure her a little, at least she stopped crying. Finally after a third time of getting out of their car and walking back to ours they seemed to decide to go on their way. To this day I believe if I hadn't been there with a gun those woman could have ended up in the swamp, I don't know, but thats how I feel it.
Back to the car: To make a long story short the problem the car had was the roll pin connecting the drive gear to the distributor shaft was broken and missing. (See the picture above and click on it to zoom in, this will explain the nuts and bolts of the problem.) I removed the distributor and using a mirror from the girls make-up compact, and my truck lights on hi-beam as a flashlight, I located the missing gear deep inside the engine block. Now the problem was how to get it out. You remember I said I was pulling a trailer behind my truck? Well I got a clothes hanger, from the trailer, bent into a hook shape and managed to retrieve the missing gear, Whew!
Now the miracle part: I had found the problem, pulled the distributor, retrieved the gear and all I needed was a roll pin to put it back together and we might get it fixed and running. ( A roll pin is a special self locking pin that compresses to keep it in place and must be the exact size of the holes in the gear and the shaft to keep them together, a very special mechanical part indeed.) I tried to think of a way I could temporarily substitute something for it, maybe a nail, a screw, a wire even a coat hanger, I had nothing. Now the most amazing thing happens, I opened the tool box on the back of my truck and using a lighter was looking for something to substitute as the roll pin. To my utter amazement there in the flicker of the lighter was the EXACT SIZE roll pin I needed, I didn't even see anything else or scrounge around, it was right there in my face! Remember this was my truck and I was the only one to ever use it, and I had never put a roll pin in the tool box or ever even had a roll pin. I had no idea where it came from. This was guardian angel stuff, I'm convinced!
We're off: Put the gear on the shaft, tap in the roll pin, reinstall the distributor, set the timing fired it up, it ran like a clock. We hit the road, ran 80 mph all the way, I followed them to their exit where their husbands were waiting, worried to death as to where the gals were, so I knew it was finished. I proceeded on my way I had a lot more miles to go and contemplate what had just went down, wondering what might have happened if I hadn't stopped...


lil_hammerhead said...

The Texas leg of I-10.. the longest road you'll ever drive.

glend558 said...

Yup, You'll sleep one night in Texas on that trip..

lil_hammerhead said...

That was usually Ozona for me.