On the Way to Edwardsville

Let me set the scene: today, Liz and I took off work to drive down to Edwardsville, IL, to attend a family wedding. We got up early, aiming to hit the road around 10:00 AM.

It’s a 4 hour drive, and the wedding was at 4:00 PM. We had a decent distance to cover, but felt like we had enough time.

I dropped off Liz, as she needed to stop at Walgreen’s. As I waited for her to return, I saw a battery indicator pop up on my dashboard.

Scanning my driver’s manual, the indicator was a signal that my battery was not being charged. So it seemed like an alternator issue. After Liz returned, we debated a few options (one of which was renting a car at the nearby Enterprise rental location).

Instead, we opted to press forward and figured we could have it checked out on the way.

As we left the parking lot, we noticed something odd: the indicator came on when the car was idling or stopped. But as soon as we got about 10 mph, the light went away.

This, to me, was an indicator that the battery was being charged, but only got charged when the car was moving at a certain speed. Since most of our trip would be on the highway, at a decent speed, I figured we’d be fine. The battery would charge as we were traveling, and would stop charging when we slowed to under 10 mph.

That was an incorrect assumption. As you’ll soon see.

About an hour outside of the city, we noticed that the light started to come on even when we were at higher speeds. And then finally, when we were doing 60+, the battery light came on. And stayed on.

Liz and I both looked at one another, and knew we had limited time. So we began looking for any kind of a service station nearby.

We ended up getting off I-55, and headed towards Diamond, IL (or Coal City, depending). We ended up pulling into J&R Service Center, left the car running, and checked to see if someone could look at our vehicle.

Unfortunately, they were all booked up. Following a suggestion from Amanda (who was very nice and helpful), we drove across the street to an auto parts store where they did free battery and alternator testing.

The thinking was: if it was a battery issue, they could replace it there in about 15 minutes. If it was an alternator thing, we’d know it was a bigger job and that we’d need to leave the car somewhere. Either way, we’d have a more definite answer.

After waiting a few minutes, one of the employees there checked my battery. Less than a minute into it he said that before he did more, he could tell it was an alternator issue. Because the car battery was at a low level, and he could see it drop.

We debated what to do, and decided to try to drive to another nearby service center called “Bob’s.” But as we rounded the corner, I started seeing all sorts of lights appear on the dashboard. And then the dashboard went dark. And then the car started to sputter and stall.

This was right as we were turning onto a side road. I was able to turn the car around back to the parking lot right before it died.

We ended up calling J&R back, and arranged for a tow. Which was terrible because it was literally across the street. In hindsight, it would have been better for us to stay put.

Liz and me, shortly after realizing the car is dead.

Waiting for the tow truck guy. And of course it starts to rain pretty hard, with lots of lightning and thunder. Because of course.

In the cab of the tow truck, waiting things out. Even just transferring ourselves from the car to here had us soaked.

The car, getting pulled onto the truck bed.

While we were waiting for the tow, we found a nearby Enterpise rental – but they were in Morris, IL (about 20 minutes away). We arranged for a rental, and also arranged for a pickup from the service center. Not ideal, but better than nothing.

As luck would have it, the Enterprise pickup woman arrived just as we arrived with the tow! It actually was super efficient, and we were grateful to her for leaving early to come get us (we were told we needed to call after we arrived).

Unfortunately, all that was available was a minivan. There was also a pickup truck, which was twice as expensive and not as fuel efficient… so we decided to be soccer moms. Better than nothing.

Side note: it’s been nearly 16 years since I last visited Morris, IL.

Back on the road, we soon encountered a pretty incredible storm. The kind where visibility was awful, even with the wiper blades going full speed.

There was tons of lightning thunder everywhere, and the visibility got so bad folks began throwing on their blinkers. On top of it all, we were going through a construction zone that was limited to just one lane. Even if we wanted to pull over, there was no good place to do so.

This was definitely up there, in terms of all-time bad storms I’ve driven through.

Nearing the edge of the storm.

Looking out the passenger window.

Shortly before arriving at the hotel, we managed to stop at a nearby Enterprise and swapped out our vehicle (something you can do free of charge).

Unfortunately, we missed the wedding. But we were able to make it to the reception in time. Better late than never!

The Breakdown Place: Western and Irving Park

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