Since Sophie had been sick and not sleeping very well over the holidays, we had postponed our trip to visit our friends Scott & Roi-Lynn in Baltimore several times. We had already missed seeing both Myrna and Joe, my god-parents, on their respective visits and would soon be past anything that could be called a "holiday" visit. Even though Sophie still wasn't sleeping very well, on Tuesday night we checked with Scott to make sure we were still welcome and decided to try for the next day.
Wednesday morning we packed up and prepared for the five-hour drive. As we packed we debated the slight wobble that had appeared with the Passat after its 30,000-mile service here in town. Should we take it back to the dealer and risk having them introduce a new problem right before our trip? We decided to call George and get his opinion.
"I'd call the dealer and see if they can look at it before you go," he said. "Driving all the way to Baltimore on unbalanced tires would ruin them."
Brandie called and the dealer offered to try and squeeze us in right away. Looking at the problem would take half an hour to 45 minutes, they estimated. We decided it was worth the risk and took the car in. Sue's office is nearby, so we walked over to visit her rather than sit in the dealer's waiting room. After half an hour we called for an update.
"It's next on the rack," the man on the phone said. "It'll be another hour at least though."
We waited a while longer with Sue, then walked back to the dealership. The Passat was now up on the rack, and a technician had one of the tires off. Things looked promising, so we took our coats off and took turns escorting Sophie around the showroom. Finally we got some news from the appointment desk.
"They couldn't find anything wrong with the tires, so they're just going to rotate them back how they were," she said.
That didn't sound right, so I went back to talk to the manager. He spoke with the technician, and found that there was a broken belt in one of our tires. Moving them onto the front of the car had exposed the problem, but not introduced it. More importantly, driving all the way to Baltimore on the broken belt would run the risk of a blowout.
Now I enjoy changing tires, and used to race my friend Matt to see how quickly we could change them, but the prospect of changing one with Brandie and Sophie standing in the snow roadside wasn't very appealing. We opted to have two new tires put on the car. They could get to it right away, but it would end up taking another hour. Sophie had already explored the entire showroom several times over, and was bored of playing with the big red balloon one of the technicians had given her. She had gotten to run around a lot and tire herself out, but after three hours of waiting she was also near the end of her rope and we hadn't even left town yet.
As we drove away from the dealership, Sophie fell asleep. In spite of the delay we still had a chance of getting to Baltimore by six or seven, so we decided to make a run for it. We called George, Sue and Scott to let them know we were finally on our way, and settled in for the drive.
On the way, Brandie called our insurance agent. Due to the mail-forwarding mixup our auto policy had lapsed, so we had called to make a pay-by-phone payment. Our credit card had been charged, but we decided to make sure everything was back to normal just in case.
As it turned out it was fortunate we did, because we had no insurance. Our credit card had been charged, but our agent in California couldn't reinstate the policy without a new round of paperwork. She was going to start it, but would need several faxes back and forth to complete the job. After Brandie got off the phone I exited the highway and we debated our options. Should we try to find a fax machine in New Milford, or just give up on the trip and finish up the paperwork from home?
Frustrated, I called the agent back to see if there was anything else they could do. I had been a good customer for almost ten years, and figured it was at least worth asking. It was also at least a half hour drive back home, and I was paranoid about driving at all without insurance. Unfortunately the agent couldn't help us, but she referred me to an 800 number that might be able to. I called and ended up having to wait half an hour, but finally they were able to get us coverage without any faxing or additional driving by us.
We now had car insurance again, but had lost almost another hour. We were only in New Milford and Sophie was awake again. Should we just turn back, or push on to Baltimore? What other hurdles might be in our way once we got on our way?
We decided to keep going, and fortunately ended up making it to Baltimore without any further delays. Sophie got to watch both of her favorite shows on the portable dvd player Geoff & Erin got us (thanks again!), and we reached Scott & Roi-Lynn's a little after 7pm.