As the fall weather really begins in earnest these last few weeks I thought I should set out on another day of the trails before they become snow-bound. Not that the snow will stop me from what I love doing but I planned on heading to Stevens Pass, which will soon be inundated with feet upon feet of snow. Best to check it out now while the forest roads are still open.
I made my way to Monroe, WA, on highway 2, and stopped for a last minute rest before taking on the slow rise in elevation as I headed East.
I jumped back into my Xterra, ready for some fun. Aaaannnd then nothing; nothing at all when I turned the key. In my mind I ran through the usual troubleshooting steps to fix this issue: battery, battery cables, and the starter.
A cowboy dude who looked exactly like Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips came by and volunteered to help out with a battery jump, which did nothing. We then tried tapping on the starter to free up the solenoid which also did not work.
Which pretty much means that the most likely culprit was that the starter was dead. Thinking back, it was acting a bit sluggish the last few times I turned it over.
So, I was broken down 48 miles from home at 4:30 on a Saturday. Every local shop I called said they were closing up soon. I decided I would get my baby towed back to Renton, where my local mechanic would work on it first thing Monday.
This was a very lucky break. Lucky in that I broke down while in town and not 30 miles into the mountains. Also I was lucky in that my insurance company, Geico, has a generous tow package. The total cost of the tow was $256 of which Geico covered $228. Finally, I also lucked out when I arrived at my mechanics shop an hour after they closed to find the Manager still there. He had the tow truck bring my baby right into the garage so it would stay safe until Monday.
It is a fundamental fact of Overlanding that break downs will happen. Keeping up with maintenance, investigating that new unusual sound your engine is making and so on will help prevent some break downs but others, like my starter dying on me, are more difficult to predict when they may occur. A good state of mind to have is that everything on your Overlanding vehicle is slowly succumbing to entropy. It’s only a matter of time before an item will need to be fixed or replaced. Having a plan of action ready for when these break downs occur will better prepare one for the inevitable.
Think ahead, plan, and be safe out there.