We made it all the way to the southern part of Connecticut before the brake light came on. The sphincter-puckering terror caused by that merry, twinkling, little light was actually helpful, as my bladder had been dangerously full for some time.
We managed to get to a rest area without incident (automotive or scatological) and I hopped out to inspect the car. There was a wet, arcing spray of brake fluid splashed in a delightful rainbow across the wheel well.
Anticipating that our vacation to Virginia would entail butt-numbing amounts of driving, I had the brilliant foresight to do a bit of necessary work on the car last week. I had changed the oil and replaced a sticky front brake caliper. Evidently, I had failed to properly retighten the brake line.
The jack was conveniently buried under everything we had packed. The delight of unpacking everything was enhanced by the steady stream of slack-jawed gawkers who stopped to watch the spectacle of me unpacking everything we owned and jacking up the front wheel of the car to remove the tire.
Several passers-by offered helpful, inspirational comments like, “Oh, my. What a shame.” and “Whoa. Dude. That totally sucks.”
While I appreciated their kind words, they did little to actually elevate my mood and bring me good cheer.
To humanity’s credit, two people did, in fact offer to help. Evidently their winningness to be of assistance did not extend to trading vehicles with us or even chauffeuring us around the eastern seaboard for the next eight days, so I was forced to continue working on the car.
I was eventually able, through the combined disciplines of Patience and Profanity, to staunch the flow of fluid using the rusty pair of slip-joint pliers that I had seen fit to outfit the car with in case of emergency.
We piled our belongings back into the car and, with the show over, the crowd parted and allowed us to begin a frantic search for someplace where we would be able to buy brake fluid on Easter Sunday.
Although the highway had seemed crowded with gas stations up until this point, we spent a slightly tense 30 minutes searching the rural back roads of Connecticut before finding an open gas station. I bought a quart of brake fluid and the clerk asked if I wanted a bag.
“No,” I answered.
“Oh. Dumping it in here?” she asked, “That sucks. Happy Easter!”
A mere six hours later, we pulled into the hotel parking lot–sore, hungry, and tired. We were immediately faced with yet another Easter-based problem.
I would rather eat a bowl of toenail clippings than eat at a fast-food chain, so our choices were somewhat limited. I did manage to locate a Chinese restaurant that was open and I ordered a lavish, opulent feast. The food was delicious and we enjoyed the meal despite the fact that I neglected to get plates, forks, or napkins, so we were forced to grab food from the containers and shovel it directly into our mouths with our hands.
After dinner, we slipped down to the pool to wash up before bed.
I spent the night tossing and turning, trying to decide what would be the easiest way to perform a brake job in the hotel parking lot in the morning.