A little unplanned

2011 10 05 Longest Cross Country SkiisFrom Watson Lake we found some giant cross country skiis before we slipped over to Highway 99 South – a fantastic bus driving road. The road was windy with lots of hills and the scenery kept us guessing but was constantly beautiful.

2011 10 05 Bus driving roads2011 10 05 River2011 10 05 Down 99 south2011 10 05 Pyramid2011 10 05 Valley2011 10 05 LakeUsually eager, the van did protest a bit. The brakes are starting to complain – finally begging to be changed after 40 thousand kms. Despite our recent attention to the van we know there are still some regular maintenance we still need to attend to, namely a tire rotation and brake job. On top of it we need to get a shop to help us out with the stripped bolt which is the gateway to switching out our power steering pump and two belts. Our plan was to do this in Vancouver. Perhaps even tackle it ourselves.

2011 10 05 Mountain climberThe van’s plan however, was different. The weather went south and road threw in lots of steep grade hills and by the time we hit Pemberton the brakes were grinding.

2011 10 05 Steep hills2011 10 05 Rain2011 10 05 Into the fogWe drove over to the local shop and within 5 minutes they had the front tires off and the problem assessed. We had a shot left calliper, and a rotor that could not be salvaged. The right rotor would be machinable but the pads were mostly gone on both sides. They said it was pretty much metal on metal. After another five minutes and we had a big fat estimate and a promise to do the work tomorrow and have us on our way. Not bad. We rolled up unannounced to their shop and they had it looked over in 10 minutes. You couldn’t ask for nicer, more efficient folks. The downside, they were looking at charging anywhere from $650 to $950 depending on how much or how little we did to fix the problem (i.e. new rotors vs. machined rotors and one new calliper vs both new callipers).

We left a little defeated because having brakes in that condition puts our back against the wall and it certainly left us with few other options since there was still well over 150 kms of windy hilly roads to Vancouver. We thanked them and went to figure out if we had any other options. If anything they would be available to us in the morning – parts ordered and everything. After a while we came up with the idea to maybe get it towed to the city. So we called the CAA membership office and they indicated we had up to 200 kms available. We did some phone-a-friend and pulled a plan together – we would need to get to a shop in Abbotsford, but once we did, we had a trustworthy honest reliable guy who could get us back on the road. Pemberton to Abbotsford – 221 kms.

Once we were set on our plan, we called the CAA roadside assistance folks (They’re different from the membership people because they actually locally dispense the tow trucks). After talking to them they indicated that our membership was for Ontario but in British Columbia they only provided a tow to a maximum of 160 kms before charging about $3 per additional km. This news seriously put a dent in our plan – it meant we would have to drive about 60 kms ourselves on brakes we knew weren’t in the best shape or pay $180 just to get it to the shop. We knew we could still stop if we needed and since the Pemberton mechanic had looked at the brakes, the grinding had stopped. So, we got some dinner and drove from Pemberton to Whistler – a relatively flat drive. We put our four-way flashers on for the hills and used engine braking to take them really slow. There weren’t many folks on the road and we took our time and had no problems. We got a tow from Whistler to Langley and the plan was to drive the rest of the way to Abbotsford as we would be back in flat country again.

2011 10 05 Firebus towAfter an interesting two hour drive the tow truck driver kindly dropped us off after the construction areas at the nearest gas station to the highway. Thus we avoided the stop and go traffic and the extremely windy roads of the sea to sky highway. It all just confirmed that it really was the right choice to not attempt to drive that section – our brakes would have been 100% gone by that point. But luckily, we still had some stopping power and a flat 25 kms to go.

2011 10 05 Off loadingWith just the short drive to go, we threw on our four way flashers and drove down highway one – a main thoroughfare. After 15 kms we saw the familiar red and blue lights flashing behind us – yup we got pulled over. What was to follow was more than a comedic set of events in retrospect. After a long while of the officer came up to the window asking if we knew our flashers were on. I heard my name come over his radio as he had obviously ran our plates. The rest of the conversation went like this:

Andrew: Yes – we’re just having difficulty getting to speed
Officer: Do you know whats wrong with the vehicle?
Andrew: Um, well, we have low brakes.
Officer: You have NO brakes?! Can you stop?
Andrew: Well we did stop, when you pulled us over. (he wasn’t trying to be rude, just honest)
Officer: Yes, I saw that. (he was slightly annoyed)
Me: Um, can I go to the back to get our ownership papers? (I felt it best to wait and ask when he was there not wanting to look like we’re trying to hide something)
Officer: Yes (as his flashlight follows me into the back)
Andrew: It’s not that we don’t have brakes they’re just low – we’re taking it to a mechanic.
Officer: Where did you come from?
Andrew: The hills – they really killed our brakes.
Officer: How long have you been in British Columbia?
Andrew: Um, 3 days?
Officer: Can I have your licence and registration? (oh and better yet we couldn’t find our current non hand written insurance)
.. Disappears for a while and then returns
Officer: so you’re taking it to a mechanic, where?
Me: We’re just going 10 kms up the road to Abbotsford – we have the address right here. We’re planning to sleep at the Walmart and take it to the mechanic in the morning.
Officer: Ok
And this is where any normal person would have stopped since he was in the process of giving us our papers back.
Me: Officer I just want you to know that it’s not that we are being unsafe, we had it towed.
Officer: You had it towed!? From where?
Me: The hills, so we could get to flatter ground.
Officer: Uh huh.. Do you know where the Walmart is? Is it in your GPS? (shaking his head)
Me: Yes sir. Thank you.

And off we went. Laughing pretty hard at the series of events and how they must have confused the heck out of the poor officer. We have brakes, but we don’t. We’ve been towed, but not far enough. We’ve essentially been pulled over for being too safe but dangerous all at once. I can’t even imagine what he’d think if I’d mentioned the fact that the tow truck had more mechanical issues than we did.