Fun car trips at night

Hey, fun story time! Well, fun story if you enjoy car stuff and other people’s misery- otherwise, move along.

Me and the family took off from our place to go to my brother’s and see his firstborn last night. We left at 6 PM, ready for the eight-hour drive, expecting the kids to sleep for at least half the drive. Then we ran out of gas a mile away from the Interior, South Dakota exit, at 9:30 PM.
The fuel gauge had been acting strangely on our 2004 Chrysler Pacifica for a few months. It will go from a half-tank to the low fuel alarm at about 220 miles, though it’s a 22 gallon tank and we should be able to go well over 400 miles per tank. It’s done this before, and I “fixed” it before by putting a jumper wire between the wires from each sending unit to average out the signal.  This should make the fuel gauge read only from full down to half, and keep the low-fuel alarm from tripping and shutting down the engine (thanks, computer controls!). We planned on bringing a small gas can with just in case, but we forgot to get it in the car, of course.  We hit 280 miles on the tank, the car shut off, and we barely managed to coast onto the off ramp.  No low fuel alarm, just no gas getting to the engine.
There is a gas station, the Trading Post, about a mile from where our car rolled to a stop.  After fiddling with the sending units for a while, unsuccessfully of course, I decided to walk to the gas station, get a gas can and bring back enough gas to get us that whole mile to the pumps.  Of course, that only works if the convenience store is open, or if there are any other businesses within ten miles of the exit. Instead, I ended up digging through the trash cans for pop and water bottles so I could fill them at the 24-hours pumps.  Thinking I just needed to get a little bit of gas to get back on the road, I filled four bottles, about .85 gallons’ worth, and found a bag to put them in and carry them back to the car.

Yup, that wasn’t enough gas.  Grabbing a couple of liter water bottles we had in the car, now that I knew the store was closed, I walked the mile back to the gas station.  There I went through a few more trash cans, found a few more bottles, and filled them all back up (1.5 gallons, wow!) and walked back.  I was getting a blister on my heel by now, so I was getting more cranky as the night wore on.  Poured that gas in, and gave it another try.  The engine fired, loping and sputtering, but died after a couple minutes.  I swore for a while, and walked back to the gas station.

Now the damn pay-at-the-pump didn’t want to take my card.  I guess two transactions in an hour for less than ten dollars’ worth of gas locks down your credit card or something.  Luckily, I have others, and they still worked.  I also found three more twenty-ounce pop bottles, so I got nearly two gallons of gas this time!  And I walked back to the car.

A little over four gallons of gas was enough to get the car started and to the pumps, which hadn’t decided to not take my checkcard yet (though I got a call from my bank about those charges the next morning), so I was able to fill up.  Final tally-

Number of trips- 3

Number of hours- about three and a half

Number of cars that drove by me without stopping- 6 (yup, six cars in three and a half hours.)

Hearing your daughter was scared of the zombie coming to the car (me returning with the gas the first time)- priceless



ACL Surgery Day and the next two months

Well, at least ACL surgery is quick.  I was scheduled for 8 AM, got checked and signed all the paperwork and got an IV put in.  Then a hour or so of waiting around, getting my knee shaved, talking to anesthesiologists and having the surgeon come in and initial my right knee.  Then off to the operating room about 10:30 AM, where it took less than two seconds for the anesthesia to put me under.

The doctor went in and took a chunk of my hamstring tendon, and as he put it, “did some arts and crafts with it”.  This involved making the graft the right length and attaching a string to it to help thread it into place through the holes he drilled through the top of my tibia and the bottom of my femur.  He also poked around in there and put a couple stitches in the torn cartilage of both menisci.  I was back in the recovery room by 1 PM, and out of the hospital by 2:30 PM with my crutches and immobilizing knee brace.  They also gave me a DVD of the highlights of the surgery.  Not something for squeamish people to watch, but I liked it.

I ended up with a couple issues from the surgery.

The first issue was the painkillers.  When taking prescription hydrocodone with acetaminophen, make sure to take it with food, like the label says.  I didn’t have much appetite, so a couple time I just took the pills with some water.  It turns out that painkillers will go straight through your system and numb your bladder and everything else in the pipeline if there’s no food in your stomach to help soak them up.  It makes it hard to sleep when you can’t tell if you need to pee or not, but it feels like you might.

The second problem was the antibiotics.  Well, not the antibiotics, but the side effects.  I haven’t taken any antibiotics since high school, so about fifteen years.  As it turned out, the microbes in my intestines were not antibiotic-resistant.  When all the microbes in your intestines die, you end up with diarrhea.  Diarrhea is never fun, but when you’re on crutches and can’t bend one leg, it becomes even more of a hassle.

So, that was it for the next three weeks.  No weight on the leg allowed.  Rehab consisted of trying to flex my quad and working my calf muscles.  Three weeks of no exercise makes your leg into a toothpick.  Between the muscle loss and the antibiotics, I lost over ten pounds.

After my three week appointment, I got rid of the crutches.  I never want to be on crutches again.  They are just awkward.  I walked around (gimped around, anyhow) like normal all day, and woke up the next morning with my calf muscle feeling like I had run five miles the day before.  Evidently I use my calves a lot while walking, because that sucker was sore for the next week.  The calf muscle came back really fast, though.  The quad and hamstring are taking longer, as I’m still weight-and-activity restricted, but about eight weeks after surgery, it’s all feeling really good. The knee flexes almost completely, definitely better than it was before surgery, and the strength is coming back pretty quickly.  I’m looking forward to being able to get back to normal activities this summer.