September 3rd, 2007 – by: cneoridium
Fixing the Orangemobile in the mountains at 2am on the way back to Zagreb
We piled into the Renault 5 again, this time with mom and the cat... After about a hundred miles the engine stopped. Just as we were getting into the mountains. It would run for a few miles then just cut out. After a few repairs it seemed to be working again, but as we got into the "Dalmatian Alps" it became clear that there was something seriously wrong with it and that this was going to be a long night.
After a quick stop for gas, and old guy told us that his friend lived 10 more miles up the road and might be able to fix it: "Look for him at the bar, it's Saturday night". We drove down a series of switchbacks into a river gorge realizing that we would never make it back up again in our current condition. We found no bar, but once the car died again, seemingly forever, near a closed hydroelectric plant.
Tired, but still hopeful at 3am
After a while a lone car stopped, heard our story and sent back a guy who can fix cars... by now its 9pm and there is howling wind shaking the car, the cat's crying and its not looking good. A guy shows up with his 16-year old assistant, starts changing out parts - rework the points, new distributer, disconnect the EGR hose, reconnect the EGR hose... - and continues the repairs as we drive into the mountains. Each time he's so proud he figured it out, we'd drive together for a few miles, and on the darkest, steepest, blindest curve it would die again, he'd run up, make a few more repairs and we'd try again. By now it was freezing and the wind was howling through the passes so hard that it took all of our weight pulling on the hood to keep it open while he worked.
Another 2 kilometers, another adjustment of the engine...
The final advice was 'It will die evey now and then, just pour some water on the fuel pump to cool it and go until it dies again'. Zvonka's very persistant - I was going to make my flight no matter what! We proceeded like this for the last 200 miles of steep, twisting back roads, stopping every few kilometers, flagging logging trucks past with a flashlight while the car 'rested' in the road.
So close! We got within 20 miles of town and it just wouldn't go any more. As the sun was coming up we eventually called a physics professor friend, the biggest, grumpiest old guy we'd ever met to arrange a rescue. Later, he gave us a ride home, grunting and giving us dirty looks for being so stupid to have broken down so far from town. We abandoned the poor little car where it had died. Needless to say, I'm still in Croatia, waiting for an available seat to come home. Not that this is a bad thing...