My daughter Shannon has recently got into BBQ and bought a pretty tasty used Traeger from a friend of mine near Newcastle. Now me being a bit of a BBQ god, well a self titled Pit Master to be precise, offered to go and pick it up for her.
I set off the night before with a plan. A master plan. A plan of all plans! I’ll travel up most of the way in the hours of darkness when only the dead are wandering the streets. Well them and our night trunk HGV drivers, delivering our goods to distribution centres ready to restock the shelves the next day. Anyway, I digress.
My plan was to travel up northbound for a few hours under the cover of night and find a nice little park up and chill, continuing around 10am the following morning.
I filled up the fuel tank to the brim, grabbed a coffee and put an extra 5psi of air in the tyres to aid with fuel economy as there was 550 miles of motorway ahead of me over the return journey. I started the van back up and thought I noticed something flash on the dash but it was gone before it could properly register in my busy brain. All was good until Peterborough. Then a nightmare began that would see me shit myself more than once and face certain death also more than once...
There I was, minding my own business just bumbling along at a steady 70mph (honestly! 👀) when my van did a little jig. The kind of jig that makes you think “bollocks. This is gonna cost.” The engine temp gauge was so far in the red it was worse than both my bank accounts! As red as a Dubai sunset. Redder than Fergies hair. Redder than my face that time when everyone could see me pooing. Red. Very red.
The very clever computer that controls the engine put it into limp mode to save any further damage. It’s not so clever as the limp mode mode (?) was too under powered and rendered my vehicle useless and stricken on the hard shoulder of the A1m, 3/4’s of the way past Peterborough, just before the motorway section ended.
A quick check confirmed I wasn’t actually overheating and the engine felt normal. No funny smells. No steam. No smoke. Crap. Now what am I gonna do! I did the age old Virgin Media reset technique by switching it off and back on again. Ah thank you Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Wee Donkey! It was all good again. Must’ve been one of those glitches that my 7 year old son talks about every time something flickers or wobbles 🤷♂️
Just as the motorway ends and turns into a dark, unlit windy dual carriageway from hell the glitch returned. Fresh from hell, and fully aware of the immense danger an unlit stationary van would be on this stretch of road, the glitch rubbed its disgusting hands and struck me down. The temp gauge flicked to max with the ferocity of a drugged up Russian athlete gunning for 27 gold medals and the engine cut out. On a hill. In the dark.
“Dear god. I’m sorry for I have probably sinned many times. Any chance I can repent them all in one quick shot? Oh and sorry we haven’t spoken lately but I’ll make up for it. Promise!”
Prayer sent first class recorded and signed for, I set about frantically trying to restart the van. Again. Once more. “Please old man, make it start. I don’t want to die here. It’s cold damp and dark. And it smells. Oh wait. I think that’s me.” On the 157th try it sparked into life! I rammed it into gear and thundered onwards to the lay-by just a couple of miles away. I rolled in just as it cut out once more. That’s ok though I’m safe at least. Over the next twenty minutes whilst I sat there being rocked like a stricken dinghy in the North Sea I pondered on the thought that I may die here instead. In this piss filled litter strewn hell hole of a lay-by.
My own HGV days came fluttering into mind and then it hit me like I was praying one of these trucks doesn’t, that there was a truck stop just up the road, on the other side! Fingers and legs and even my testicles crossed I flicked the ignition and boom! Life! I headed for the truck stop and repeatedly nearly died along the way. I rolled into the cafe carpark with a huge sigh of relief and a very soiled pair of boxers. A fluorescent yellow jacket loomed into sight. I watched with anticipation as it headed directly to me. Ah crap.
“I’ve broken down mate. I just wanna park up and forget about it until the morning when I can speak to someone.” “Yeah it’s still twenty quid mate. Everyone is twenty quid.” At least I’m safe I thought.
I rested well and woke recharged and ready to face the day. The plan now was to see if it’s start and if it didn’t try and see what was wrong. I turned the key and boom! It fired into life as if nothing had ever happened. Then it died. “Bollocks. Again.”
I called my mechanic and he talked me though a few things but to no avail. We did however pinpoint the problem to a faulty temperature sensor but I couldn’t get to it. Next plan was to call recovery to get me back to him so he could fix it. I checked my booklet and discovered that being a tight arse and relying on hope, I had only paid in to the most basic of covers which had o my one option: To be recovered from your position to a garage within ten miles for repairs at your expense.
Grand. I had breakfast using the £3 voucher that came with the nights fee and added another six quid. My plastic fork broke with the third mouthful. My knife cut slices into the bottom of the polystyrene tray causing bean juice to dribble onto my crotch.
I didn’t bother praying this time when I fired it up. And it stayed fired up too. Maybe that’s where I was going wrong? I left it another hour and it was still fine. I drove off and left a trail of dust in my wake and headed back to Stevenage to where my mechanic was laying in wait with a brand new heat sensor.
I took it steady, a healthy 60mph. But once again, and at the most inopportune moment it decide it didn’t like doing it’s job anymore and died. I shuddered and rolled to a stop right across the exit slip for the A14. I was trying to roll to the emergency bay just 200 yards away on the A1. I didn’t want to roll up the slip where I’d have blocked a lane and probably died. I wanted that bay of safety. Well according to the government it’s a bay of safety anyway. I was sat in the chevrons at the point of the crash barrier with heavy traffic hurtling past me both sides. “You must exit your vehicle if you breakdown” echoed around my head. No fucking way am I going to attempt to run across many lanes of speeding tonnes of metal. You can stick that right up your arse.
I sat there with the ignition on staring at the dash. Then all of a sudden the naughty gauge flicked back to norma temp position. I jumped forward, fired it up and set off in the gutter with all the dead animas and glass and bits of vehicle, hazard providing a futile attempt at keeping me safe. 100 yards. Yes! I’m gonna be safe! 50 yards. Yes! I’m out side the van now pushing it with it chugging along in first gear, aiding it, helping. I was in the emergency bay! I have never felt so relieved!
Now don’t get me wrong, if I’d just broken down for the first time and made it straight into the bay then I’d be properly shitting myself. But this was the safest I’d been of all the times in the last 18 hours that’d I’d been breaking down! Save the truck stop but you know!
I sat there for a bit whilst I pondered what to do. In the end I decided that yeah a tow to a garage (I’d slip him a tenner to drop me in a lay-by) within ten miles was a much better idea than staying here! So I gave the recovery guys a call. After 16 hours of questions and me saying “what? Sorry? Pardon? What? Sorry can you repeat that? What? What? Eh?” they said “well send a tech out first and he can’t get you going then we’ll send a tow truck” I fought hard to keep my big mouth shut. My big honest fat mouth. I desperately wanted to say ”but I haven’t got cover for that” but fought the urge and forced myself to think “it’s their deal if they’ve messed up. Not mine”.
45 minutes later a beauty of a tow truck arrived, all flashing disco lights cheerily pointing to everyone passing that “this douche has broken down in his house” and the driver jumps out with an even bigger cheery hello! My heart sank as I realised that they’d realised I wasn’t covered and sent a truck. But alas! He’s a tech too! “If I can’t get you running then I’ll tow you” he said.
An hour and an arf later I was running. Rough but running. That’ll get you and your house back to your mechanic no bother lad he said. I almost cried. I did cry a little bit I’m not going to tell you that 😉
Back at the mechanics yard and a paltry £60 later the machine was once again purring!
I have an app that gives me like 8 motivational speeches every day. I’ll share one with you, one of my favourites:
Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine.