Portland ’10: The Plot Thickens

As promised, I’m back with part three of my Portland trip with Dana. I’ve covered the parts that were just straight-up awesome, but now it’s time to dramatically retell the part of the story that actually was pretty dramatic at the time.

Portland on a beautiful Sunday morning

On Saturday evening, at 5:00, Dana and I went to Powell’s. If you aren’t from the west coast and have never been exposed to the wonder that is Powell’s, it’s a massive book store. It takes up the whole block and has new and used books, as well as a cafe. It’s the kind of place people like Dana and I can spend hours and hours because we love books. As it turns out, we would spend hours and hours there, but for a somewhat different reason than usual. Anyway, at a little before 7:00 we bought our books and went back to the car becausewe wanted to get to the concert early. We paid our parking fee (all of $1.60), got in the car and… the car wouldn’t start. Dana turned the key, a couple of warning lights (check engine and low coolant) came on briefly, and nothing else happened. She tried about four times before we gave in to the fact that the car definitely wasn’t going to change its mind. The irony of this turn of events was definitely not lost on us.

I’m going to take a moment to explain why this turn of events was exceptionally ironic. You see, Dana has a car, but it’s old and we weren’t sure it would survive a trip to and from Portland. So we borrowed her grandmother’s car, which her uncle checked over the day before we left and assured us would be a-okay. This car, we were told, would definitely not have the problems Dana’s car probably would. So, of course, this was the car that died in the Powell’s parking garage.

The next hour or so was spent first on the phone with Dana’s uncle, who tried to troubleshoot the issue. Then we called AAA, because her grandmother has AAA insurance and her uncle gave us the numbers and everything, but AAA wouldn’t help us because her grandmother wasn’t in the car. What they did do was hook us up with a tow company in Portland. While Dana was on the phone dealing with this, I talked to the parking garage guy twice and he finally took pity on us and gave us as long as we needed without paying more money.

At about 8:15 the tow truck showed up. But the building clearance was too low, so the guy (his name was Nate and he was amazing) came up to the car and got it first turned around and then coasted it down the ramp to where the truck was. The problem with this whole situation, beyond the blatantly obvious, was that no mechanics were open at 8:00 on a Saturday night. Nate was supposed to tow us to the Firestone around the corner, but he told us that wasn’t a secure place to leave a car overnight, so for the same price he towed the car back to our hotel. But we still had a concert to go to, so he went the extra mile and earned our eternal gratitude by giving us a lift straight to the concert venue on his way to our hotel. I paid for the whole thing on my credit card, we got to the concert on time, and an excellent evening ensued. We did have to walk back to our hotel from the venue, but it was still pretty warm out and the walk was only about six blocks across the Burnside Bridge.

The Burnside Bridge at Midnight

Fastforward to 10:45 the next morning. After a pathetic night’s sleep, waking up at about 7:30, and watching TV in the hotel room for a couple of hours, we were waiting for the tow truck so we could check out on time and get the car to Firestone. The truck got there, we went down the car, and Dana pulled out the keys.

The electronic locks wouldn’t work. We couldn’t get into the car. Sometime between 8:30 the night before and 10:45 that morning, the battery had died. Fortunately, the manual key was above one of the wheel wells, so we were able to get into the driver’s side, I checked us out of the hotel, and at about 11:00 we were on our way to Firestone. At Firestone, they told us they would figure out what was wrong and call us when they knew, or when they’d fixed it if it was a really simple problem. Dana and I wandered off to find brunch (we hadn’t eaten in almost 24 hours at that point) and kill time.

After eating at a little French-style bistro, which was fab, we went back to Powell’s and proceeded to spend several hours in their cafe. We browsed books, we checked Facebook on Dana’s iPod Touch, I got a mocha, we mourned the impending deaths of our phones, and basically just tried to keep ourselves amused until Firestone got back to us. At about 1:30 Firestone called to tell us that the battery wasn’t holding a charge and they thought it was the alternator, but they’d get back to us. At about 3:30, on the advice of my mother, Dana called them back to check in and they said that, actually, it was just that the battery connectors had gone bad. So they’d replaced the battery, we owed them $99 plus the cost of the work, and we were good to go.

We escaped!

At about 4:00, we were on the road back to Seattle. Five hours later than initially intended.

And so ended our epic adventure. We were actually really chill through the whole thing, no panicking or flailing or gnashing of teeth to be found. Actually, it was kind of hilarious and we handled ourselves well. And it makes a fantastic story.

We made the return trip in almost exactly three hours, partly because we didn’t stop once, we ended up listening to the same Christian Kane song (the one from the music video) about 8 times over the course of the drive, mostly unintentionally, and at the end we were greeted by one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

The Seattle Skyline


2 thoughts on “Portland ’10: The Plot Thickens

  1. I don’t know… you sounded slightly panicked though amused when you called me. Sorry I was of no help.

    This does sound like it was quite crazy! And oh, the irony. That is the nature of life, you know.

    • No, I wasn’t panicking. I was worried and little stressed that we were probably going to be late for the concert, which was the entire reason we were in Portland, but I wasn’t panicking. And once we had a way to get the car towed before the concert started, we were totally good.

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