San Diego to Phoenix
mmm… we had an “interesting” day today. Not exactly a “near death” experience, more of a “could have died” experience. Has left us a bit shaken up, but we’re completely okay now.
We headed out of San Diego this morning, bound for Phoenix. Driving through the mountains just out of San Diego was quite spectacular – you climb quite quickly from sea level up to over 4100 feet, and there was lots of snow on the ground (but was a nice sunny day, and the roads were nice and dry too). We enjoyed that drive through the mountains.
Anyway … we were driving along the I-8 east of El Centro on our way to Phoenix.
Driving the Mazda6 we picked up from Hertz LAX last Thursday, as you know, we have spent 2 days in Santa Monica and 4 days in San Diego with no problems.
Leanne was driving, doing between 60 and 70 mph (less than the speed limit), when we heard a loud “bang” and the car started shuddering. I instructed her to pull over (to the left hand side – we were in the left lane overtaking).
We had just made it off the road when the rear of the car suddenly dropped with a squealing sound, and a saw the right rear wheel go rolling down the road past us.
Yes, a wheel came off at over 60 miles an hour – something we were very, very fortunate to walk away from unharmed. There were no evidence of the wheel nuts anywhere, and one of the bolts had sheared off. We assume that the nuts were not put on tight enough and had eventually worked their way loose, and the final bold had sheared off when it could no longer support the weight on its own. Interestingly, the car did not seem to be mishandling at all up until the point we skidded off the road.
I called Hertz emergency assistance straight away – the girl on the phone seemed genuinely shocked at what had happened. She said she would get someone from a local Hertz at El Centro to drive out and collect us and send a tow truck to collect the car. This was at 1pm.
I called back at 2pm to see how long they thought it would be – she said the person collecting us had already left and should be there within 30 mins.
At 2:40pm I called again to find out what was going on – the guy on the emergency assistance line put me on a conference call with the guy from the local Hertz office who explained that the guy in the car hadn’t been able to find us :rolleyes: I don’t think he drove very far – it wasn’t difficult to miss us with a white car about 1m off the left hand side of the road (in the medium strip). We were probably a little further up the road than he thought we were based on our very sketchy description of where we were.
While I was still on the phone, the tow truck they had dispatched arrived and he spoke to the Hertz people, agreeing to return us (and the car) to the Hertz office.
He managed to get the wheel back on, borrowing nuts from the other wheels and drove the car up the truck’s ramp. We then spent the next 30 minutes or so watching while poor Eddy (the tow truck driver) did repairs to his own truck to try and get the hydraulic pump working to raise the car back up on to the truck. He was not happy – but some perserverence (and some clever use of rope) managed to get it working enough to get the car up.
We then headed off in his rattling old truck back to the Hertz office.
The guy at the Hertz office arranged a replacement car for us. He first offered us a Buick, but it didn’t have Neverlost (he thought it did), and so he let us take the Camry he did have there with Neverlost – which was a much nicer car to drive than the Mazda6 had been !!!
We moved our luggage over to the new car, and left Eddy still struggling to get the car back off his truck, since the hydraulic pump was still not working. Just as we left, one of guys from his tow truck company arrived to try and help. I hope Eddy got it fixed and got home in time for dinner – he was a nice guy.
Anyway, we finally got away just after 4:30pm, stopped for some food (we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and were just about to start looking for somewhere to have lunch when we lost the wheel), and then headed back out to the I-8. It was just after 5:30pm by the time we got past the point where the incident happened … 4.5 hours lost. As annoying as it was, we are still very thankful that we came out of it completely unharmed.
While we were waiting to be picked up, about 7 or 8 people pulled over to see if we were okay, including a Highway Patrol officer and a Caltrans worker. Everyone who saw what had happened told us how lucky we were and how these things usually end up with the car rolling.
So we finally got in to Phoenix at around 10:30pm local time after a nice, uneventful drive in the Camry.
Tomorrow morning I’ll call Hertz and see what they are going to do for us – given that their incompetence could have killed us, I’m expecting something rather generous from them.
I did take some photos, but it’s late now and I really need to get some sleep. I’ll upload them tomorrow if I get a chance.