WILLISTON, N.D. – The day I’d been dreading arrived this week: My car broke down in the Oil Patch.
Actually, it broke down twice. On Highway 2. The latter time in a construction zone. (If you live in Williston, you probably saw me getting a jumpstart by the Phil Jackson sign while you drove to work this morning.)
I’d been dreading this day because I’d heard the horror stories of people waiting weeks or longer in this boomtown to have their vehicles serviced. And since I drive a 1997 Nissan Maxima with more than 180,000 miles on it, I knew it would come sooner or later.
The dreaded day arrived Monday as I left the press conference for the new truck bypass and headed back into Williston on Highway 2. The radio died, my car started shaking and the battery warning light came on. Luckily, I was able to get it off the highway and steer it to a gas station that is attached to OK Tire.
I left it there for OK Tire to look at. (Their advertised labor rate is $85 an hour.) It took them two days before they were even able to look at it. This morning, I called and they said they believe it’s the alternator but they’re not able to help me. They charged the battery and recommended I take it to Ryan Motors. They were nice enough not to charge me anything.
We pulled into Ryan Motors today and found out the first available appointment was Aug. 31. The guy made it clear that they could look at it that day, not necessarily fix it that day. Their rate for diagnostic work is $109 an hour. I went ahead and made the appointment, rather than wait and get pushed into September. They asked that we drive the car back home because their lot is so full.
I was driving my husband’s car and he followed in my Maxima. I made the mistake of heading home through the construction on the highway. (In my defense, it’s pretty tough to find a route without construction in Williston right now.) As we’re sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic like you’d expect to see in Minneapolis, I realize this was not a good move.
Sure enough, I look in my rearview mirror and see that the car is stalling again. Once again, I was fortunate and we were able to pull out of traffic and park it by the construction barrier near the landmark Phil Jackson sign. We jumped my car while I was on the phone with AAA.
We were able to drive the Maxima to the next intersection and get it away from the head-to-head traffic. If a tow truck had to get into that construction zone, we would have caused a traffic jam all the way to Montana. I challenged the AAA representative to find me a service station that could look at my car sooner. She said she checked stations in a 50-mile radius and couldn’t find anything better than the Aug. 31 appointment.
Then the tow truck driver arrived and turned my day around. He made a call and found me an appointment in Wheelock, which is about 35 miles away. I talked directly to the shop owner who said he could look at my car today (today!) and maybe even fix it today. (Yes, today!) And he charges $65 an hour for labor. Since I have a AAA Plus membership, the tow is free within 100 miles.
So I canceled the dealership appointment and within only a couple of hours I heard back from the shop in Wheelock. I should be able to pick up my car tonight! I think I’ve just found my new mechanic. The next day of dreaded car trouble should be easier to handle.