The Breakdown That Never Happened

By Steve Simmons, May 2014

Bound for Santa Barbara to enjoy a weekend event, our caravan headed north along scenic back roads. Everyone was secure in the fact that I, our event organizer, had provided route sheets that would keep them safely on track. Shortly after traversing the mountains into Santa Paula we made a few twists and turns through town, and this is where I realized there was a discrepancy between the names on the street signs and ones on the route sheet before me. How can this be, when the almighty Google itself had given turn by turn directions through this section? As it turns out, these newfangled computing machines make mistakes just like we mere humans do. And there it was, a sign reading 10th Street that shouldn’t exist.

Not to worry, we’re playing follow the leader and although there are 15 cars in the caravan I think I can see them all. So we make the turn and all seems well. Not all is well however, as far behind us two cars have fallen back and are making their way toward the offending intersection alone. And when they finally get there, they do what anyone would do… nothing. Realizing there must be something wrong, they eventually turn around. One car recognizes what has happened by using other clues on the route sheet and signals to the other car to make the correct turn. But horns and hands cannot catch the attention of the second car and off they go in the opposite and also wrong direction. Now one car is on track but ten minutes behind and the other is simply gone!

Meanwhile the main group motors along, oblivious to what is happening behind them, and eventually makes it to Ojai where they pull over for a rest stop. But why are there only 13 cars? We waited for a while and eventually become 14, and this is when we hear what happened. Somewhere there is a TC wandering through the mountains, probably cursing whoever gave these terrible directions! Phone calls are made but there is no answer. For nearly an hour we sit and wait, discussing whether to continue waiting, press on or send out rescue parties.

Just then, a woman in a car pulls up and asks if we are missing someone. Yes! She says they are broken down on the side of the road and the California Highway Patrol is there with them. Then there is even worse news, they are about 20 miles back, on the opposite side of the mountain from where we are now! She also said that they probably won’t have cell phone reception where they are.

Now we are torn on what to do. We don’t want to leave someone behind on the side of the road, but it’s been an hour already and by the time we get there they could be gone, perhaps riding a flatbed home. We certainly can’t turn an entire 14-car caravan around in an attempt to find them. Reluctantly, we all decide that it is best to press forward, knowing that he has a roadside assistance plan and the CHP is there for additional help. But we still feel rotten that we weren’t able to do anything useful and we are sure they must be sore with us all about their situation. We try to make ourselves feel better by joking that they may have repaired the car on the spot, and then taken a different route, beating us the last 40 miles to our destination. It wasn’t working.

Now, traffic through the town of Ojai has gone from excellent to terrible and we battle to get through it. Finally we are on the open road again and despite a second missing road sign (thanks again Google), we arrive in Santa Barbara at our hotel.

Shock! Disbelief! Confusion! There is a Sequoia Cream MG TC in the parking lot. It can’t be the fellow and his gal that we abandoned in the mountains. Someone suggested checking for bonnet louvers. They were there. So was the TC Motoring Guild badge and many other clues that confirmed this was the car! On one hand we are relieved they are ok and the car is obviously functional, but on the other hand we now have to face the angry couple who we had failed as a group earlier in the day.

The hotel lobby door opens and out emerges two relaxed, happy TC owners with cups of hot chocolate in their hands. They wonder where we have been. But it is we who have the most pressing questions and they are soon answered…

After they drove past the turn twice, they figured out the problem on their own and returned. While not convinced whether or not this was the correct highway, they came upon a CHP car parked on the side of the road. So they pulled up alongside to ask. While there, a nice lady drove past on her way to Ojai. But we know about her already!

The officer said yes, they were going the right way but it was very twisty ahead so it would be slow going. A decision was then made to backtrack a few miles and get on the main highway to Santa Barbara and not go through Ojai and along the slower roads. It was that simple.

Having driven the route several times before, I knew there was something odd about the instructions I printed from the internet. But I trusted that infernal computing device more than my own intuition. I suppose this is why I don’t own an automobile with one wired into it.

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