A blizzard and a busted battery left us in a bad situation that was rapidly getting worse.
Fortunately, we've had mostly good luck on our winter road trips - and so far this year we're having a wonderfully mild season - but one bad past experience proved to be a timely reminder on the importance of relying on preparation, and not just good fortune.
Just minutes before the traffic finally started moving again, our car suddenly died. All the lights of our car flashed, a multitude of sensors lit up the screen, and we got a quick succession of warning notices. And within a minute the car was completely dead. We couldn't put it in neutral and roll it off of the road. We couldn't even put on the hazard lights! So there we were, in the dark, in a snow storm, in a silver car, on the fast lane of one of the busiest highways in Canada; a highway that was covered in ice.
We weren't waiting out an accident any more. We were an accident waiting to happen! We were sitting ducks and we were scared.
20 incredibly tense minutes passed until a road works truck came upon the scene. He had his crew block the highway so we would be safe from traffic - an incredibly kind gesture - and stayed with us until a tow truck came.
Long story short: It took us three days to get the car repaired. There was a problem with the battery and a special part had to be shipped in from Vancouver. Normally we would be highly agitated over our cancelled plans but we knew just how lucky we were to emerge unscathed.
First, we needed a car emergency kit. A good one. A big one. The kind of kit that includes flares, red flashers, and emergency foil blankets. For once, I didn't even look at the price tag. There's just some things you need to buy and this was one of them. (In case you're curious, this is what we ended up getting, plus we augmented it with a few extra things.)
Secondly, we needed a real roadside assistance program, not just the complimentary one from the dealership. It was an awful feeling, scrambling through the papers in the glove compartment to try to find the number we should call and having no idea what was covered. We did our research and picked a plan that worked for us. And then we did even MORE research (and harassed the company a bit) to determine if we would have in the United States as well. And then we did even MORE research and bought a second plan to cover some gaps from the first plan. It's overkill, maybe. But it's an inconsequential cost to our overall travel budget for the year and brings huge peace of mind.
Finally, I vowed to always bring along my Mophie portable power pack, no matter the trip. We never bothered to bring it on road trips, assuming that we could just charge our phones in the car as we traveled. But when the power died and we had to use our phones as emergency lights in -25 degree weather, our only lifelines had rapidly draining batteries.
That night on the 401 was a harrowing experience - one of the closest calls we've ever had while traveling and we're not eager to repeat it anytime soon. But that hasn't slowed our travels down.
We're glad we got our act together when it comes to winter road trips and we can't wait for the next adventure.
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