Thursday, 7 March 2013

Day 290 – When Trevor got cold. (Romania)

It was an incredibly cold morning and we all huddled together in front of the small electric heater inside the kitchen while Trevor took his time warming up. Eventually we decided he was probably warmish, so shivering, we piled into the car and attempted to blast the heating on our frozen selves, hoping to revive at least some level of feeling to our blue fingers and feelingless toes. This of course failed miserably as the only air blowing out of anything was well below 0°C. We waved farewell to our lovely guesthouse hosts and rounded the corner onto the main road out of Sigishoara. As the slip lane ended and we merged with the traffic on the main road though, Trevor made a little splutter and gurgled to a stop.

Once before when we were in Kosovo, the LPG tank froze over night and it was a simple matter of pouring a kettle of boiling water over it to literally unfreeze the system. So Denner ran back to our guesthouse to boil a kettle and we stood in the sun, attempting, to no avail, to thaw our painfully cold bodies. It didn’t reach more than -17°C that day, and even in the sun the cold was excruciating. A few minutes later Denner returned and poured the steaming water over the LPG system, and we watched on hopefully as he attempted to turn over the engine. Unfortunately it was considerably colder than it had been in Kosovo and Trevor still wouldn’t turn on. We got one more kettle of boiling water, and when still nothing changed we considered attempting to start on petrol, but having not run the car on petrol in several days, possibly a couple of weeks, we decided that having no idea what state the petrol was in it was too much of a risk. (Our car runs on both LPG and petrol and switches between the two by simply pressing a button on the dashboard. As LPG is much cheaper we run almost solely on that, only using petrol when we can’t find LPG, or occasionally to keep the system running smoothly.)

By this point we had tried so many times to start the engine that stupidly, we had drained battery. We began waving people down to ask for a jump start but nobody was interested in rescuing us, so Dee and I ran back to the guesthouse to ask for help. The middle generation of guesthouse owners were both out, but their teenage son and his grandmother were more than happy (almost disturbingly so in fact) to do everything they could for our cause. We were inundated with chocolates and coffee while excited phone calls were made to the mum and dad who were both out with their cars. We insisted that they shouldn’t come home to rescue us, but their son and mother wouldn’t hear of it and next thing we knew they were both on their way home. We felt incredibly guilty that they were being put so far out of their way just to give us a jump start, but nobody would listen; they were on their way, and they were determined that one way or another we would get our car started.

Anxious to look after us the teenage son put on some woollen socks, leather boots, a fur-lined jacket, a black Russian-style fur hat and a pair of fur-lined suede mittens, and followed us from his warm living room to the icy outdoors. His intention was to act as translator, but for that to be effective we still needed someone to pull over and offer us assistance. As we headed back towards the car though Denner came running towards us to say someone had already stopped and was attempting to jump us. We thanked our host and sent him home, making sure he told his parents to get back to whatever they had been upto before we interrupted them.

On our return to the car we were disappointed to find that the jump starters had given up and left us, so we stood out in the middle of the road again to find someone new. After some time two men in a pick-up track u-turned to pull up in front of us, immediately taking control and connecting the batteries. Realising now that there was no way we were going to get started on LPG we switched over to petrol, but the we had exhausted the battery so much and the petrol system had been out of use for so long that the jump starting didn’t work immediately. Each time we tried it sounded a little healthier and knowing what our unique situation with the LPG was we were sure that with a little persistence we could get started, but our rescuers didn’t believe us and they refused to continue. Really wanting to help though they attached us to their tow bar and took us a few kilometres down the road to a mechanic where they found an English speaker and left us.

With some help from the mechanics we pushed Trevor up the hill where we’d been dropped off and into the forecourt of the workshop. They were all incredibly kind and helpful and we were instantly ushered out of the cold and into the small office where we were shown to a tea/coffee/hot chocolate machine. Trevor was attached to a machine that basically served as a jump start and after guzzling up as much battery juice as he could over 15 minutes or so, we were finally able to turn the engine over and get him going. Relieved, we left the engine running, still attached to the battery machine until the mechanic advised, about two hours after the whole debarkle began, that it was probably ok to go now.

You learn something new every day, and this day’s lesson was that an LPG tank freezes when it’s cold. So from then on, whenever the temperature would be under 0°C overnight, we would switch to petrol before turning in, and start on petrol in the morning until the LPG had time to thaw. I’m not sure how owners of LPG vehicles deal with winter in parts of the world that regularly deal with such cold temperatures, but this system worked fine for us. Once we figured out that that’s what we had to do.

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