Tuesday, January 13, 2015

God’s presence as a mechanic at Advance Auto Repair in Gainesville, FL. 32641

Unforgettable Trip – With God’s presence as a mechanic at Advance Auto Repair in Gainesville, FL. 32641
Jack and I took a trip to Alabama in January 2015 to visit his mother, who had just lost her husband of 17 years of cancer. We couldn't make to the funeral.   
We left Florida on Friday January 2nd, 2015 at 7PM. We drove on Interstate (I- 95) from Lake Worth to Jacksonville (going north). In Jacksonville we took I-10 going west to Lake City, FL, and then, we took I-75 going to Atlanta, GA. and from there we reached Alabama. We took this route because we were avoiding going through Montgomery. Once you enter Montgomery, it is not as easy to get out. Our Destination was Ethelsville, AL.
We left Florida and the temperature was 76 degrees Fahrenheit. As we approached Daytona Beach, the temperature decreased at least 20 degrees. The visibility was clear, until the out-side air condensation mixed with oil-and-pollution created a blurry windshield. We turned the wipers on, to realize that we did not have any fluid. We stopped at a rest area and cleaned the windshield with Windex, but the smog had penetrated into the glass, for some reason. Once we passed that area of approximately 20 miles, the windshield became clear, as if nothing had ever happened. We had passed into a zone of high concentration of chemicals. I don’t see any other explanation. I don’t know what made it get clear either.
By 4:00AM we arrived in Atlanta. , it started to rain. Actually, it started to pour water from the sky, and we were happy to be there in a short time. The roads were not crowded. But all of a sudden the driver side windshield wiper started to fail, leaving dry pieces of rubber on the glass. It was impossible to see, and we slowed down the car to 40 miles per hour and turned the emergency lights on, and we took the first exit into some area of Atlanta. We drove extremely slowly, and we stopped at a gas station but no one had wipers. There Jack asked where he could find a Walmart and by 5:30AM we got the correct pair. It had instructions and Jack replaced them. We watched a “How to install a complete Windshield wipers’ video, on Google using my cell phone, and immediately, the battery went dead.  It was 34 Degrees, and our heater was not working properly either. We never used heather in Florida, so it was never turned on before. Until then, the temperature inside the car was good, but at this time, it was impossible to be outside. We kept the doors open while Jack was coming back and forth, putting the pieces together.  It was very cold, and the wind and the rain made it almost unbearable to do the job. I still don’t know how Jack replaced it in weather like that, without any gloves or raincoat.
By 6:00AM we were out of Atlanta and heading towards Birmingham. The windshield wipers on all the time and Jack took charge of the steering wheel. By 11AM on Saturday we made it there. We spend the entire week eating, visiting family members, sleeping, reading and watching TV. It was very cold in Alabama, and the temperature went down to 11 Degrees.
We have a Jaguar X model 2003 with 124K miles. It has been a very good car most of the time, but somehow expensive to repair. We had spent at least $4K in repairs in 2013-2014, including oil changes and tires, brakes, etc.  We will keep this car forever. On this particular trip I sensed that both incidents happened while I was driving. The first one being the fog and oil mist, where I complained not being able to see the Interstate, and the second one being the time when the windshield wiper went bad. We both drive one full tank (supposedly) and change places at the gas station. I didn’t get to finish one whole tank, and we got into problems. Needless to say, Jack drove most of the time. I could not sleep in the car, although I was very tired, I kept myself awake, imagining that if I fall sleep Jack would do it to, and we would get into an accident. So, I kept my eyes on the road, as if our lives depended on it. I have a tendency of talking with my car. Not the way we talk with an animal, but I say, come on, let’s make it, or things like that.  I never talked about my feeling that the car goes bad when I drive. I did not have to.
On our way back, it was 18 Degrees when we left Alabama, and by the time we were eating lunch outside of Valdosta, GA on I-75, the temperature was 39 Degrees. It was comfortable inside the car, and the sun made it very warm. It was my turn to drive. I drove pass Valdosta around 150 miles and when we were 2 miles shy of the intersection with I-10, (Lake City, FL), the temperature reaches the red light alarm. I changed lanes and stopped on the highway I-75 around 3:25 PM on Friday, January 9th, 2015.
Luckily we had some Anti-Freeze in the trunk along with Octane booster and other car stuff. We waited a few minutes for the car to get colder and we opened the small tank to complete it. We realized that some liquid had escaped when I had stopped. I guess, the temperature had reached its limit, and it busted something underneath.
Jack filled up the tank with anti-freeze and we get back on I-75, with me still driving.  We just got 400 feet down the road, the temperature gauge goes red again, and we stopped one more time. Once the car got cold we idle half a mile and got closer to the intersection. There were some men working on the road, cutting trees and doing some landscaping half a mile away, and I walked towards them, while Jack was waiting for the car to get cold again.  Meanwhile the Interstate was busy, with trucks changing lanes to stay away from our vehicle. We were scared to stay in front of the car while with an open hood. I asked one of the working men if they had water. No! I asked where the next rest area was, and he said 2 miles away on I-10 West. They did not have water. We wanted water to complete the tank. We were decided to idle for 2 miles and get to the rest area and get some water. As we went along one mile south, we see another man working, and it was time again to stop the car. He said they had water where his crew was working, and we walked over there, abandoning the car on the Highway. There we filled up our anti-freeze container with water and as we were returning to the car, I asked them what could cause the car engine to go hot. He said it was lack of water, or a rose got busted or the Water Pump.
We decide to get on the road and the temperature problem remained. We got into the rest area, west bound on I-10 mile 291, but we did not need any more water. It did not have any busted rose. We then concluded that we needed a water pump. At the resting area we both need to recharge our telephones. Jack found a plug behind the Soda Machine and placed the cell phone on top of it. We waited! I read the manual, and opened it into the overheat section. One interesting thing it said, which made us more relaxed, was that if you are driving with high speed, and you stop suddenly, it can cause the engine to overheat. In this case, you have to turn the car off until it cools down. It also tells you to turn on the AC on a recycling mode. We did just that, and let the car running for at least 10 minutes and the temperature was normal. Jack gets the phone from the plug, and asked a worker where the next exit was, so we could make a U-Turn. 
On the road we go, I am driving still. We see that there is another resting area on the East bound. We also see a sign Exit 292 in 2 miles. 
As we get into the exit lane, the engine started all over again. We had driven 2 miles, and we are now 4 miles away from the east bound rest area, on mile 296 on I-10. We are stuck! After it cooled off again, this time, we exchanged places, and Jack said we would make these four miles to the next rest area because we could not stay where we were, and we would idle the car until we get there.  We had agreed that we needed towing service, and we started calling to triple A. Meanwhile the car gets cold again and Jack gets the car at the rest area in one only maneuver. My phone went dead again, for it had so many messages, and too many Facebook updates, along with other updates not necessary. I connect myself with the soda machine plug, and Jack was talking with Triple A, and getting his membership up-dated. I was talking to a mechanic in Lake City, 20 miles away from the exit who asked me for $120 dollars for towing. The mechanic said that he was not contracted by Triple A. I told him that I would contact him in a few minutes. It was 4:40 PM and they would close at 5:00PM and reopen on Monday. I forgot to ask if he could change a water pump on a jaguar, or if he had the part. I just wanted the car out of the road. Triple A. service desk located a mechanic in Lake City, but they were not Jaguar specialist. Jack was not sure if he wanted the car to be towed to Lake City, considering that it was a small town with 12K people, it may not have a jaguar mechanic. We did not see many jaguars in that area. Jack was thinking more like Jacksonville, but the Triple A lady said that they all close at 5:00 PM on Friday. The towing truck was on its way to rescue us. We just did not know to “where”.
Jack located a Mechanic in Gainesville Florida who was open 24 hours. When he placed the call, the mechanic said that they would close at 5:30 that evening and reopen on Monday. Jack tells him his situation and what the problem was. The mechanic gave him a number of another mechanic ( Advance Auto Repairs 352-372-3294) who could work on the car, but he was going to contact him (himself) now and see if he was willing to let a guy stay late to fix our car and, if the part was available. They exchanged numbers, and Jack’s telephone went dead. He run to the Soda Machine to recharge it. There he received the call that the part was available and the mechanic was going to stay there over time for us.
Jack then called the place and spoke with a Lady. She was very attentions on the phone and placed the call on hold while she would get a technician to listen to the problem.
On the line came Lorne, who identify himself and wanted to know what the problem was. He listened to Jack’s explanation and agreed that it could be the pump. He assured Jack that he would be waiting for us to get there, and the part will be there.
Jack decided then that he was going to take the car to Gainesville. FL.
We were one hour away from Gainesville, or 65 miles. We then decided that we would tow the car to Gainesville because it was closer to home, and because there was a mechanic willing to work on it tonight.
The Towing man – Adam, was happier that we had a longer distance to tow. He called his dispatcher and re-routed the trip. We were going to Gainesville, 42 miles away. Inside the truck we listened to Adam and his conclusion that it must have been the water pump. When we got into Gainesville, Adam finds a different direction to get to our destination. He claimed to have lived in Gainesville and knew exactly where we were heading to. It made us less tense, but it went away when he did not make the same turn as the GPS had instructed. He claimed that the GPS was sending him to a longer distance. He called the mechanic and said where he was. It took less than 3 minutes for him to get us to our destination. Advance Auto Repair. Address: 1224 East University Avenue, Gainesville, FL 3264Phone:(352) 372-3294
 Once we arrived, we were scared. We saw a place with more than 15 cars on the parking lot. The name on the side of the building was not clear. There was a convenient store across street, where the towing driver parked the truck, and demanded his fees in cash before he could release the car. He asked me to stay inside the truck while he was going to unload the car. Meanwhile, Jack was inside the store trying to get money, but the machine only released $200 each time. While there, Jack was approached by some loiters who asked him for money. I was inside the truck, with my phone on the charger. I thought about Jack, and where he was. I left the truck and went to the store, and Jack was outside with his money in his pocket.
“Jack where are we”? I said while looking at people’s face.
“I don’t know”.    
 The car is at this point off the towing truck.  A gentleman approached me and told me to drive the car into a spot he had opened for us. Jack paid the towing company and I showed Jack where he was supposed to park the car. The total paid was $240 plus $10 tip. ($4 per mile).  At this time Adam is preparing his documents, and we are outside, by the car waiting for the mechanic - Lorne. There were many people walking on streets. It was a busy area. It was 7:15 PM. We only had a Junior whopper from Burger King in Valdosta.
We say hello to the mechanic, and he send us inside the office. There we meet his wife who was glad we made it there. She asked for documentation to do her paper work, and Jack complied. In a few minutes we both went back to where the mechanic was, and he says:
“Look over here” He said: “You don’t need a pump. I have it here, but the problem is the tension pulley and the belt that is connected to the outside of the pump.” We saw it together.  One minute later he says that his wife has located the pulley and the belt, and they were ordering it.
At this time we had no idea what to think anymore. We were scared. We were in a different area. It was Friday night. We had not eaten.
I said nothing! I was watching, and Jack talked with the mechanic. The mechanic explained that he had seen that type of problem with Jaguars before, and he had recently replaced the same part. Jack felt good about him, for some reason. It was cold. We both went inside to wait for the part to arrive.
About half an hour later the mechanic approached us.
“We have bad news! We received the part, but my wife ordered a different pulley. She ordered the one that goes on the passenger side of the car, and it is not connected to the pump. She is now trying to find the right part.”
At this time our energy went away. I felt frustrated. I asked Jack what was going on here. Jack told me to stay calm. He sensed something different with the man, and that he was telling the truth. “I just felt that I can trust him, Milton”.
“OK Jack, if you say it so. I feel better then.”
We went inside and the wife said… “It was going too smoothly to be true, but I will try to find the right part for you here”.
We exchanged looks, and Jack said… “When it rains it pours.”
Inside, Jack called his sister and reported where we were. He gave the phone number and the mailing address.  He just said – It is bad!
I decided to have a cigarette outside, therefore I walked to the street to get familiar with the area and see if there were any hotels we could spend the night. The area was busy with people walking everywhere. There were at least five different car parts’ stores nearby. For a moment I thought about entering one of them, but I soon gave up the idea. I was certain that we would go to a hotel. Not so sure if we would stay until Monday or Tuesday waiting for the car to be fixed. While walking I was approached by a gentleman who seemed to be very polite. He said Hello and gave me a hug, and told me that he had just got out of prison… and before he could finish, I said:
“I am sorry, but I have no money with me. My friend has money, but I don’t. I just have a card.”
He walked away from me in direction to another store nearby. I then decided to go back to the mechanic. It was cold to be outside smoking. I put my cigarette out, but it was still on my hands. I did not want to put on the street. I walked in and made sure it was out. The mechanic was walking on my direction, and Jack was on the phone with his father.
He looked at me and said:
“I just found a part that has a different part number but seems to be the exact part I need. I am just going to try and see if it will do the job”.
“I will keep my finger crossed.” I said while placing my cigarette in the trashcan. He went towards the car and I went inside where Jack was charging his phone.
Jacks face was like mine, filled with fear. We talked about hotels and if we would leave our car here or if we would idle the car to the nearest hotel. We concluded that we would take the car with us.  We never mentioned, but our car door locks was malfunctioning.
“Jack, I just heard that he found a part that could work, He is trying to see if it does. Don’t go there now. Please. Let him do the work first.”
Jack looked at me and his face changed – he got a glimpse of hope.
“Go Jack, go there.” I said to Jack … “He told me while you were talking with your father, but I did not want to tell you right away because I wanted to pray a little.”
“I have been praying since we got here”. Jack said.
We both went outside together, and as we got there, the mechanic had a smile on his face. He said… “Crank it now!”
Jack turned the ignition to see the car starting. The mechanic opened the anti-freeze tank and placed water, showing us:
“Look over here” He said. “If there is no bubbles coming out it is a good sign”.
Then he said that by the sound of the car, we needed to replace the coils of the cylinders, which makes the car hesitate when we drive.  Just by listening to the engine, he diagnosed a problem we are having for the last couple of years. Our car has some hesitation when it changes gears. We had two different places looking at it, and both places did some cleaning that resolved it for a short while. The problem was back in no time.
The Mechanic advised us to order the coils – all six of them – and replace them all. Do not replace one and leave the other.
“Your car is ready to go. You will not have problems with this.”
“Wow, Thank you, it is working.” Said Jack.
By now we knew that his name was Lorne and that he operates the shop with his wife.  Looking at some reviews I found one that says it all.
“Lorne and his wife run a family business in an underserved side of our town. They primarily serve the African American community here in Gainesville, but provide the same honest, thoughtful service to anyone who goes to their shop. Lorne rehabilitates ex-convicts at his shop, giving them an opportunity to learn skills and get a new lease on life. This being said, I have never once felt uncomfortable at his shop. He works on any make and model, but specializes in British and Japanese cars. Lovely people, super friendly, I cannot recommend them enough!!
“Your car is ready to go. You will not have problems with this.” Said Lorne again.
Jack was perplexed. How could we ever get our car on the road on Friday night after having mechanical problems? How could we have it fixed while on the road? How did we find this place? How did we find this gentleman with such a serene face and attitude? He walks on his lot with a serene face, and he talks to you with all honesty. Only later on I understood the experience Jack had with him, and I could then understand why Jack decided to have it towed 65 miles to Gainesville, with so many other cities closer.
We went inside to pay the bill and it was $195. Jack gave them a $60 tip while I was not looking. She refused to take the tip, but Jack insisted by saying that we are happy they fixed it. She said no again and Jack insisted that she have dinner on us. I only saw a folded $20, but I knew Jack would give more.
We left our phone inside the store, and we returned five minutes later to get it.
The rest of our trip was fantastic. The temperature outside was 43 Degrees and it was only 8:23 PM. The heather started working when we left the shop. It made us more astonished. 
Jack then told me that his father had called because his sister must have told him. When we were on the road Jack gets a call from yet, another sister who heard about our mishap. She was fascinated by the story Jack told. Jack promised to never judge a book by its cover ever again. They talked for a while and she asked for the address to send them a thank you card on our behalf.
We were happy to be on the road. Imagine staying 3 days in Gainesville waiting for a part to be ordered from a Jaguar dealer. How much would it cost for hotels, food and car repairs? Or staying in Lake City FL, where they do not have any place open during the weekends.
We were blessed, and we found a place that was blessed as we were.  We did not complain about anything because it could have been worse. We could have had an accident or something major. We were content and we felt the presence of the divine in our lives.  We arrived home at 12:30 AM on Saturday January 10th 2015.
We conclude that it was neither my driving nor my speed that caused the part to go bad. It was an old part and it went through cold and hot in a short period of time. As far as the other problems, it was time to replace the wipers. They were past due.
I have not proof red this post, but I will, eventually.

Glad to be here – Milton Laene Araujo 

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