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A Carmageddon Adventure

The weekend of Carmageddon back in 2011 will always be one I remember, but not for the traffic. I bought Big Blue, my amazing 2010 Subaru Forester a certified used cars, from a lease return, with just over 35,000 miles on the odometer. I had bought the car on July 10th, 2011; a mere week before the dreaded Carmageddon was to hit Los Angeles. In order to tear down a portion of the Mulholland Drive Bridge, the Sepulveda Pass between the 10 and 101 freeways would be closed all weekend, and the radio and T.V. newscasters urged Los Angeles to stay home to avoid the traffic meltdowns. I was a little disappointed that the threat of traffic would delay my chance to drive my new Forester over the weekend, but I contented myself with driving to and from work that week to get to know my new car and decided to spend the weekend at home.

After a long week of work, Friday July 15th came and I dreaded the impending traffic when I left that morning for work. I had been hearing all week about crazy lengths some people were going to as they tried to prepare for the weekend’s road closures – it made me glad I didn’t work Saturday or Sunday. I hit the 405 that morning and was surprised that my morning commute seemed to be behaving itself. There was traffic, but no more than the usual amount for a Friday morning. I smiled and chalked it up to me getting out of the house early, glad to be off to a good start. Work went smoothly, but all day I had a nagging fear that my commute back down the Santa Monica and San Diego Freeways would be murderous come 5 o’clock. Work ended and I got in Big Blue and started for home, when I got on the 10 freeway I was met with…almost nothing. I was floored; the usual congestion of the Friday evening commute was practically nonexistent. I looked at my dashboard clock, sure I was somehow an hour early. Nope, 5:15pm, it was definitely the right time. I grinned, thrilled at my good luck that maybe everyone had worked later in order to try and avoid the 5 o’clock rush. It was the fastest Friday commute ever; I was astonished the drive took less than an hour. I parked Big Blue in the garage and settled in to wait out the weekend at home.

The Weekend Begins

When I woke up on Saturday, the morning news brought another surprise, the construction on the Sepulveda Pass was off to a great start because there had been no traffic all night. Pictures of the 405 Freeway looked like scenes from a zombie movie, usually crowded roads were totally devoid of cars and people. Apparently the months of warnings had stuck, and people were doing their best to stay off the roads. I got excited; maybe Big Blue would be able to have some fun this weekend after all. After lunch I checked the news and traffic online, everything still looked good. I decided on an easy route up the coast; I’d stay away from the construction zone and still be able to take a nice drive in the canyons.
I set off on that glorious Saturday afternoon, amazed at the wonderfully traffic-free streets. There were people out and about but they were walking, riding bikes and skateboards, or getting out of buses in droves. I headed north up the coast toward Malibu, my windows down and my radio cranked up high. I had driven Big Blue about 500 miles since I had bought it the previous weekend and that hadn’t been enough for me, I wanted to test it out. The drive was awesome, I could feel the power and precision of the all-wheel drive but I didn’t feel that I was driving a huge beast, the Forester handled corners like a champion rally car. I took a lap up Topanga Canyon and marveled at the maneuverability of the largest car I had ever owned. My two hour rally through the winding canyon roads was exhilarating, I was having the time of my life.

An Unexpected Setback

I was wishing for an off-road course as I headed back down toward the Pacific Coast Highway when I suddenly noticed a strange burning smell. Glancing down at my dashboard, I noticed the temperature gauge was giving a very high reading. I was worried, had I done something to Big Blue? As I drove onward, the warning light on the dash panel lit up, telling me my engine was in danger of overheating. I pulled over into the parking lot of a convenience store in a small canyon neighborhood to figure things out. I was fretting over my bad luck when I remembered that because Big Blue was a certified used car and I had 24-hour roadside assistance. I called up the motor club contact I got when I bought Big Blue and within the next hour a tow truck came to my rescue (thankfully the traffic we had been warned about was still nonexistent and the roads were clear). I was towed to a Subaru dealership in Santa Monica to get Big Blue checked out. I explained the issue to the mechanic and watched them roll Big Blue into the shop. I hoped to high heaven it wasn’t a bad diagnosis – I had just bought the car and really liked it already, regardless of this little snag in my weekend drive.

A Lucky Save

After about an hour, the mechanic finally emerged and I held my breath to hear Big Blue’s fate. “It looks like there was a bolt that came loose in the engine, causing a coolant leak. Luckily, it’s going to be covered by your CPO warranty, so there’s nothing to worry about,” the mechanic said with a smile. I was so happy it wasn’t a major problem and Big Blue had saved my wallet again. I would get a new engine short block without a penny lost for the repairs.
Unfortunately, the repairs took all weekend, but Big Blue was back on Monday stronger than ever. Carmageddon ended up not being too big of a deal because of everyone’s cooperation, but I’ll always remember that weekend because of Big Blue’s lucky saves and our fantastic first drive.