10 May 2010

Ford + Ford + Ford = At least 1 FORD too many!! (and thus 1 less in this world!)

So, my initial adventures with the old adage of “Found on Roadside Dead” or the classic “Fixed Or Repaired Daily” in the FORD mondeo simply rendered me helpless in an English town with a malfunctioning clutch. I thought that was trying enough, but apparently I would have been mistaken. That was a classic American stranded tale with immediate rescue by the chap who owns the garage who sold the mondeo with dying clutch to the practice. In hindsight, that wasn't so bad, though it seemed so at the time.

Anyway, back to the point. So, on one of the first lovely spring mornings, I had finished checking mares in the clinic, was*gasps* running early to an appointment (yes, my ability to run 30% late and on veterinary time is still well intact 4000 miles from home!), and cheerfully following British Daniel (my Sat Nav, or GPS for my fellow Americans) to my first call at, you guessed it, Ford Farm. As I traveled through the countryside, I questioned British Daniel's route as it seemed a bit roundabout in that I excited the main road for a country lane (yes, one of those lovely single track roads that is apparently not frequented often by cars as it had a lovely strip of grass growing up the middle!), and then seemed to re-emerge back onto the main road. But, alas, I figured that British Daniel must know more than I, so I blindly followed his route off the B4040 and onto the country lane. Cruising along, the road was narrow and the hedge quite close to the wing mirrors, but it was not unlike so many of the English roads that I traverse on a daily basis. I then came round a bend to find a sign that said “FORD” and another thereafter that read “Test your Brakes”. A ford, I thought, wow, we don't have those in America. For those of you wondering, yes, a ford is a place where a stream crosses the road. There is a roadbed laid within the stream, but there is not a bridge.

So, I slowly drove forward, ensuring that my brakes were in working order, saw a depth meter sign in the water which read less than 1 foot. At that point, I did think twice about turning around, but saw cars on the other side of the ford, the road emerging from the water on the other side, the shallowness noted by the depth meter, and had British Daniel's conviction that I should proceed. So I did, for about 15 feet at which point the car began to gurgle and stalled out. Hmm, I thought, I should maybe reverse out of this stream and go back to the B4040 and carry on through the town. So, I turned the key to restart the engine and was met with an attempt to start, but nothing further. No luck. So, seeing some chaps on the opposite side of the ford with work trucks, I decided that I might get out of the car, trudge over to them, and ask for their assistance in pushing the car out of the water.

I was in for quite a shock in the next moment because as I opened the door, water poured into the car. Oops. I slammed the door, and then decided to escape out the window in order to avoid taking on any more water. So, I shimmied out of the passenger side window to be greeted by waist deep (yes, that's right, the water was up to the bottom of the window) ice cold flowing water. Needless to say, the blokes were not keen to help me push the car out, but with some persuasion, were willing to use their truck and a tie down to attempt to pull the car out of the water. In my estimation, once the car was out, it would start right up and I could carry on with my day. Simple, right?!

Wrong again! Just getting the car hooked up to the truck was an adventure as everything on the front is plastic! The bumper, then the “grill”, and even the undercarriage at the front is plastic. Where was I to put the hook of the tie down??? So, soaking wet already at this point, I went for a bit of a “swim” under the car to find the axle to which I then attached the strap. The truck groaned against the weight of the car in the water, the handbrake, and the fact that it was in first gear (all remedied by another trip into the water, a slither through the window, and another shameful wading ashore) but in turn, the car began to move and was at last on dry ground. I thanked the chap who had pulled me out, and carried on with my plan to restart the car and move on. Soaking wet, maybe, but at least I was out of the ford. Well, once I opened the drivers' door, water poured out of the car. With each door that I opened, water poured out of every orifice imaginable! Even the ashtray and cup holders were pooling ford water. Grr! At that point, I tried to start the car and was met with the same whine of the engine.

So, what to do next? Instinct once again says “call Dad,” but I thought better of it as it was 4:30 AM in the States, and really, what would he do for me? So, I called the practice, mentioned that I had driven through a puddle (ha, ha) and that the engine had sputtered out (pun intended!). They suggested that I call the roadside emergency number on the back of my fuel card. So, I did, and once again, I didn't know where I was to give them the exact location. So, I walked to the house next door, asked the post code, scheduled a rescue and set out to bail out the car.

An hour later, the rescue vehicle had not yet arrived, the car was bailed out, but everything was soaking wet. My kit in the boot (or trunk as we might say in the States) and my scanner (ultrasound machine) managed to stay dry thank goodness, but my bag of personal things including my camera, jacket, Toggi boots, lunch, etc was dripping wet. I pulled it all out, and set everything out in the sun to dry while I waited... and waited... and waited...

Though the day looked sunny and springlike, as is customary in the UK, the temperature stayed chilly. Without cloud cover, especially after a night of rain, the air is very chilly despite abundant sunshine! Darn evaporative cooling effect! It was 5 C and I was soaked through. With each passing quarter hour, I stripped another layer and laid it out to dry on the pedestrian bridge alongside the ford. And, like a daylilly, my clothes and I followed the sun as it advanced in the sky. 3 hours later, a HUGE tow truck appeared, barely able to traverse the steep hill and bend required to get down to the ford, and the car was loaded onto the flatbed (imagine the water that poured out from under the car as it was hoisted at a 45 degree angle onto the truck) for its trip back to Tetbury and the Car care centre utilized by the clinic for its fleet maintenance.

Thankfully, I live about 1/3 mile from the garage, so I had a lovely jog home, squishing along, to change clothes and to be rescued by one of the office staffers in the interns' car that I was to use for the rest of my day's appointments which had been shifted to the afternoon and well into the evening hours.

Finally, I was dry, driving, and off to appointments. What a day!

But, wait, it's not over yet! I managed to see a laminitic pony in a small yard on the southern edge of the practice when I got a call about a colic that would be on my way back to my next call. No problem, things were looking up! So, I did have to call the clinic to find out how to put the interns car into “R”, but no matter, I played the “dumb American hasn't driven many manuals” and all was well... until...

I went to pull into a HUGE roundabout and realized that the car seemed to lack power steering. Hmm, that's strange I thought as the radio was still on, my gauges all read normally. At that point, I realized it had stalled out, so I went to recrank the car and the darn thing wouldn't turn over. Horns blaring, angry Brits giving me the “peace sign” (more on this later), and morons in Land Rovers hopping the curb next to me to get around me and into the round about, I called the practice again for advice. I was met with the classic, “I know this might sound girly, but have you run out of petrol?!?”. Ok guys, I may not be brilliant when it comes to UK driving, but really, the gauges are the same and incidentally I had plenty of diesel. Thank goodness I hadn't filled it with petrol (as it runs on diesel fuel!)!

Once again, I had the pleasure of calling the roadside assistance service. They guaranteed me a visit within less than an hour since I was not in an ideal location. Yea right! Meanwhile, the pony is still colicking and I was 15 minutes away. So, in fine style, the practice called the client and asked if she would mind coming to pick me up in order to ensure her pony was seen within a reasonable time period. Of course, having a colicking horse, she was quite willing to come and retrieve a stranded American vet with enough kit to diagnose and treat the colic. Imagine her surprise as I tried to explain my locale stuck in the entrance to the HUGE roundabout.

Thankfully, though, a nice chap in an RAC van (similar to the HERO units in Atlanta or AAA) appeared, and though he was not my rescue, he kindly hooked up the car and towed me around the roundabout and into a lay-by where I would be able to leave the car, with keys on the tyre, for the rescue chap to find and assess the car whilst I worked on the pony.

In the end, the pony was an accidentally bred as a yearling and was a coming 2 year old who was post foaling and just quite sore. The client then drove me back to the car where the rescue chap had assessed the car as irreparable on the roadside, and loaded it for its return trip to Tetbury. And, you'll never guess... it was the same bloke who had rescued me from the ford that morning, even though I was an hour from there, out of his territory, and nearly 2 hours from his home base. Wow... small world becoming smaller every day!

After another lovely wrecker ride and jog home, dry, but after dark this time, my day of car killing was complete!

(Sorry for the lack of photos, the camera drowned! More to come, though!)


  1. Wow, bad "carma" today!! I'm glad you made it through!

  2. The auto issues you've had are so bad but quite comical in the story telling - I kept shaking my head thinking "Thank heavens that wasn't me!" as I was reading. Your stalwart determination is respected though ;-) - any new or interesting veterinary techniques in England? Beth

  3. Oh my, your adventures are a lot better than Mr. Herriott's! When you finally come home to your Tahoe, you will have to write a book about trials of being a vet in the UK. I know they were not bright spots in your day but they are making the rest of us laugh and smile. By the time you are ready to come home, driving over there will be a piece of cake!


  4. Thanks all! One of the directors at the clinic has taken to calling me "Kim, Kim, the Kar Killer!" Ha ha!

    Anyway, all's well, touch wood, with the newest addition, a black Mondeo. Will have to post a chronicle of all of the vehicles that I have driven. I do miss the 'ole Tahoe somedays, but I can tell you that I am a master at moving my kit from vehicle to vehicle which certainly wouldn't be possible with the Tahoe's mounted unit!!