After changing plans and four days of non-stop preparation, I got a good night's sleep last night, probably my last in four nights. It took just about the same amount of time to load the Defender this morning as for a long journey, and we shoved off at 11:00.
The drive out of DC was probably one of the worst I have experienced on all my road trips: traffic, construction, complex highways. Interstate 66 is not a straight shot out of the city. The highway twists and turns, ascends and descends faster than the eye can keep up. After 26 miles of intense driving, we broke out onto the open highway.
Donner, who usually positions himself in his front seat facing towards me with his legs straddling the gear shifts, had positioned himself facing towards the rear of the Defender, the position he takes on our long journeys. Somehow he knew we were setting off on a long journey.
As soon as I was free of any significant traffic, I broke out my ipad and new Beats Studio 3 headphones. When I put the head[hones on, the Defender went silent. Wow, they sure block out all noise. For the next 40 mile I listened to Pete Seeger's rendition of Oh Shenandoah to put me in the right mood. The detritus of life that I was leaving behind ---albeit for just a few days --- was quickly jettisoned from the Defender as I made plans for the next three days. Which campground would I settle in? How would I spend the next three days? What kind of shape would I be in to deal with the camp chores? What if my new cot did not fit in the tent?
About 40 miles up the road, I removed the headphones. The noise from the Defender was almost deafening. I had no idea that it made so much noise. But something did not sound right. As I accelerated, it sounded as if my muffler had come off. The stick shift was vibrating like I had never seen it vibrate before. Something is wrong. I continued on the highway, thinking that I just was not used to silence in the Defender (with these new headphones on) and then suddenly hearing the noise in its full volume.
At 1:30, I made the left turn onto Skyline Drive, the highway that wends its way along the Shenandoah National Park. Then, just as I passed the entrance sign, the engine choked and the check engine light popped on. Ooops. Huston, we have a problem. I could not get much acclelation above 40 mph. The last time that happened was on the Alaskan Highway when I lost an engine. At the entrance kiosk, I pulled off to the side of the road and turned the engine off. Usually, when the check engine light comes on inexplicably, when I stop and then restart the engine it turns off and all is okay. It did not, once, twice, three times. I sat in the Defender on the shoulder of the road for 10 minutes trying to decide what to do. One option was to continue with my plans and accept what happened. Another option was to turn the Defender around and head for home to have the vehicle taken care of right way. I decided to continue with my plans. But just a few meters up a hill I could not get any acceleration, so I made a U-turn and headed back into DC. About 30 miles into the trip home the engine choked, but that turned off the check engine light and it kept moving.
I took as many side roads as I coud to get home because I did want the Defender breaking down on a highway. Fortunately , we made it home without further incident by 5:00. I will take the vehicle to my mechanic tomorrow with the hope that they can figure out what the problem is. This could be one of those problems that will be hard to track down. Whenever it is back on the road, I will set out again. Fortunately, all the packing is done so I will only have to spend 30 minutes loading the Defender the next time.
Stuff happens. But I am baffled about why the Defender has not acted up since I returned home from my trip in 2020, and then breaks down on the first day of this trip.