Yesterday was a memorable day on the road. As I write this, we’re sitting in the very nice Colonial Motel in Blenheim on day 2 of a road trip on the South Island. The purpose of the trip is meeting some tourism industry people, checking out some new locations to include on future trips, and my wife Nicole is playing half a dozen gigs in towns around the island as we go. Oh, and it’s my dad’s 75 Birthday this weekend!
So, kind of an important trip.
The plan for yesterday was to ferry from Wellington to Picton, then drive to Pelorus Bridge to check out the Barrel Scene from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, before checking in at our motel to relax and get ready for Nicole’s first show of the tour.
INSTEAD, our day ran like this:
We got a text at 5.30am that the ferry was running late. I love this, it’s a great feature and part of the service. We booked an early enough departure that even with the delayed start we had plenty of time. Once we got to the Bluebridge Ferry terminal, check-in and boarding was very easy. The crossing was one of the best I’ve experienced, with blue skies and calm seas, and some very good photo opportunities. Then an announcement came over the PA that I had to go and check on my car. The motion sensor was setting off the car alarm that has never gone off before. I deactivated it and went back above deck.
The drama begins (always with the drama!)
So it was time to go back down to the car and exit the ferry. The key remote wouldn’t unlock the car so I took the little metal ket out of the fob and manually unlocked the car, put the key in the ignition and – nothing. I couldn’t turn the key at all. The obvious first thought was that the alarm had drained the battery, but it was very confusing as the car still seemed to have juice. I tried playing with the alarm system and pressing ALL THE BUTTONS but nothing worked. By now we were the only vehicle left on the ferry and they had already started to reload for the voyage back. I called Mercedes-Benz to see if they had any ideas, and half a dozen ferry staff came to help as well. We tried jump starting, we tried disconnecting the batter to reboot the computer – nothing. The steering was locked and the transmission was stuck in park, so the only thing to do was to pick up the car with a forklift(!) and carry it out of there. The amazing Bluebridge staff did this easily and we were now off the boat with a car that didn’t go.
Awesome people #1 – Bluebridge Ferry Staff.
These guys were so helpful, they did everything they could before just picking up my car and getting it out of the way. I can’t imagine this working in the US, where the fear of liability and litigation would have made such quick thinking impossible. This was my first time using Bluebridge, and I can say that I’ll be very happy to use them again!
So we were stranded on the dock, with the Automobile Association coming from a town 30-40 minutes away. The guy arrived, tried the battery, tried a charge and couldn’t do anything else. He ordered us a tow truck (all included in the AA membership), to get us to the Mercedes mechanic in Blenheim. We figure out how to get the car out of park and into neutral so we could tow it onto the truck, but the steering was still locked so it wasn’t going to work. Nevermind, there’s ANOTHER forklift guy over there. No problem, he picked up the car and loaded it onto the flatbed tow truck. After about 2.5 – 3 hours, we’re on our way to Blenheim!
Awesome people #2 – Tow truck guy and forklift #2.
Quick thinking and a can do attitude got us moving, even if it was on the back of a truck.
While waiting for the roadside assistance I got it into my head that the car key itself was the problem. the LED lights weren’t flash when I mashed the buttons. A little google showed me how to get into the key and Nicole walked into Picton to find some replacement batteries for the key… It didn’t work.
MEANWHILE, the superstars had swung into action.
This is where it gets REALLY GOOD!
Our friend Shirley saw our dead car photo on facebook and as she always does when she sees things going wrong, asked if there’s anything she can do to help. Nicole gave Shirley the rundown and she flew into action. It went like this:
(deep breath) Awesome Shirley called her awesome husband Dave, who drove to our awesome flatmate Hayley’s work to get a house key. Awesome Dave drove to our house, got my spare key from our bedroom drawer. Awesome Shirley and awesome Dave then drove to Wellington airport to meet with (awesome) Sounds Air pilot and gave them the keys. Awesome pilot flew to Marlborough Airport and handed the keys off to awesome Chris the land side manager at the airport. Awesome Chris stopped by the bar where Nicole was already playing her gig and handed off an envelope with the keys inside. Whew.
Awesome people #3 – Shirley, Dave, Sounds Air, Marlborough Airport (Chris). You guys are all amazing!
Meanwhile, the awesome tow truck had dropped us off at Houston Motors in Blenheim, where a salesman, awesome Ted was just leaving. Awesome Ted loaded Nicole’s music gear into his car and drove us to the venue (no charge, no expectation), where we were able to set up and do sound check.
Awesome people #4 – Ted from Houston Motor Group
We walked back from the venue to get our luggage from the car, and walked 15 minutes to our motel. Showered, changed and back to the venue. We met with the awesome Fay and Brent from Marlborough Elite Tours (if you are looking for a wine tour in Marlborough, they are the best) who came to say hi and check out Nicole’s gig. It was so good to see some familiar and friendly faces at the end of such a day. I wasn’t the best company as I still didn’t know if the car would work. During Nicole’s break between sets, Brent and I walked back to the car with freshly landed keys in hand to see if the car would work.
Awesome people # 5 Fay & Brent from Marlborough Elite Tours, because sometimes you just need friends around!
So the rest of the gig went well, Nicole and I had an excellent dinner at the venue – Scotch Bar, loaded the car, DROVE back to our motel, and slept.
The Moral of the story.
There was a lesson in this epic day, and for me I think it was this. Sometimes you can’t fix everything by yourself. It’s ok to trust that other people know what they are doing, and to ask for help. The trick is, knowing the right people to ask. Also, I really think this is a great New Zealand story. Friends and strangers puling together to fix an unfixable situation.
Finally, car keys. Evil little suckers.
Hopefully the rest of the tour updates will just be cool photos and witty banter on twitter. The hard part is done, right?
P.S. We’ll have to come back and find Pelorus Bridge another time…