Oh, my Suburban, how I love thee. How I also fucking hate thee. My God do I hate thee sometimes.
If you haven’t been following along on my adventures with the 1996 Chevrolet Suburban: my husband and I purchased this vehicle for the purpose of having a camping structure and vehicle to move all my shit from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to our future home just outside of San Antonio, Texas. Before we set off on a month-long road trip, we found a massive suspension issue that delayed our adventure, cost us $3,500, and forced us to essentially cannonball for 30 hours to make it to the race track. It performed wonderfully after that… until our trip home.
Last week, me and my man loaded up my apartment and hit the road. He took a U-Haul, while I loaded some of my delicate goods in the Suburban and drove that. All was good. All was fine. We started off with a two-hour trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Then we did the 10-hour trip to Nashville that turned into 12 hours. The next day, we got stuck in a near-tornado on a seven-hour drive to Texarkana that became a nine-hour drive due to weather.
We woke up refreshed on the last morning of our drive. The only thing separating us from a familiar bed and as many margaritas as we can drink was a just-over-six hour drive. Not bad, right?
When I turned the key in the Suburban, there was nothing. The radio would come on, but it wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t even turn over. We tried jumping it. Nothing. We tried swapping the battery. Nada. That pretty much confirmed the fact that it was the starter, so we had to resign to calling a tow truck and a repair shop and hoping for the best. “The best,” unfortunately, wasn’t sounding great. We called two different shops that told us we’d probably have a several-day wait before they even got to look at the Suburban because they were so overloaded with work.
At that point, I had resigned myself to the call of sweet death and decided to show up at one of the shops. Whatever was going to happen would happen.
Thankfully, we ended up at Adams Auto in Texarkana, and the fine gentlemen assured us that, if it was the starter, it would only take an hour’s work after about an hour’s wait for part delivery, so they’d push back some other repairs and try to get us on the road by the end of the day.
And they did exactly that. They told us to get some lunch and head back to the shop around 2pm. Before we even finished the paperwork, Adams Auto had three mechanics outside poking around the Suburban, confirming the starter was struggling, and pushing it into the repair bay. We paid the tow drivers, who said that this was his favorite repair shop in all of Texarkana. And after two hours, when we headed back, we found that they’d finished — and they’d even changed our oil for us, just to be extra sure that we’d make it home in one piece.
All told, we spent $85 on a tow and $350 for the starter, labor, and oil change — which doesn’t include the tip we left the fine folks who went out of their way to make sure we would be sleeping in our own bed that night. We got home before 10pm after hitting some traffic and stopping for dinner, so I’d say the price we paid was well worth it.
I’m still not over the frustration of waking up to realize that we wouldn’t be home for dinner like we’d planned, but I have to admit that the Suburban has proved to be a truly formidable beast. It made the 30-hour drive all the way from San Antonio to upstate New York. It helped move all my shit from Philadelphia back home. It was a great home-away-from-home, and it even got better fuel mileage than expected — way better than even the U-Haul we’d rented, and better than my mom’s new-ish Nissan Armada. It’s been an absolute mess, and it’s also been great.
That said, I am frankly stoked that we don’t have any long-haul journeys ahead of us, that we should be moving into our house soon, and that we can start working through our growing list of repairs on our own, without the anxiety of a massive trip looming ahead of us.