Freeway Breakdowns: Here’s What I Saw. So When Was Your Last One?

Two weeks ago, I showed you what I saw on the 110 mile trip up I5 to the Portland Airport. On Friday evening, I had to make the trip again to pick up some more fortunate members of the family who had just spent two weeks in the Piedmont in Italy. Just a few miles north of Eugene, I saw the flashing lights of a cop car in the median, and I as I whistled by, I saw a woodie Chrysler K-Car wagon, with its hood up. Regretfully, I was by way to quickly before I could even think of peeling off a shot, but it got me thinking about freeway breakdowns, and how rare they’ve become. Cars are so much more reliable today….and then I saw another breakdown…and another….well, not as many as in this picture (don’t ask; I don’t know), but…

It must be the same phenomena as when you have a certain car in mind, and suddenly you see them everywhere. I was sure each one must be the last, and kept kicking myself for not keeping the camera on and in hand. But they do go by quickly. So you’ll have to just hear my descriptions, like in the old days.

I saw a W-body Pontiac on the side, the first of likely several dry gas tanks. These folks even had a sign “Need Gas”. Maybe it was a ruse to just keep getting gas for free.

There was also fairly recent Toyota pickup, and a clean-cut middle aged driver just standing there, also looking out of gas and like he was counting the minutes before his help arrived.

And another; I’ve forgotten now. Cars can be made more reliable, but not folks’ ability to look at a gas gauge. You’d thing the manufacturers would have done something about that by now. If they have lane avoidance, and adaptive cruise control, how about cars that automatically start steering you to the exit ramp when it’s low on gas?

Next up: car on fire. Well, not quite ablaze, but still a bit of residual smoke and a heavily discolored front end, with the hood up. Looks like someone had stopped with a fire extinguisher to dampen the under-hood fire of the red Saturn Vue. And a minute or two later, I spotted the fire engine on its way. One less Vue in the world; what a loss.

I had just convinced myself that this was an unusually busy night for breakdowns, but that I’d seen more than my share, when I zipped by another, a Ford Windstar, whose many occupants were standing around, the kids playing in the tall grass.

Then on I205 outside Portland, I saw another apparent empty tank. And just a mile before getting off for the airport, I saw the last, a couple of cars pulled off, and the occupants all looking into the engine compartment of a heavily modified hot-rod Hornet sporting a similar paint job as this “AMX”. It may have been the real thing, or not, but it was really broken down, spoiling a Friday night cruise.

So the question is, when was the last time you broke down on the freeway? I’ve had a couple of non-freeway breakdowns, including just last summer, but I fixed that. Let me think…they’ve all been either in town, or on two-lane roads, or in a parking lot, or at the dump, or off road, or at a campground, or something I could jury-rig. Can it be that far back; in 1975, when the engine in my last VW Beetle blew? No, I managed to clatter along on the shoulder to the next exit.

Here it is: I’ve never properly broken down on the side of the freeway. Now I’ve jinxed it, of course. How about you?