It was, to say the least, disappointing that the cars were dead. Phil and I bundled up and went outside to try and see if we could get the cars running again. The funny thing was, car hoods were up all over the parking lot and everyone was having car problems. We tried warming the engine with anything and everything we could think of, including electric blankets. The car cranked but would never turn over. We had to do something since Phil had to go to work and Aron had to go to school. Finally, I started walking towards the little store at the front of the apartments. It had an ATM and I could get cash there to pay for a taxi. As I walked through the parking lot in those early hours of morning, some gentlemen were out on their balcony watching all of us with car problems. When I passed, they shouted to me and wanted to know where I was going. When I told them I was going to get cash to take a taxi to get a rent car, they told me to hold up and they would see what they could do. Being new to Alaska, I still wasn’t use to the friendliness that is pervasive here.
These gentlemen had obviously been drinking all night but were in a great mood. One of them told me his truck was completely winterized and he had a heavy duty battery. He was going to try and jump my car as the extreme cold had probably sucked all the power out of my battery. They helped us push my car out of the parking space and we hooked up the jumper cables. We let his car run for a bit so as to give more power to my battery. Finally, when we tried to start my car it was the same story. She cranked but not turn over. We gave up and the helpful gentlemen returned to his party!! Wow, that would never have happened in Houston, I thought to myself. And once again, I started out for the store and the ATM.
Another neighbor happened to be one of my husband’s co-workers. She and her boyfriend were out in the parking lot and spied us. She came over and asked what was going on. After my husband relayed the story to her, she offered to take him to rent the car. So off he went to get us some wheels. He came back about an hour later and we had an all wheel drive car. Since it was the weekend, that was all we could do to get ourselves mobile again.
The following Monday I called repair shops. When finally I found one that was willing to address what we thought the problem was, he told me this cold snap had caught him off guard too and he had lived in Anchorage for twenty plus years. He said he was driving his wife’s Cadillac to work. Her car had been in their heated garage while his truck froze out in the driveway. He told me that the battery was probably depleted of energy as well as the gas in the gas lines to the engine had probably frozen. Apparently, the gas lines get very narrow as they feed the engine and it is possible at such cold temperatures, with cheap gas, for the gas to freeze in the narrow passage ways. I always thought gas was gas…but apparently, here in such cold temperatures, it does matter which gas you use.
They came and got my car and towed it to their repair shop. There they put the car in a heated garage to thaw it. They charged my battery and winterized my car. Winterizing consists of putting in various heaters to keep the battery warm and the oil has to be “winter” oil etc. Now I would be plugging my car in every night. They called and said she was ready to pick up. It didn’t take long, just a little heat and a charge was all she needed. When I got to the repair shop they told me the battery was only charged to 83% and to drive around for a bit to finish charging it. She was driving like a champ. Another painful lesson learned about living in the Arctic and the realization that Alaskans never give up. And helping one another is the Alaskan Spirit!!!