Actually, it wasn't really a breakdown. The car didn't stop inexplicably (well, it did stall once, but then I was able to start it again and drive some more); no smoke or flames shot out from under the hood. It was more of a TKO than a KO. As we were nearing Asheville, NC, I noticed the check oil light had come on. Not too concerned, I pulled off at a gas station to check the oil, and I found the car still had plenty. On top of that, the engine temperature gauge had been normal, and the car had been running well. But doubting my automotive know-how (hey, I can pump gas, check oil, add wiper fluid, and change a tire--ok, so there's probably good reason to doubt), my wife called her dad for a second opinion. At the time I was delighted that Dave reaffirmed my assertion that it was probably just a problem with the electronics. When we started driving again, the oil light didn't come back on, and we were back on course to make it home before Dick Clark's 133rd annual Rockin' New Year's Eve. But we didn't get far before the light came back on, so we stopped at a gas station in Asheville. The guy working there checked everything I had checked, and said he didn't know what was causing the light to come on. Since nothing appeared wrong with the car (my wife's Rav 4), we headed off again. This time we didn't drive three blocks before the oil light AND the check engine light came on. We drove back to the gas station, where the attendent called several local auto repair shops, but they had all closed for the holiday. That's when we called Dave a second time. I was less than thrilled at the thought of trying to find a hotel and/or a repair shop, so I was delighted when he said he'd risk driving home (again, the car appeared to be running fine at this point). Janet was reluctant to continue traveling, and apparently she possesses some sort of female automotive intuition because we hadn't gotten far into Tennessee when the car stalled on I-40. To our amazement, though, I managed to start the car on the first try, and we were back on our way. At this point it was abundantly clear something was wrong with the vehicle, though. When I pulled into the Citgo in the metropolis of Hartford, we couldn't help but notice a loud clicking noise coming from the engine. Bad sign.
We managed to get a hold of someone at a nearby auto shop/towing company to come take a look at the car. After he took a look at the car and listened to the engine, he said he'd have to tow it to the shop and that the mechanics would look at it the next day. Ughh. So while many people were enjoying New Year's Eve festivities with friends and family, we were wedged into a tow truck, along with our dog, on the way to a Motel 6 in Newport, TN.
Any hope of getting home soon was dashed the next day when the mechanic at the auto shop told us the car would require some extensive engine repairs. Ah, a splendid start to 2007! Fortunately, Janet's vehicle is covered under a powertrain warranty, so we elected to have a Toyota dealership do the repairs rather than promise our first born to the folks in Hartford. But since it was New Year's Day and no dealerships were open, we had to wait until the next day to have the car towed to a dealership in Knoxville (cue up U2 -- "Everything's crappy on New Year's Day!"). Without any way to get around town (not that Newport is too exciting, but the Smokies are wonderful), we watched college bowl games well into the wee hours of the night--Boise State!
After towing the car to Knoxville on the 2nd and renting a car, we finally resumed our trip home and made it back by early evening. It's now Friday, and we haven't heard anything from the dealership in Knoxville. I'm hoping no news is good news and they're at work repairing the car, but given Sunday and Monday's misadventures, I'm not holding my breath.