Family Reunion Trip
July 28th, 2022
Heading into Tennessee for our family reunion in Pidgeon Forge/Gatlinburg on the interstate I noticed our transmission temperature was giving me a high temp warning. I slowed down to normal driving speeds, and it did not seem to help. We were in Jan’s 1999 Roadster which had just been serviced before the trip and we had driven all the way until this point with no indications of trouble.
This was just the beginning of a misadventure that has topped any in my lifetime.
Once we reached our hotel, which, by the way, was the only one in Gatlinburg that would accept pets, we let the car cool off and I began the search for an auto shop that might be able to help us with our Corvette. One whole day later, I was still looking. The next day I remembered that I had communicated with a Performance shop in TN on the Corvette Forum, Lethal Performance. I was very worried because at this time there had just been serious flooding in TN and all the rental cars were rented out. I figured we would need a rental car soon. Usually, high transmission temps are associated with transmission failure, and I was right. BTW, there are no cabs or Ubers in Gatlinburg. This was during COVID and there was no food delivery which we were going to need since we had no car. The worries were piling up and the costs were just about to pile up as well.
Jan went to work furiously trying to find a rental car. At six in the evening, she succeeded. It was somewhat expensive, but we figured we had no options. The rental car folks were very nice and agreed to deliver the car to our motel if we could drive them back. No worries, we were thrilled that we had transportation.
Now that I had connected with my contact at Lethal Performance in Jonesborough, TN, I could begin the process of trying to get the car back on the road. I had no idea it would take nearly 17 days to get the car back. Now for the trip to Jonesborough, TN…the scariest 20 miles I have ever driven in my life. The car ran but would not shift out of 2nd gear, so my top speed was about 35 mph. Not bad until I had to get on to Interstate 10. The traffic was moving at 80 mph and that included 18 wheelers! They played chicken on me the whole way by running right up on my bumper before going around. Honestly, I was really scared. But I made it! The folks at Lethal Performance were very accommodating but told me it would be at least 2 weeks to get the new (remanufactured) transmission and since this was on a Friday we might have to wait longer. Well, we only had our hotel and the rental car for a week, so I was getting worried again. It turned out that I remembered a company that one of my college roommates worked for, Jasper Engines had a depot in Knoxville. I called and planned for them to do their best to get a 4L60 transmission with a custom torque converter on the assembly schedule. My hope was this would save a few days. Now how was I going to get back to Gatlinburg? I thought, what the heck, I’ll try Uber here! I finally got a woman who said she would take me the 20 miles for $60. But I had to wait until 6:30 pm. The shop closed at 5:00 pm on Friday so I was nervously waiting for the ride. I was very happy to pay the 60 bucks when she showed up, believe me. I made it back to the motel and Jan and I hugged each other and said this might end up being one of those trips to remember, but not in a good way.
So off to our reunion we went in the rental car. It was great to see all the family and have a nice meal with them. We had lots of good vibes during the visit, and we planned what we were going to do in the upcoming days. Now back to the winding TN back roads at night.
The next day was a rafting trip down the Lazy River, and I have to tell you, I was feeling my age a bit. But we made it and went back to the huge cabin that the relatives had rented for another meal. The next day we went sightseeing in Gatlinburg, great fun but there were so many people on the streets that I told Jan, “If we don’t get Covid here it will be a miracle”. The next day we both developed symptoms and tested positive for Covid. No one was socially distancing or wearing masks or washing hands so I figured it would happen.
The next week we were stuck in our motel room and had to order all our food for takeout and go pick the food up with our rental car. Now it looked like we were going to need to extend our stay at the motel and extend our rental car as well. After some worrisome moments Jan was able to do both.
The Corvette was still in the shop with no transmission, and we had nowhere to go. It looked like the fun was over. Another week went by, and we eventually served our in-house safety time so that the virus passed us by finally. But still no transmission. Eventually got cabin fever and began driving around with the rental car to some places we could enjoy. Still no transmission. Finally, on day 17 of what was supposed to be a 7-day trip we got the call that the transmission had arrived, and the car would be ready in a day or two, which it was but so was the $$$ bill, and the $$$ motel bill and the $$$ rental car bill. God only knows how much we paid in gas and food during this trip, but it was very expensive.
We did get to see a local bear daily who came by the motel to raid the dumpster! When you are stuck in a motel room you must try to enjoy the little things to while away the time.
Shawn and Jan Hanna
Click on photo below.