One August day in 2014, I found myself heading from work at Chrysler’s Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Michigan to my apartment 30 miles away in Detroit. The sky was pouring rain, and the world around me looked extremely saturated. But, having just spent the prior eight hours nerding out on Jeep cooling systems, I hadn’t realized just how much liquid had fallen. This ignorance was nearly my downfall.
I drove my friend home that day, since, if I recall correctly, the 2.7-liter V6 in his Dodge Stratus had done what those motors tend to do—it had seized up due to a restriction in the oiling system. The two of us drove down Chrysler’s twisty campus road, Chrysler Drive, and then merged onto the freeway in my 1992 Jeep Cherokee (which at that point was still at stock ride height, and thus, didn’t ride like crap like it does now).
My wipers had reached peak angular velocity trying to scrape the fluid off my windscreen as I got the Jeep up to highway speeds, though I quickly found myself slowing because of large pools in the road, especially under bridges. Between the pools, I opened the throttle bolted atop the inline-six’s intake manifold, and let the Jeep get back up to speed.
About 20 miles into my 30 mile commute, while I was probably driving around 60 mph in an area that I thought was devoid of puddles, one crept up on me. Before I had a chance to touch my brake pedal, I hit a two-foot deep pool, whose fluid’s resistance to shearing brought my Jeep to a halt in a violent hurry.
My friend and I lurched forward in our seatbelts as our inertia attempted to keep us moving along at 60 mph while the Jeep came to an abrupt halt. As soon as the Jeep had stopped completely, all I heard was the pitter-patter of the rain. The sound of the lovely 4.0-liter AMC engine was nowhere to be heard.
That brings me to the photo above, which my friend took as I unthreaded all six of my Jeep’s spark plugs in the middle of an eight-lane highway (four lanes in either direction, but with a divider between them).
To this day, I cannot recall exactly why I thought it wise to wrench in the middle of a 70 MPH freeway, but I think (and if this isn’t the case, then I was an absolute imbecile) the highway had been blocked off, and that I could see from my Jeep the barricade keeping other cars from heading my way.
I still don’t know what caused my engine to die, but I don’t think it was water in the intake, because no water shot out of the plug holes when I cranked the engine over. I reinstalled the spark-makers and the engine fired right up. I drove home, passing an elderly woman whose car was stranded (it may have been the Fusion in the photo above, or it could have been another sedan that I recall was completely submerged). She was walking on the shoulder of this road that is normally a bustling high-speed motorway, soaking wet and crying.
For reasons I will never understand, when I offered this dripping, crying woman whose car had drowned a ride, she actually declined, and just kept walking along the shoulder of the freeway in the pouring rain.
Anyway, that whole situation was bad. But I write all of this because I recently interviewed a Texan who commutes 65 miles (one way) every day, and that got one of my editors thinking about a Countersteer—a question to ask our dear readers. So that brings me to this:
What’s the longest commute you’ve ever had? Mine, as mentioned above, was 30 miles each way, and aside from the flooding incident—and my cars always breaking down, forcing me to wrench on them in the Chrysler parking lot—it wasn’t so bad. Getting to work took only about 30 minutes, and leaving took maybe 45 depending upon traffic.
Still, I couldn’t imagine a longer commute. And I’d feel bad about doing it in something as inefficient as my Jeep Cherokee. So tell us in the comments about your longest daily drives to and from work.