NEWBERRY COUNTY — Last Friday afternoon Augusta resident Clay Casper, 18, set out for Asheville on his first solo road trip to compete in a men’s lacrosse league.
His parents, Rob and Kim Casper, had just had their son’s 2004 Toyota 4-Runner fully tuned-up to ensure everything was in good order for the journey.
Near the Enoree River on I-26, Casper said he heard a “really loud pop” and witnessed smoke begin to issue from under the hood.
He pulled over onto the shoulder of the road and hopped out to see what was wrong.
After “not even two minutes,” Casper said, a Dodge Charger, which he mistakenly took to be an undercover cop, rolled up.
However, out jumped Troy and Tamara Sloan, a Whitmire couple en route to Cherokee, N.C., for a weekend getaway — their two small children, Edward and Jonathan, left with their grandparents.
Troy said he stopped because he saw Casper was alone and didn’t want anything bad to happen to him.
“Lately everything in this world’s just going the wrong way — everyone’s gone crazy it seems,” he said.
Casper informed them of what happened but was unsure of the exact nature of the automotive ailment.
It should be mentioned here that Troy has worked on cars as a hobby for about 25 years and said he’s “pretty good” at diagnosing problems. He was hoping that Casper’s vehicle had simply overheated.
“You can just take the hose off and punch a screwdriver through if that’s the case, put the hose back on and the water will flow,” he said.
However, what Troy found when he crawled underneath the vehicle, flashlight in hand, was that a piston rod had been thrown leaving a gaping hole in the engine.
“Instead of leaving him there by himself in the middle of nowhere we decided to sit with him until somebody showed up to help him,” Troy said.
They made small talk while waiting on a tow truck to arrive — mostly about cars and Casper’s upcoming freshman year at Kennesaw State University where he’ll be studying computer science.
“I really appreciated it,” Casper said. “It was a lot easier than just sitting there by myself.”
However, what should have been a routine tow was complicated by a miscommunication.
“I’m on exit 46 on I-26,” Casper told the AAA dispatcher.
Several hours later, there was still no truck.
As it turns out the tow truck had indeed gone to exit 46 on I-26 — in North Carolina.
And so the wait continued while the truck rerouted.
At one point Troy said “some idiot” in a car decided to throw a bottle of water at them while speeding by.
“They missed but not by much,” he said.
Casper said Troy’s immediate inclination was to go after the perpetrator but, again, didn’t want to leave him alone on the side of the road.
The tow truck finally arrived and, all told, the unlikely trio had spent four hours together on the roadside.
That’s where they parted ways, although they said they have since kept in touch.
The Sloans didn’t have to stop and certainly didn’t have to stay with him for four hours but Casper’s family is extremely thankful they did.
“It was just such a blessing that that happened,” Rob Casper said.
The 4-Runner was towed to the same shop which had all-too-recently performed the tune-up and management agreed to replace the entire engine free.
The Sloans did eventually make it to Cherokee that night — well, technically the next morning — about 1:30 a.m.
Over the weekend they didn’t come out winners at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, Troy said, but surely it would seem they’ll be able to cash in a few karma points.
Reach Carson Lambert at 803-276-0625, ext. 1868, or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.