I was in the left lane. I managed to get off at the Hegenberger exit and pull into a Motel 6 parking lot. As I was trying to pull into a parking spot, the power steering died and then the car stopped running completely.
I had been relatively calm up until that point, but I more or less shut down then. The OH called Triple-A and we found out that with our cheapo basic service they would tow us only 5 miles without charge, and after 5 miles towing was $10 per mile. So getting the car towed back to where we live across the San Mateo Bridge wasn't a very good option.
We called wild_irises and she looked up for us the address of a reliable mechanic near here, but they were closed because it was Sunday. We didn't relish the prospect of leaving the car overnight at a strange mechanic across the bay and having to go home on public transit. Next we called leandra333. She and her partner were home, and they suggested we tow the car to their place.
Someone from Triple-A arrived in a small truck. The car jump-started OK, but the electrical system was still acting funny (wipers dragging and so forth), and the mechanic was not guaranteeing we could drive it very far. So we opted for a tow.
Half an hour later, an enormous tow truck arrived, the kind where the car gets carried on the back rather than dragged along behind. The operator was able to drive the car onto the back of the truck and off the back of the truck into a parking spot at leandra333's, but after he left and we tried to turn on the car, it wouldn't start.
Oh, I'll mention at this point that I had the car in for its 60K service last week,, and the service advisor said the battery was due to be replaced within the next six months but didn't need to be replaced now. So I was pretty peeved about these troubles, because I thought he had just been lazy about replacing the battery when it did actually need replacing.
So since the battery was old, leandra333's partner thought that replacing the battery would be a useful start to the troubleshooting process. He and the OH went off to get a battery and leandra333 sat inside with me and listened to me whinge, and we geeked about yarn.
With the battery replaced, the car started up, but the battery indicator remained lit, so we knew something was still wrong, and now we suspected the alternator. leandra333's partner assured us that even if there was something wrong with the alternator, the new battery would let us get across the bridge without the car's dying. So we headed home, and he was right.
I took the car in to the dealership this morning, and they called later to tell me that the alternator was faulty; they had replaced the alternator a year and a half ago due to a recall, but the part must have been defective; so they were replacing it again and charging me only for labor and not parts.
I don't think I should have been charged for labor either if they gave me a dud part that failed in a dangerous way, but I didn't feel like arguing. However, I expect Subaru will get a whiny letter from me soon.