It had to have been within 10 minutes of my staring at the odometer, marveling at the nearly 199,000 miles I had wracked up on my VW Golf and thinking how trouble-free the car had lately been, when my cruise control disengaged, and the car started to do the all-too-familiar "death coast". Without thinking or trying anything else, I immediately turned on my four-way flashers and started moving into the breakdown lane -scoping the distance to the next rest area.
Once the car was safely into the breakdown lane, I pressed the gas a little and watched the tach to see if the engine was still running, clutch out. It behaved like I was in neutral; no power came to the wheels of the car as the tach jumped up like the finger of a protesting hippy facing riot control at an anti-war rally. As I neared the rest area ramp, I got a little more bold and tried shifting to 4th. I pressed the gas pedal, and it was clear that I had power. Shifted back to 5th - again nothing but rev.
I pulled over and inspected for visible damage or smoke. I didn't see anything that prevented me from driving the car, so I proceeded on my way with gears 1-4. Got home fairly uneventfully.
I have had no time to get into it, but some research has led me to believe that my 5th gear has physically broken. This is apparently not uncommon. After debating my position on getting a new car for a couple of days, I decided to bite the bullet and just buy the parts. All things must come with a reward, and in this case, if successful, I will transplant the broken gear (if that's in fact what it is) with a "taller" ratio. This will provide better mileage and less wear and tear on the engine during highway driving. A little less power, but with all the power upgrades I have done, this should not be a problem.
More to follow.