I learned a few things about how to troubleshoot the problem in the process, here's what I learned, i.e. what I'll do next time:
- Battery terminals? Battery terminals get corroded and end up with weak connections. If they look corroded, clean them (google is your friend here).
- Dead battery? Get your battery checked out. They go bad every few years, so this is a common problem.
- Bad starter? To check your starter, connect the two big terminals on the ignition solenoid with a screwdriver: (Watch out for sparks close to the battery.) If the starter turns over (acts like it wants to start), you know the starter's good.
- Bad ignition solenoid? To check the solenoid, disconnect the rubber coated solenoid wire off the solenoid (small wire attached in the center above the main terminals), then take a length of wire (#12 or bigger, maybe a coat hangar?) and connect the positive (+, red) post on the battery to that solenoid terminal. If it tries to start, your solenoid is good.
- Bad connection in the ignition switch? There's a hole underneath the ignition switch on the steering column that leads to the release pin.If you push that pin up (with a pen or coat hangar) while you turn the key to the "on" position the whole ignition mechanism will turn and then you can pull it out. Check the electric connections on the sides and make sure they're not loose/broken.
I'm sure there are other things that can go wrong, but hopefully that'll help someone.