mac , almost sounds like drippetty leak got too low , then those long trips kinda ruined your engine,unfortunately topping it off a little late ? Through no real fault of your own , when motor reaches "critical mass " so to speak ( deterioration imminent) we're not always on top of it - checking oil & such
Only other thing comes to mind - who if anyone has access , worked on , changed motor oil etc.? Sabotage / Fatal error- not such a long shot. Ie. sand in the block / LubeBoy forgot to put oil & drove ,
hears engine CLUNKING -NOW puts oil in ?
1998? - Almost forgot -How many miles? A/C may be a moot point here hate to say.