Sunday, June 29, 2014

How We Became a Roadside Attraction... the Vacation that Wasn't.

It has been many years since The Chick Magnet and I had hit the road. A family reunion seemed like the perfect excuse to head back home and have a weekend adventure.

We had no idea what an adventure it would be!

Unpack cat. Check.
Shiny new tires, check.

 I'm not organized by nature, but when it comes to traveling, I'm a List Maniac.  Gas, check, new tires, check, because... and I quote... "We won't get stuck on the side of the road now, no sir!"

Bright and early, we loaded up to hit the road. I merged onto the interstate like a pro, without a trace of my Driving Lamaze Breathing I developed when moving from a town with a handful of stop signs that acted as loose suggestions for tractors to a bigger town with actual lights, multiple lanes and on-ramps.

I negotiated miles of road construction without a whole lot of input from the co-pilot, other than giggles as we traded fart jokes whenever the detours led us to drive on a long stretch of rumble strips.

Something smelled a LITTLE funny when we left I-29 at Grand Forks, but we blamed the smoke-belching semi ahead of us, and each other in case one of us hadn't been joking.

It seemed like the cruise control was acting funny. It was windy and we'd been hitting some bumps, so I turned it off. Life went on.

For a while...


Oh, crap.

I eased it into the approach to a little town I hoped had SOMETHING helpful. A semi was coming our way, so I flagged him down to ask.

"Looks like you have a problem. There isn't anything there but the elevator, but maybe they know somethin'." and off he went.

I weighed my options and decided not to take my chances on the trailer with the angry-looking dog in front of it, so I turned old Red around carefully and limped along in the direction of Devils Lake until we came to a mile marker.

Our new home.
Look at the picture, then try to guess what kind of cellphone reception you could expect. Our landscape looks perfectly flat, but there are rises and valleys of all sorts, and we were at the bottom.

I finally got through to the 911 center and got the mile marker number to her as well as part of the problem when it dropped.

Steven and I were taking turns being strong and sniffly, and after a dozen or so vehicles kept on going when I waved out the window (Special thanks to the bimbo in the convertible for waving back with both hands and a "Wooooo") an older guy in a red pickup turned around and came back to see what was going on.  He wasn't sure what to do, but offered to go up higher and make sure help was coming.

We felt better knowing someone cared.

The dispatcher was able to call back, and she assured us help was on the way. It was Steven's turn for a "moment" then, out of relief.

We got a little loopy waiting, discussing life, bugs, how it's a good thing it's not 90 above or 20 below, and how much we really needed to pee.

Finally, here came the Highway Patrol. Time for a selfie?

Help's a comin'!!!!!!
We were really much happier than we look. I promise.

I hopped out to talk to the officers. While we were talking, I noticed one of them staring at the back of the van, rubbing his chin, and looking slightly confused.

Oh, right...

Remember this?
I had a bit of a Gabriel Iglesias moment while telling the story of being tired of explaining the van was dented when we BOUGHT it, so I decided to roll with it and have a little fun. I assured him it was just an estimate, not the final tally, and we all had a laugh.

*cue COPS theme*

The two troopers really went all out trying to help us figure out a way to get a tow and a ride. There are no easy solutions to a guy in a power chair stranded on the side of the road, but they kept trying until they found one.

A tow truck driver, a State Trooper and a transit driver walked into a... oh, wait. 
We lost a trooper to the guy who decided to cruise the mud in his jeep.

Steven ended up with some new friends. The Dodge dealership, the pot of gold at the end of our ragtag procession, had COFFEE, and everyone wanted to make sure we knew they were available if we needed more help. The boy and I had a lot of down time waiting on the highway to talk about how many really good people there are in the world and how the bad guys must just get all the press, since we could have felt truly sorry for ourselves at that point without anyone thinking poorly of us for it.

Watching Steven interact with this bunch of strangers made me reconsider my earlier sadness that nobody wanted to stop and help us because I realized the RIGHT people did stop in the end

They each took me aside and vouched for the others, to assure me we were in good hands. I liked that. Steven's eyes told me all was well in no uncertain terms, though, as did his honking big laugh.

Saying our goodbyes to the troopers, who made sure Steven would call them with an update at the garage.

It wasn't good news.

The shop was packed, humming with activity, but they made room for the newest patient.  It felt like a hospital waiting room, as we waited for the diagnosis.

The service manager explained to us how they would start with the smaller things they HOPED it would be, but that it may not be fixable that day.



Chunks of metal in burnt fluid aren't remotely good news.  They said it would be a week or so to fix and could get quite expensive, so they would be happy to keep the van out back for me until I decided if I wanted to move forward with repairs, scrap it, haul it somewhere else... whatever I choose.

He went one step further, calling a customer he knew whose accessible van had just been serviced the day before. He gave me her name and number when he reported back that she would be willing to round up her brother and try to drive us back to Fargo if we wanted.

More good people... they're everywhere.

We opted to call and arrange to hire a service out of Fargo, a young guy just getting established, and return the next day. Steven had his heart set on a motel stay when we set out on our trip, and a couple of calls later, I found a room. It wasn't what we PLANNED, but what can you do?

We roll with it. Pun intended.

The transit driver came back to take us to the motel and we left after paying an unusually small bill for the tow and the shop time, and only after we gave our word we would call them if we needed ANYTHING.


That poptart at the garage just didn't cut it. Pizza Ranch to the rescue!

Bedtime came early, but sleep was hard to come by. Aside from the worries and the train traffic wayyyy too close to our heads, it was the kind of night that lead to philosophical discussions in the dark. The "what ifs" and "if onlies" were discussed, as well as the "100 Ways It Could Be Worse" game...

The quiet, when I thought he had drifted off, was punctuated by "I have a question..." and off he'd go on another tangent. It reminded me of years back, the time he had nearly been taken by a malfunction of his VP shunt. I hadn't heard his voice in days, but he woke up in the ICU asking for pizza as if he'd only been out for a nap.

We spent that whole night with me on a lumpy cot by his bed, eagerly answering when the voice in the dark would pipe up with "I have a question..." or "Mom, I was wondering something..."

Music then, music now.

The reminder was nice.

Girlwatching at breakfast.

GirlCATCHING at the front desk.

We thought our adventure had taken another turn. The van from Fargo arrived right on schedule, but the driver couldn't get the door open!

The suspense was killing us.

On the road again...

I still don't know just how the adventure will end. I don't know if Old Red can be saved, or what will come next.

All I know is it's good to be home.

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