The trip that seemed like it would never end, part 2

So we had just thanked the Angels sent to us (the Marine and his friend, the guy who just happened to work on Chevys as his second job {and people STILL don’t believe there is a God?!? How?!??}) and climbed back into the van, hoping and praying to get back on the road to Grand Rapids, MI. Our current location was, according to Siri, near Convoy, Ohio. Perhaps I shared that earlier, but I’ve already forgotten. By this time, it was past time for lunch and getting close to needing a dose of gasoline, but if you’ve ever been near Convoy, Ohio, you know there are long stretches with cornfields, farmhouses, and little else.

The van seemed to be behaving itself at this point, and we were so close to the Indiana state line, I felt good about being back on track. The kids, although less than pleased with our almost one hour potty break/van rehab stop, we’re extremely good sports and didn’t complain. Andrew even occupied himself by catching bugs and capturing their pictures. Here’s one:



Back on the road, things looked good. We crossed into Indiana, and crossed another leg of our journey. That is, until about an hour or less had gone by and the gauge started creeping up once more. My heart started thumping , and my eyes darting around to see where we were. Not another middle-of-nowhere, I pleaded. Thankfully, thankfully we were just a few hundred feet from the next exit. I prayed–and asked the kids to do the same–that we could make it to the gas station. We did, but it was just by the skin of our teeth.

I pulled up to the pump and Patrick dutifully ran in to pay for gas and them helpfully pumped it for me so I could look up mechanics in the area, and preferably a stone’s throw or less away. All this was after a phone call to Todd who I’m sure answered my calls at this point with a grimace. We agreed that we had to have somebody look at the van and tell us what they thought was going on. And maybe, just maybe, they also carried high blood pressure medication that they wouldn’t mind sharing with me. By this time, my mind was racing with worst-case scenarios and what-ifs. Trying to focus on the fact that the van still ran, if only at stratospheric temps, I googled repair shops in (“Siri, where in the ever-loving world am I?!”) Auburn, IN. One of the closest was the following:



In the half-mile that separated the Speedway from Barron’s, there were a couple traffic lights and continuous prayers. Somehow we made it, and I pulled into the parking spot nearest to the door. Patrick came in with me while the rest of the kids stayed in their seats. I’m sure they were jumping and leaping and just over the moon at this point. No lunch, crazy mom, a state that has no point of reference, and a van that seems intent on keeping us from our destination. Yes, I’m positive they all had smiles on their faces as I left them!

Meanwhile, I walked in to small-town America personified and began to plead my case to Denny and his son. As soon as I started with, “I have an emergency,” I quickly added, “like just about everyone you see.” Then I proceeded to enlighten them as to why my problem really was an emergency. I started with the thermostat replacement a few days ago and proceeded from there with my sob story. Thankfully, Denny was able to drive it around and take a look at it immediately. (Well, as immediately as I pulled my other five kids out of their seats and instructed them to find a seat and plant themselves.) They all quickly complied. By this time (after 2ish), their blood sugar levels must have been so low that they had no fight left in them. Here’s some proof of the scene as we waited:

IMG_5267 IMG_5268 IMG_5269





In retrospect, we probably should have eaten lunch earlier.

We sat in the surprisingly spacious waiting room while the kids flung questions towards me that I simply could not answer. “When will he be done?” “Are we going to get to the hotel by dinner time?” “Do you have $5.25 so I can buy a Coke from the vending machine?” (OK, I made that one up.)

The truth was that I didn’t know the answer to any question at this point. I sat there, helplessly waiting and wondering what good ole Denny was going to come out and tell me. My stomach was churning and my head pounding trying to figure out how to rectify this situation. Should we turn around and head back home? Should we continue on and risk more problems? What was he going to say?

After what seemed like an eternity, Denny emerged from the garage. He had run tests on the radiator and found no leak, had added about a gallon and a half of coolant to the system, and had run a general diagnostic test on the van as a whole. The one concerning item he found wan that cylinder two was misfiring. (I wasn’t a mechanic and I knew the van wasn’t the only thing not firing on all levels!)

The more he talked with me, the more he seemed to be convincing himself that a head gasket might be the underlying problem. Oh, shut the front door. The head gasket, I knew, was pretty much the death knell for a high mileage, low price tag vehicle like ours. Head gasket are two words that alone sound intriguing and complex; when put with ‘blown head gasket,’ however, the intrigue quickly dissolves to an expensive diagnosis. I’m not a mechanic and I don’t play one on TV, but I’m fascinated with how cars work (albeit more so with the ones that actually run). I was also familiar with everything Denny relayed to me, but I wanted Todd to hear it so we could make an informed decision. The two of them spoke for a long time and they both felt that since Grand Rapids was closer than Lexington, the wisest choice was to continue on our northward journey and just get there. Once we arrived, we would have time to have someone look at it further and make any additional repairs.

Those two. They had such high hopes, Todd and Denny.

Well, yes and no. Denny vacillated between “I gotcha fixed up,” and “I’m concerned about that number two gasket….” He did concede, however, that one of his guys had taken the van out to drive around the block or so, and “it seemed to be-in’-haved.”

Cue the raised eyebrows by me and all the kids who heard that. Be-in-haved?! What in tarnation?! Apparently that was Denny’s way to say the van was behaving. Honestly, by 3:30 or so, which was eight hours into our trip that Siri told me should take 7 hours and 40 minutes, I didn’t care HOW he said it as long as the van temp was staying low and normal.

The bill was less than $100 and I felt at the time that was a fair price for the service, advice, and new vocabulary word we’d received. With key in hand, and progeny in tow, I once again started up the van I now no longer could trust fully and invited the children to join me in prayer. They probably had already been praying for the past two hours, and maybe since they saw two truckers approach their mother at an almost-deserted rest area.

In any case, we pulled out of Barron’s shop and hopped back on the highway. We hopped gingerly, to be sure. I wasn’t pushing this engine for the rest of the time God gave it to us, I’d resolved, and instead planned to coddle it, cajole it, and coax it into doing as little as necessary as long as it delivered us to Grand Rapids.

The first few miles were nerve-wracking. I couldn’t help but pay more attention to the gauge than just about anything else. I don’t mind admitting that I was paranoid. With Patrick in the front seat, we watched the gauge rise a bit, then return to a normal setting. Shortly thereafter, it would climb again, but cool back down.

Mercifully, we came to a restaurant that we could stop for lunch, and I sent Hannah and Patrick in with the order written out so I could finally call my parents and fill them in on what had happened and our current status and ETA. Up until that point, I was hoping we were dealing with long delays and nothing more. Mom was incredibly understanding and even agreed to ask both family and hotel staff if they knew of a mechanic close by should we ever make it.

Remember, of course, that it was Friday afternoon…

The kids came back out miraculously with an order with no mistakes, so they quickly distributed the long-awaited lunch while I navigated back to the highway to get back on our way.

Tune in next time for Part 3 of this saga!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Chuck Farley
    Oct 13, 2014 @ 10:04:26

    This is cheating. You can’t just keep adding part number for the whole month… Praying that you will get some new topic material soon!


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