It Ain’t no 4WD

Subtitle: The Adventures of a Wild West Woman stuck in a Mid-West Life

Since their birth, my children have gone camping and exploring in the Rocky Mountains. After being displaced to the Midwest due to the terminal illness of their father, we gradually parted ways with our “toys” and found ourselves with a mere tent. While I love camping, sitting by the camp fire, eating camping food, and snuggling into bed beside my family members in a small space where we can all say good night to each other while our heads are on our pillows, I’m not a big fan of tents. I know, if I call myself a “Wild West Woman” I should like a tent. But the truth is – I just don’t – especially not where I currently live. The sand in the beds, the rain soaking everything, the sultry summer heat, the unending trains with their obnoxious whistles blasting by nearly every campground in the state all night long…. it takes some of the joy out of the experience. All of these annoyances could be improved with a camper, but I no longer owned a camper nor did I have anything with which to pull one.  Until “that day”…

The vehicle was packed with our clothing, snacks and plenty of electronics for the trip. The car, a 2005 VW Passat TDI wagon, was not overly aged but was fairly worn as a result of the many miles between towns in Wyoming and frequent trips to see family. It had been well-serviced throughout its many miles. The tires had about 10,000 miles on them – not bad for a trip. And so the kids and I headed out on our 8 hour journey to visit a long-time friend of mine.

All was well, until somewhere in the middle of no where my son, who is blessed with a strong sense of smell, said, “What’s that smell?!”

“Oh, probably that semi in front of us,” I responded nonchalantly. Shortly thereafter I realized the road sounded different.  Strange, it didn’t look different. I pulled into the right hand lane thinking maybe the pavement would be smoother and the sound would go away, but it only worsened.  I immediately headed for the shoulder, stopped and waited for a safe time to hop out of the car. Yep – the tread on the front right tire was separated from the tire and about ready to fly off. I was happy I had stopped when I did – but sad I had no road side service agreement. So, after backing the car a short distance to the end of the on-ramp that was behind us, we began unpacking our nicely packed car to get to the spare tire. That was the easy part. Then I got out the German designed compact “jack” that came with the car and is supposed to lift my car and make this chore possible. And I looked at it some more. I am mostly of German descent so understanding the design should come natural for me, right? Wrong. So I handed it to my son who likes gadgets. No luck. And I looked at it some more. No can do. My decision was that even if I could figure it out, it looked nothing like “safe” to me.  About a half hour later our paid angel waved goodbye from the window of his big truck with lights on the top, and we carried on our journey now with the spare on the front right tire and traveling at a slightly lower speed.  All was well.

Several uneventful hours later we neared our city of destination. As we were cresting a small hill in the road, I felt the slightest hesitation in the engine. “Oh shoot!” I thought to myself. “Changing that fuel filter didn’t fix that problem after all. I’ll have to take this thing back to the mechanic (for the fourth time) when I get back and tell him we’ve still got a problem.”  My GPS told me it was time to exit the interstate and head towards my friend’s house just a few miles away in a suburb of this very large city, at rush hour – obviously hadn’t considered that during my trip planning. So amidst all the traffic, I took the off-ramp, pulled to a stop, watched for a break in the traffic to complete my right hand turn, and BOOM! NO WAY!  ANOTHER blown tire!?  I pulled onto the measly excuse of a shoulder and waited for another break in traffic to exit my vehicle – only to find all tires intact. Bizarre. We had heard it and felt it. How could all the tires be fine? I had no idea, but decided to forge ahead. However, my fine vehicle had other ideas.

After a “You-can’t-help-me-but-I-needed-to-tell-someone” call to my parents, I called my friend whom I was heading to see. “No problem.  I’ll have my husband see if he can go that route on his way home and get you guys.” Great, but what about the car?  In my newly created spare time, I looked on my smart phone for the nearest car repair shop. Super, there was one just a couple miles down the next road. They closed at 7:00pm. My clock read 6:59pm. I frantically called the number hoping beyond hope they would still be there. About the time I hit “send”, I saw my friend’s husband pull in behind me. I’d never met him before and with phone in my left hand,  extended my right hand through my open window to greet him. “Hey there- hang on a second. I’m calling the repair shop down the road to see about the car.” He smiled wide, straightened the corner of his jacket for me to clearly see the logo embossed on it, and suggested I could hang up the phone. He’s the manager of a car repair shop. Jack pot!

The plan for the next morning was to go to the zoo. Well, plans changed. The news on my “fine” car was that the transmission had blown, there was fluid leaking from the turbo, and the engine fan could be stopped with the brute force of a single finger. What might have been sold for several thousand the week before was now worth scrap metal. All personal affects were removed from the heap and my friend and I went car shopping at the nearest dealer. I hadn’t been dreaming of, evaluating various options of, nor doing any price comparisons on any vehicles prior to this. I had no intentions of purchasing a new-to-me vehicle. I had nothing I especially wanted. But I suddenly had an urgent need. My goal – find something that gets decent gas mileage, isn’t obnoxious to park in town, and can pull a toy. My dad raves about his RAV-4, so I made my way to the back of the lot where some CUV’s were parked. Hmmm.. only a 4 cylinder. That wouldn’t pull squat. Then I came upon a Ford Edge with a V6.  That should be good for pulling something.  By afternoon we were back on track to go to the zoo with a newly acquired car loan awaiting too many payments.  But such is life.

The Ford has served me well. Until “that day”….

The vehicle was packed with our clothing, snacks and plenty of electronics for the trip. The Ford had recently been serviced and wired for pulling our small but adequate new-to-us camper. We left a day early for our family camp adventure in Colorado in order to spend a night camping in our favorite state, Wyoming. We wouldn’t make the drive all the way back to our old stomping grounds, but instead would be camping in unexplored territory of Curt Gowdy State Park. The drive out was slow but uneventful. This was our first outing with our new camper and I was getting the feel for pulling it down the interstate and while climbing into higher elevations. All was well.

We pulled up to the attendant’s booth at the state park.  “Are there any spots open?” I hadn’t planned far enough in advance to reserve a spot so was left with the hope that on a holiday weekend some of the first-come first-served slots would be open. There were a few spots still available, but she suggested I drive around and make sure there was one we liked before paying.  She handed me a map and sent us on our way. We went to the first area she suggested.  She said they rarely filled up there. And I saw why. No trees. No access to the lake. Just a flat spot with places to pull in. It looked too much like the “camping” areas in the Midwest.  We pulled back out onto the main camp in search of something better. After winding around a couple different sections with camper still in tow, the children began asking that I please just go back to the other one so we could get on with supper. It was only for one night… I decided we’d go through just one more area. If there was nothing there, we’d go back to that forsaken flat spot of a campsite. Full. Full. And, full. Everything was full.  But wait, there was an open one!  I pulled in.  Yes, it was open all right, and the lake was nearby, and it had trees. But it was also situated on a very steep incline. After looking it over I decided it would probably challenge my camper-leveling skills beyond capacity. Not the best choice. So I decided to head out. Approximately 30 seconds later as the front tires were skidding sideways, I realized the significance of the fact that I had purchased a city vehicle and I was definitely not in the city. It was front wheel drive, not all wheel drive, and I was on a very steep hill with very soft dirt under my tires and was accomplishing nothing but frightening my children and digging two holes with the front tires. In an effort to get a head start up the hill, I began slowly backing down the narrow trail. This act frightened my children even more given my lack of experience at backing a very short trailer. About then I saw a vehicle approaching in my rear view mirror. And the thought struck me… “Where am I?  Wyoming.  What do you do in Wyoming when you need help?  You ask the nearest person for a hand.”  So I secured the vehicle and hopped out. I had a short chat with the gentleman in the Jeep, who obliged my request and climbed in my driver’s seat to give it a try.  It was no easy task, but he managed to get the city vehicle pulling the small camper to the top of the mountain incline.

camper1

We went back to the flat spot with no trees. And all was well. But it ain’t no 4WD.

(For my long-time readers – yes, we are a family of three. Such is life. God is good. All is well.)

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2 Comments

  1. I was filled with anxiety the entire read! I know full well the experience of car problems–thank God for angels watching over you and helping. It’s tough to be a woman alone in the world.

    Reply
    • “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” And I am most grateful for His angels! Sometimes they are on double duty for us.

      Reply

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