I have heard so many stories of cars breaking down, and have seen my fair share of them on the side of the road during trips. Every told me how brave, and even crazy, I was for embarking on an eleven hour drive alone with my children to head back home to Canandaigua for the week. I wasn't concerned, as I knew how fantastic the boys were both for our drive out to Chicago from Utah, and for our trip down to Missouri for Michael (Nordquist)'s wedding. From the wedding experience we also learned that it's best not to drive down immediately before a big event, but to give the boys some time to adjust to a new place before exposing them to all sorts of new people and situations... if possible. I now understand a little bit why people thought I was so crazy... although the boys really were fantastic.
We left North Chicago at 5:12, only slightly later than originally planned. I'd wanted to get on the road early to avoid the crazy traffic outside Chicago--our commutes home-hunting had taught us how awful traffic can be, and we'd planned well. There was still a lot of traffic, but it was moving quickly... very quickly... so I made good time. At around 9am CST (10am Eastern, which was the local time zone) we stopped for a bathroom break. I changed the boys' diapers and got them dressed, and decided to put a movie in for them. I couldn't get the adapter to pick up a signal. Then I noticed the clock light dimming. I turned off the car, and then couldn't restart it. I found someone to jumpstart the car, and decided (after a quick call to Pops) to get to the closest auto repair shop, which was just a mile away, off the next exit. I'd been stopped at a pull-off stop that's just right off, right on I-80, and the car died just after I got back on the interstate. I was hardly on, and still in the right lane, so I was able to pull off easily. My battery light was on, the power steering died, the clock died, and even my emergency flashers wouldn't go on. Crazy. I called Mike again and he gave me the number for AAA and my mom's account number. I was able to add myself to her policy for $60, and they said they would get a tow truck out to me as soon as possible.
After all the phone calls were made, I will confess that I cried. But, the boys were great. They read books, played with the file folder games, and ate grapes. The car got pretty hot and muggy though, and they started sweating. I would hold the door open every once in awhile to cool things off, but it was really loud. Two patrol cars stopped by at different times to make sure I was okay. The troopers were so nice, and the first one helped me and pushed my car further onto the grass on the shoulder... he even told me how to put my car in neutral since I was an idiot and didn't know how. You have to turn the key on...even with a dead car. Go figure. The tow truck guy finally called, after AAA calling twice to tell me that it would be just a little longer than anticipated. He called to let me know he was close, and to make sure he knew where I was. His truck only had a front seat, and there wasn't room for the car-seats, so Parker got to ride in the middle seat, and Evan sat on my lap. SCARY! But, evidently you just CAN'T let passengers ride on the flat bed of tow trucks! We drove the thirteen miles to the shop (since it was AAA affiliated, it didn't cost extra for the extra towing) I also found out I needed new tires... you could see the metal on the rear tires. Not a good time to recall the mechanics telling us how we'd need new tires soon last time we got the tires rotated.... almost a year ago. Ooops! But, what a blessing to figure that out early, before both tires blew out on my way to New York. j
I was hoping to just have a slipped belt, or maybe a dead battery, but the alternator was completely dead. Thankfully, Thomas was able to skip class and find our warranty information. Several phone calls later, we at least had that sorted out! The repair shop had a gas station, a "convenience" store, and a waiting room for customers in the back with a few booths and tables, as well as bathrooms. One of the employees got my laptop from the car, and the boys and I sat and watched the beginning of Lady and the Tramp. I eventually grabbed our cooler from the car and we had more grapes, juice, and cold pizza. Then the boys wanted to run around the shop, up and down the aisles. They also enjoyed looking at the giant, taxidermied moose head, and run into the back office to see the taxidermied quail, mooing, barking, and chirping the whole time, of course. The shop owners were very patient, and told me that they would be worried if they boys weren't running around. A woman came in, getting a tire repaired (it ended up having a nail and some glass in it) and helped me chase Evan while I made some necessary phone calls. We talked a little bit, and she shared some of her bag of pretzels with the boys, making instant friends with Evan. Her repair finished earlier than mine, of course, and she asked when my car would be finished. It would be at least another hour, so she offered to take us over to her house so the boys could run around and play.
Now, normally I don't get in cars with strangers, and especially don't take my children to strange houses, but I needed to get them out of that confined space, and felt good about it. The mechanics installed my car-seats in Rose's car, and we drove the few miles to her gorgeous house. Someday Thomas and I will have a real house! (But, we're grateful to be where we are now, and wouldn't trade it... it's just nice to know what we're working for!) Rose played with the boys, and we had a chance to visit. She was so sweet with the kids, and they had so much fun running around, playing with balls, and Parker couldn't get enough of Pac-Man. She even loaded us up with snacks. Before we left, Evan was looking at some resin ducks she had displayed on her floor. He kept petting one of them, and then picking it up and saying "hug." He was so gentle with it. She saw how he kept running back to it, and gave it to him, and since she understands small children, she gave Parker one too. Evan can't get enough of is "duckies." When the repair shop called, she took us back, and sat in the car with the boys while I settled the account, and ran to the bathroom one more time. We loaded up the boys, and they fell asleep almost immediately. She also gave us some cash, which was such a blessing, and so thoughtful. I hope that someday I can be that kind of a person, and that I'll have the opportunity to serve someone the was Rose blessed us!
Although Rose said that we'd given her more than she gave us, I'm not sure that's true! Although we'd tried to make the best of a bad situation, as the adage goes, because of the angel placed in our path, we were able to turn a bad situation into a delightful afternoon, and an experience we'll never forget. A recent conference talk (I'll attach the link when I have a better internet connection) teaches that when we pray for our friends and loved ones to be blessed and protected, we're praying for angels both earthly and heavenly to help them. I'm so grateful for the kindly woman in South Bend, Indiana who answered the prayers of my husband and mother to help me. I'm not sure how we would have survived the experience with the boys otherwise!
We got on the road again around 4pm, and the rest of the trip was blessedly uneventful.
We had to stop a few more times, for gas and dinner, and once around 10:30 because Evan was just inconsolable and needed to nurse (which was easier on me to relieve that pressure!) We got into Canandaigua at around 2am... later than I'd anticipated 1-because of the breakdown, obviously, 2-because of the stops, and 3-because I hadn't changed the time zone on my GPS, and so thought I was an hour closer to my destination that I actually was. The boys woke up when we got to my mom's house, which allowed me to wash their hands and faces thoroughly, a good thing, but kept us up longer than I would have liked. I put Parker's sleeping bag on the floor on a bigger blanket and he was good to go, but Evan kept trying to jump on Parker and explore the room. I turned the lights off, but it still took the little guy awhile to fall asleep. But, we arrived safely, and were able to get a decent morning's sleep :) Mom and Mike's second flight had been cancelled, so they ended up not getting in until the next morning, Thursday the 23rd. Aunt Beth had had a delayed flight as well--a lot of opposition in getting here this weekend! The boys were terrible on Thursday, but were better after that. All of my aunts and uncles were here this weekend (expect for two spouses...) So nice to see everyone!