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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Life As I Know It - Thanksgiving Holiday Havoc - A Trip to Remember

The holidays are usually stressful – lots of shopping, cooking, gifting and for those of us who are natural over-achievers (see previous Thanksgiving blog) it can be a time when a little escape from the trimmings can be especially nice.  On top of the normal day to day, we own a Bed and Breakfast and are often consumed with cooking, washing, fixing, maintenance, decorating, bookkeeping, marketing, changing sheets, vacuuming, dusting… so with the holidays there are a lot of little extras to take care of.  Sensing our need for a little down time, my husband offered to take us on a little side trip on the way home from our B&B community.  It was a pretty day, cool but with lots of sunshine in the forecast and it seemed like the perfect thing to do.

Allow me to set the stage for this little bit of travel….we, or rather I go back and forth between our residence and our B&B community all during the year and I have to have some of the same items with me at both locations.  So each trip is like packing to go camping.   We haul baskets and coolers with food items for us and our guests, clothes, and I have business obligations so portable office equipment is ported as well.  This particular trip home we were also hauling non perishable garbage (papers, magazines and such) back to our home garbage bins as we are helping to clean out the little home we are purchasing in our B&B community that is now in the final stages of probate.  This has given us incredible insight into the previous owner who was a lovely lady – but this is extra work to do right at the holidays and a little extra added incentive to have a get away day.

With adventure in mind, we head out from our B&B on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving for a lovely scenic drive.  With the van filled to near popping capacity loaded with groceries, baskets, suitcases, office paraphernalia, garbage, the dog and us we set our course for adventure on Hwy 100.  We are in an agricultural/farming area and since harvest time is coming to a close, the farms are now cut back and the rich soil is turned to wait for the new season.  It is really pretty and with the summer foliage gone, you can see the lay of the land.  As we drive down the road we decide to make a turn to see the town of Stony Hill, Missouri.  We take a right and begin to take in the large farms and homes.  After a while we decide that it is probably time to turn around and start heading back toward home.  We find a driveway that looks suitable and pull in.  My husband puts the van in reverse and nothing happens.  We do not go backwards.  He takes it out of gear and puts it in reverse again.  Still nothing.  It becomes suddenly apparent we are in the middle of no where, in a stranger’s driveway that we cannot back out of and we have little to no cell service and we are stuck.   My husband gets out of the van and begins to walk around the property back and forth to survey the situation.  I’m praying he doesn’t get shot.  He tries to see if we can pull forward and around to get out of this person’s driveway/yard.  This is when he meets Stony Hill resident #1.  He knocks on their door and asks if we can pull through onto their property so we can get out.  This nice gentleman tells him that that is fine as long as we don’t tear anything up.   How nice… I doubt we would tear anything up and the other alternative is we sit in his driveway through the holidays.  While the survey is going on I determine that if we pull forward onto the patio, there is enough angle to let inertia pull the van backwards and we could basically get turned around without driving through the yard.  My husband actually agrees to this plan and we pull forward onto the concrete patio.  Our first pass we meet with a concrete garden block and it stops our slide backwards, but we pull forward again and turn the wheel a little more, the van rolls back and we are good to pull out forward onto the road!  Our excitement is only momentary as we realize going down the road that the van will now only go 25 miles per hour and will not pick up speed beyond 35 miles per hour on the windy, hilly back roads of Stony Hill.  Our transmission has a problem and we are in a little country village with no stores, stations or garages.  We stop and pull into a second driveway that has a circular style drive and see an old farmer out by his 4x4.  My husband decides he will talk to him and see if we can check our transmission fluid there.  (As a side note, stopping and talking to strangers is not something my husband does on a regular basis as opposed to me who will talk to anyone and usually pass along a business card, invite them the dinner, ask about their kids…. )  Stony Hill Resident #2 is really nice with bushy eyebrows and gray hair. He helps check the transmission fluid level about 6 times and gives directions to a nearby garage.  This is great news!  There is a garage just down the street.  How did we miss that?  He tells us we can pull forward and turn around and even pull off on the grass if we need to do that to make the turn.  We turn left to head back toward the garage and away from civilization.

The garage is closed.  Yep, closed.  No signs of life.  I get out and walk our doggie around and let her leave a deposit out back.  Now I really have to go pee.  That’s who I am, I have to go pee at the most inopportune time, so it serves to reason that I am at a closed garage in the middle of nowhere and I've got to go really bad.  I decide to get in the floorboard and go in a cup.  I’ve got pretty good aim in a wide mouth cup so this should be no problem plus I have tissues.  Wrong.  Somehow the cups either slips or I miss or something happens and I get the front of my undergarments wet.  This is not cool, well actually it is, cold and wet and I’m uncomfortable.  So be it.  Even though I have all of my clothes in the back of the van I figure this is not the time to entirely disrobe and change.  My husband decides to go to the house next door and see if he can talk to Stony Hill Resident #3 to find out about the garage or transmission fluid.  He gets to the back door and is greeted by a very large dog that is not happy he’s there.  My brave husband stands there like the dog is his best friend and fortunately the owner comes out.  The owner, who is also very nice, comes out and Mr. Huff explains our dilemma and they guy tells him it sounds like the transmission to him.  As my husband looks around the yard, which, by the way, has 3 transmissions in it, thinks, yes it looks like he knows what he’s talking about…   graciously he lets my husband know that the garage is really down the street just a little further and points it out from the yard.  He calls his dog off (he minds his owner) and we head down the road in search of fluid and maybe an ounce of encouragement.

We make it to the garage and now my husband must talk to Stony Hill Resident #4.  I decide to stay in the car since I’m a little damp.  Once inside Mr. Huff discovers the garage owner doesn’t deal in little bottles of liquid – he has big containers (tanks) of fluid that he has to put in a smaller container for us to pour it into the van.  He is outfitted for farm equipment and large volumes.  I mean, why not?  My husband borrows a container, I have since located a funnel and we add the fluid.  It doesn’t take all the fluid that he has paid $5 for, so now we search the van for a portable container to keep the remainder of the fluid so we can return the one the shop owner let us borrow.  If you are tired by now, remember I had to live it then type it.

After we complete this process we start off again.  The van still will not go in reverse and we are still stuck driving between 25-35 mph on windy, hilly roads.  We set course for civilization.  We need to make it to New Haven.  We don’t even know how far away it is from where we are.  We begin to laugh as we ride going 25 mph and then go downhill, pick up momentum, get over 35 mph then have to drop back down to 25 mph to pick up speed again and repeat.  We do this for about 14 miles and finally arrive back on Hwy 100 in New Haven.  We decide to pull into a Motor Company that is directly across the street.  We wait for a good traffic opening, cross the road and look for help.  They are closed.  Oh my gosh, is this funny yet?  It’s 4:00 in the afternoon, we have traversed Stony Hill at warp slow, peed my pants and now I have to go again and our destination is closed.

We call our future son in law to see if maybe he can drive out and rescue us thinking we may have to have a tow.  He could come, but he only has his car and it will not hold us and all our “stuff” (see paragraph 2).  We decide we need to make it down the road a little further and will touch base.  We make it to a Casey’s (Gas-Food-Potty) and try to breathe and regroup.  I get some fresh undies and head for the bathroom.  I’m relieved it’s very clean and I make a quick change.  It’s nice to be dry.  Mr. Huff contacts a towing service and discovers it will cost $350 to tow the van back to St Louis.  He entertains driving home and avoiding the tow charge.  We might make it home by Easter.  While discussing our situation, Mr. Huff remembers that he could actually lock the van transmission out of over drive and he decides we are going to go further down the road – one to get closer to the expressway to possibly meet our future son in law and possibly save money if we need a tow.  He puts it in drive and off we go, again, but faster.  This little lock out actually enables us to go normal speed.  NORMAL SPEED!  We can go 55 mph or even faster.  My jaw drops.  We call future son in law and tell him we think we can make it in if we just go all the way in on Hwy 100.  He agrees.  As we head down the road we make a decision that we can probably now stop at our favorite Goodwill just down the road as long as we can park where we can pull forward.  (I mean, wouldn’t you?)   We make a super fast run through Goodwill, make a potty run, of course, and head out because we are still going to try and make it home before NCIS comes on (a TV show I watch and call my Dad in GA in between commercials). 

To stay on Hwy 100 we need to turn to the left.  I see a sign for Old Hwy 100 and ask is there where we turn?  Mr. Huff thinks so, so we begin our trek on 100 to head home.  We drive and drive and go through a nice residential section and after about 20 minutes we are back onto Hwy 100 in Washington, almost where we started.  We drove in one big circle.  I suggest we stop at the Walmart and get fuel since this may be a long night.  I’m good; I didn't have to go potty.  I ask, where is the real Hwy 100?  We can’t go in a circle all night!  We pull out as I’m checking the GPS which shows we are going the wrong direction – until it recalculates....OK we’re good.  We decide we can go fast enough to get on the expressway if we need to so we head towards I-44.  We get almost there when we see the real sign for Hwy 100.  We turn left.  The rest of the trip is actually very uneventful as we drive through several communities and then traveled a brief distance on the highway to make our exit to home.  We raced indoors with the dog and plopped down on the sofa.

We were only 15 minutes late for NCIS. 

We will put the van in the shop next week for repairs.  I’m having a Porta-Potty installed on the back, mainly for convenience.

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