Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, July 21, 2023

Road Trip Woes

Long-time readers of this blog may remember my story from 2013 about a road trip in which I was the sole female in a 1992 Cadillac with three generations of Todd boys. The occasion was my father-in-law’s funeral and we encountered car trouble. Nobody wants that. Unless, of course, you’re a columnist in constant need of inspiration. Few stories are found in uneventful trips.

The same group, plus one boy, traveled to South Dakota earlier this month, this time for my mother-in-law’s funeral as I wrote about last week. This time, we rode in two vehicles since those Todd boys have grown. Our son’s recently acquired cello also took up a seat.

The trip down went swimmingly. Our grandsons took turns riding with Grandpa and me so each could enjoy one-on-one time with Dad. No hassles at the border. No breakdowns. No accidents.

Five days later, we started early, reasonably hoping to get the boys home to their mother by 5:00 p.m.

By the time we reached Jamestown, North Dakota at noon, our son’s transmission had started operating only in certain gears. While he crawled to a repair shop, Grandpa and I took all three boys and grabbed some fast food to go. By the time we caught up to our son, he’d learned his options: waiting two days for parts which may or may not solve the dilemma, paying more than the car was worth, or trying to keep going. We opted for the third choice, but it was short-lived. The car didn’t make it out of town.

A car breakdown in your hometown is frustrating enough. What do you do when you’re 400 kilometers from home and in another country? Even if we abandoned the car and the cello, squishing six of us into our car wasn’t an option. Phone calls to dealerships, rental places, repair shops, friends, and family filled the next hours. Our circumstances changed when we learned that a friend of the family who’d attended the funeral was also driving back to Manitoba that day. We tracked him down in Fargo, about 90 minutes east. Grant willingly picked up the car dolly our son had managed to book from a U-Haul dealer and drove the many extra miles to haul our son, his car, and his cello to Manitoba.

At 4:00 p.m., Grampa and I left Jamestown with our three grandsons, their birth certificates, and a letter from their dad should border guards ask. We headed for the crossing at Cartwright (the internet said it stayed open until 9:00), straight south of Neepawa where the boys’ other grandparents would meet us and take them home with them. We made the border with an hour and a half to spare.

Except for one little problem: a sign informing us they closed at 4:00.

Now our nearest 24-hour crossing was the Peace Gardens, farther west and even farther out of our way. We arrived around 8:30 and rejoiced to get through with no problem. But now it was too late for the other grandparents to head out. We carried on, treating the boys to poutine and Frosties in Brandon. We got them to their mom’s in Oakville by midnight and returned to Portage. Meanwhile, our son, his rescuer, the broken car, and the cello crossed at Emerson and made it home much later. The car situation is still being solved.

What seemed like a horrendous loser-of-a-day could have been so much worse. A few days earlier, we’d have sweltered in the heat. We could have been stranded on the highway rather than in town. Someone could have been hurt. Instead, we had beautiful weather. We were together and safe. We found a generous, helpful friend. Cell phones proved invaluable. And, just maybe, the boys learned a few things about handling disruptions with patience, resourcefulness, and a cool head.

Biggest moral of this story? Don’t take road trips with a columnist.

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