Broke Down In Burleson
Sunday, November 18, we hooked up our 26 foot Keystone Hornet Hideout trailer to Maxi the Van and set out for Grandma’s house in New Mexico. Four hours into our trip we were driving through the DFW suburb of Burleson. Suddenly, we heard the familiar bang and rumbling sound of a blown tire. Quickly, we looked for the nearest place to stop. I didn’t want to simply pull over onto the shoulder. We needed more room in case we had to change a tire. I found a space between the highway, and a feeder road on-ramp. We stopped and got out to look. Sure enough, a blown tire. No biggie, this has happened before. That is until we found out that one nut was completely stuck on a damaged stud. In fact, it was so stuck that we were unable to get it off. We would have to call for a wrecker.
It Will All Be Alright In Just a Few Minutes
Thinking it would take just a few minutes, we called AAA to come out and get that tire replaced. After some 20 minutes of exchanging information, it turned out that the trailer was not covered by AAA. I will be cancelling my policy tomorrow. Next, I called USAA, our auto insurance company. They told me that we were covered and we began the process of getting a wrecker to the scene. I love USAA. The only problem was it was late on a Sunday afternoon and it could take up to 90 minutes for a wrecker to get out to us. Are you freaking kidding? You break down in Houston, and six wreckers are on the scene in ten minutes. Surely, help would arrive soon.
Or Maybe Not
So, there we sat, in the van, on the side of the road, with the flashers on, as cars whizzed by at 70 mph, on both sides. About an hour into our wait for the wrecker, our battery died. It was getting dark and cold, and there we sat, stuck. Six kids, three dogs, and two very defeated parents. I have to mention that the kids were unbelievably patient. Only one of them cried (I think it was more of a panic attack) the entire time, there were no fights, and no one complained about having to use the bathroom.
The wrecker arrived just before dark at almost exactly the 90 minute mark. A big burly driver got out. I told him the problem. He twisted the nut and stud right off the wheel and replaced the tire. I told him about the dead battery and he assured me we’d be back on the road in just a few minutes and that we could get the stud replaced when we got to New Mexico. He hooked up the jumper cables to his truck and our battery and……….nothing.
Back To Square One
Now, nearly three hrs. after we first pulled over, the wrecker driver was under the hood checking fuses, while I held a flashlight. After 30 more minutes of piddling under the hood and scratching our heads, the driver looked at me and said “Welp, there’s nothing else I can do here. Yer gonna have to call two more trucks to come get you.” Turns out that his truck wasn’t properly equipped to move either my van or my trailer. What the #$%!. I signed some paperwork and he was off. So, there we were, three hours on the side of the road, in a cold van, with cars whizzing by on either side, and we are back to square one.
I called USAA again. Have I ever told you how much I love them? The woman on the other end made us a priority and sent out two new tow trucks. Within an hour, we were in our hotel room, and our van and trailer were on their way to a mechanic.
Time to Feel the Stress
It was only after we were safely in our hotel room that the anxiety kicked in. We had just sat next to a busy highway with cars and trucks flying by us for nearly four hours. The last hour, we were in the dark without flashers.
I spent a sleepless night worrying about the state of our van. Did we simply need a battery? A fuse? Did we ruin the on board computer, or trash the entire electrical system? What if we are stuck here for days? Is this hotel going to let us stay more than one night? Yep, my mind was racing all night and the stress of being stranded for four hours on the side of the road really got to me. I became extremely anxious and had a hard time sleeping that night.
In the end
Everything worked out. We needed a new battery, and mysteriously, there was a very important fuse missing. I have no idea how that happened (flashback to me and the wrecker driver fiddling around in the fuse box). They had the tire and were able to replace the three broken studs (yes three). Everything else was fine. Throw in a new serpentine belt (I wasn’t about to find myself stranded again) and we were back on the road and we were ready to go the next afternoon. We made it to New Mexico on time and the rest of the trip went smoothly.
I am truly thankful to the three tow truck drivers that eventually came to help us get the van and trailer to the mechanic. I’m thankful to the mechanic who discovered and fixed the minor problem that prevented us from starting the van. I’m also thankful for the friendly mechanic who replaced the broken studs, mounted the tire, and gave us some advice on how to care for trailer tires. And both Uber drivers (yes, I learned to use Uber this week) were helpful and friendly.
But, it was the following people who stood to gain nothing from our ordeal that I am the most thankful for…..
A Legion of Angels
…..a very nice elderly man who tried to help us. He brought a portable air compressor and impact wrench in the hopes that we might get the stuck nut off of the wheel. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the nut off, but we did manage to blow out our auxiliary plug. I’m not sure whether or not it had anything to do with our dead battery or blown fuses or what might have prevented us from getting the van started. Nevertheless, I really appreciate his help. He even came back about an hour later to check on us and offered to let us hang out at his house if we needed a place to wait while the car was being repaired.
…..the woman in a pickup that pulled up and told us to get in, all eight of us along with our dogs, just as we were preparing to cross the access road on our walk to the nearest hotel. She saved us a cold 15 minute walk, along the side of a busy feeder, in the dark. She just happened to be at the right place at exactly the moment were were about to start walking and she didn’t bat an eye at our crazy collection of chaos.
…..the angel night manager who gave 8 people and 3 dogs a room at the Quality Inn even though it was against policy. She knew our situation and chose compassion over rules. She also snuck us a whole box of hot chocolate mixes because she could see we were freezing and the kids needed some cheering up.
A Little Help From Our Friends
There were my awesome friends in Cypress and around the country who offered to do just about anything to help us, even though they were 200 miles or more away. There were friends that called, texted, and sent dozens of messages through Facebook.
Carrie’s principal called and offered to come pick us up. Another old theatre friend was heading to Houston and offered to drive us back. A friend in Indiana got on a map and was trying to figure out it she knew anyone close by. Even other adoptive families that we’ve never met in real life reached out to help. Some of our dearest friends wanted to pay for the motel and even offered to send their parents to come get us. In the end, although we didn’t need those things, it was awesome to know that they love us that much and were willing to go out of their way to put our family first.
There were friends who used to be in our small group here in Houston. They moved up to the Dallas area last year. When they heard about our situation they offered to come get us and take us to their house. As it turned out, we didn’t need a place to stay, but we did need a way to get all of the kids and dogs and stuff back to the van. They brought both of their cars and made 2 trips. They bought us lunch and prayed with us before we moved on to our next destination.
Our church community offered up prayers on our behalf, and many of them were willing to do more. All we had to do was ask.
As a family on a tight budget, these types of situations can set us back. My father, knowing how much of a financial hit this situation was, offered to help us out. This was a real relief. I hate worrying about money.
What I Learned From Our Adventure
- Next time we break down on a busy highway, I won’t expect the cavalry to show up in short order. Sometimes it takes a long time for help to arrive. With that in mind, I will get my family out of the car as soon as possible. Sitting in the dark without flashers was really scary. I regret not getting my kids out of harms way much sooner. The thing is, it was cold outside and help always seemed just a few minutes away. Ironically, we never saw a police car during those nearly four hours.
- I need to get a better jack.
- Trailer tires in general, suck. This was our second blowout, and we have replaced all four tires on our trailer at least once due to wear.
- Tire maintenance is important. The very nice man who replaced our tire told me that trailer tires need to be inflated to their max pressure. From now on, every time we go on a trip, I will make sure that all four tires are at max pressure. Also, every time we stop I walk around the trailer and check the tires. I especially look for unusual wear.
- I know that our faith community will always be ready to do what they can to help us out, and that’s a very comforting thing.
Most importantly, we learned that even when things don’t go as planned, even when we have setbacks, we still have the most important thing. We have each other!
A Small Gesture to Give Back
Tomorrow is “Giving Tuesday” an event of charitable giving after the craziness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Carrie and I would like to give back a little bit as well, so we are hosting a giveaway of our own. Daddy Go To Timeout and More Love Mama Global Textiles are teaming up to give back to our awesome friends, family, followers, and customers. We are giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card to the lucky winner of a random drawing. We will also give an additional $50 to a charity of the winner’s choosing. Just click the buttons below to get started. And be sure to share this with your friends and on social media for lots more chances to win! The contest starts tomorrow and will end on Saturday, December 3. We will contact the winner on Sunday!