We somehow always end up majorly stressing out to get everything done at the very last second, whenever we have traveled for business. We used to go to a lot of shows to display Andy's furniture, and there was always one more piece to finish late into the night/early morning and one more major expense that we couldn't afford before hitting the road.
This time was no different, except that we were off to promote our woodworking school, rather than his furniture. We had worked into the wee hours several nights in a row and were absolutely exhausted when we finally loaded up to leave Wednesday morning, April 15.
As we munched our breakfast in the car and drove west toward Portland, Andy and I began to laugh at how we had pulled it off. By God's amazing grace, we had done it. Our son piped up from the back seat of Andy's truck, "What do you mean that we have done it? We're not there yet!"
But Andy and I just laughed. So much work and stress and miraculous intervention had gone into just getting us out the door and on the road. The worst of it was over. It was smooth sailing now. All that was left was the eleven hour drive to Portland today, connect with some family, a three hour drive to Seattle the next morning to set up our booth for the weekend's Woodworking Show, run booth Friday through Sunday, visit family Portland again, a fourteen hour drive to visit friends in Northern California, two hours drive to do another show in Sacramento, visit with a few more friends, head back twelve hours to Portland for a little bit more family time, and then the drive back home to Montana. All of that sounded so easy compared to the weeks we had just been through.
But then the truck began to act up a bit. The boy's words echoed in my mind, "We're not there yet!" We'd had similar problems with the truck before, though, and they had always cleared up without any real trouble. We pulled over on the side of the freeway; Andy popped the hood and tinkered a bit, then we drove on.
It happened again.
We pulled over again, tinkered some more.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Several times over. We were barely limping along.
We finally pulled off the freeway in the thriving metropolis of Superior, Montana. Ever heard of it? I didn't think so. The name is a little misleading. The guys at Napa Auto Parts recommended a mechanic on the other side of "town." We limped over to the shop and parked. Andy went in to talk to the owner.
It was a transmission issue and he doesn't do transmissions. In fact, no one in "Superior" works on transmissions--nor is there anyone in any town nearby who does. What do residents of these small towns do when the transmissions on their vehicles go out, we wondered? Ah, perhaps this is why most of rural Montana is littered with mini-junkyards of abandoned vehicles.
What to do? The mechanic suggested either Missoula, two hours back from whence we'd just come, or Kellogg, Idaho, an hour west--but much higher into the mountains. We hated to back track, but didn't think our truck would pull our heavy trailer up and over Lookout Pass in the condition it was in. We have a good friend who specializes in transmissions back home in our valley, only a half hour further than Missoula, so we made the decision to just go back home. We got permission to drop the trailer in Superior, at the mechanic's shop, so we would have a better chance of making it all the way home.
Jump ahead several hours. We made it home, got the vehicle over to our buddy who does transmissions, quickly replaced an inexpensive part that he happened to have on hand, and things looked good. Andy decided to pick up another friend's trailer and take it for a test pull, just to be certain we were back in business. It pulled the trailer just fine. The kids and I began to gather our belongings and get ready to hit the road again.
But after the trailer was returned to its rightful owner, the truck began to act up again, as bad as before. This time, Andy took it over to our main mechanic, who ran some diagnostics on it.
The engine needed to be replaced--at a monetary cost greater than the value of the vehicle, and a time cost that we couldn't afford. We wouldn't make it to the show in Seattle for sure, and Sacramento was iffy--and that's IF we decided to replace the engine, which we couldn't afford to do and would have trouble justifying, even if we COULD afford it.
If any of you noticed high wind conditions on the afternoon of April 15, 2009, it was only the whooshing of the wind from our collective sails. We were so discouraged. We wouldn't be going. These shows were important. We had been convinced, over the last few weeks, that God really intended for us to go to the shows, the way He had allowed us to overcome seemingly impossible odds to actually make it out the door with enough time and funding to make the trip. This was such a disappointment now to have come so close, only to come to this full and complete stop.
Not only the shows awaited us, but also a great many connections with family and friends had been arranged. It was going to be a great trip. Going to be.
We all cried a bit. Actually, that is an understatement. We were devastated.
But friends and family, far and near, were on the horn with God, praying for a solution. The only thing we could think of was to take a different vehicle. We weren't about to borrow a truck from anyone to pull a heavy trailer over that long of a haul. And how could we buy one? We had no money for such a sudden expense, even if a truck could be found on such crazy late notice. And even if we skipped our night in Portland, we would have to be in Seattle by early Thursday afternoon. We would have to leave before dawn and it was already early evening. Impossible.
But with God, all things are possible.
Part Two, tomorrow.