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Traveling with Dave

If it can go wrong it will go wrong

This was going to be the best trip ever!  I had been scrimping, saving, and scrounging every cent I possibly could. Sacrificing the small pleasures in life for three years to make this trip. A lot of people give me strange looks when I tell them how excited I get about a silly family reunion, but I have a great family, and I live for these times together! I live almost a thousand miles from home, so these reunions are the only chance I get to spend time with them face to face. I had planned everything, right down to the last bathroom stop.  I was totally prepared.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, was going to go wrong!

So much for that bed of roses!  I am not a morning person, but we left Portland, Oregon, before the sun was up on that Thursday morning in July.  It was a beautiful day for traveling, and I was looking forward to the next six hundred miles.  The sun was just peaking over the hills as we cruised through the Columbia Gorge.  The Columbia River rushed by on our left, wind surfers dancing on the waves.  The hills were alive!  Lush green forests filled with pine trees and ferns; brilliant orange, red, and yellows blossoms scattered across the hillside.  We stopped for just a moment to gaze in wonder at the Multnomah Falls, holding hands as we watched the crystal-clear water cascade off the mountaintop, rushing to meet the river at its feet.  Then, we headed for the high desert.

Have you ever been to the high desert?  No?  Well, let me tell you about it.  It’s hot, hot.  It’s hot, dry, and dusty.  While the dusty sagebrush, the spindly trees, and the wide-open spaces may charm some people, I was not impressed.

“They have rattlesnakes here you know.” Dave stated with a grin, teasing me about my fear of snakes and other crawly things.

“I know.”  I replied, a shiver running down my spine. “Good thing we don’t have to stop, eh!”

Famous last words of a fool!

We had just passed Tyler, Washington, when the temperature gauge in my Ford Taurus began to rise.  Dave immediately shut off the air conditioner.  I watched silently, my heart in my mouth, as the gauge continued to climb.  When the needle reached the critical point, Dave cussed softly, and pulled over to the side of the road.  Reluctantly, we got out of the car.  The heat hit us like a tidal wave, sucking the breath from our lungs.  There was water sloshing from under the hood and a huge puddle beneath the car.

“Maybe it’s just a water hose.” Dave said hopefully.

I crossed my fingers while he popped the hood and started poking around.  I looked over his shoulder but knew I wouldn’t be any help in that department.  I also knew we were going to need a tow truck, so I returned to sit inside the car, reaching for the cell phone, and calling for emergency roadside assistance.

I’m sure the lady on the other end could hear the despair in my voice. Trying to pinpoint our exact location, she calmly asked me to describe the surroundings again. She was particularly interested in any mile markers or road signs.  I searched for a distinguishing landmark, but there wasn’t anything that stood out.  No road signs, no mile markers, nothing.  I could see nothing, but poles and wires shimmering on the horizon as waves of heat warped the view.

“That and a lot of dust!” I exclaimed in dismay.

Luckily, even though he hated Spokane and the Tri-Cities, Dave knew the area well from his years in the Coast Guard.  He was able to tell them where we were, and soon enough, help was on its way.  Making the best of a bad situation, I pulled sandwiches and cold drinks from the cooler.  The bubbly mood from that morning had disappeared, and we were silent as we ate our lunch in the sweltering heat.  It seemed like forever before the tow truck appeared.  With a sigh of relief, we climbed up into the air-conditioned cab.

“See!  Even my cars don’t want to go to Spokane!” Dave joked as we headed for that dreaded city.

I had to smile as his humor returned, and I loved him for trying to make me feel better.  I was still worried about the car though.  This wasn’t something we had planned for.  As we made our way to the closest Ford dealership, I listened to the mileage tick away, racking up the dollars with every click. Even though my roadside assistance package would cover a portion of the cost, I knew we were looking at a hefty towing bill.  Sure enough, our portion of the bill was just over a hundred dollars.

They must have seen us coming.  We had barely finished paying the tow truck driver when the service manager came lumbering across the parking lot to greet us.  He was a big man, well over six feet with more than his share of stomach. His nametag sparkled in the hot sun as he approached, and I saw the name John in big, bold letters. I arched my brow as he brushed past me, the sickly-sweet scent of his after-shave almost gagging me as he reached out to shake Dave’s hand. Dave looked as surprised as I felt.  You must understand, I’m a lot meaner than Dave is, and much more apt to get my way, so generally, I do the talking.  Normally, being swept aside as though I were of no consequence would have ruffled my feathers, but at the time I was too hot, and too tired to care.  I left the men to their “man talk” and headed for the nearest bathroom.

I took my time while I was in there, splashing cold water on my face and brushing out my tangled, sweat-soaked hair.  Things had progressed nicely in my absence.  Dave and John were now at the service desk, the car was now in a service bay, and our fate was in the hands of a mechanic.  There was nothing for us to do but wait for the verdict.  We curled up on the comfy couch in the waiting room.  Dave promptly fell asleep.  How I envied that trait in him!  He could fall asleep in seconds no matter where he was, while I sat there stewing, wanting to shake him awake, but knowing he needed the rest.  I could have used some rest as well, but I knew better than that.  I tried, I really did, but sleep just wouldn’t come.  I have a hard time falling asleep at the best of times, and this wasn’t one of those.

“Just like I thought, it’s your water pump.”  John stated flatly as he walked over to where we were seated, ignoring me again in favor of Dave.

I groaned out loud.

“How much?”  I asked quietly.

“Well, uh, Ma’am, uh, the water pump is gonna run ya about three hunnert dollars.”  John seemed flustered.  I don’t think he was accustomed to seeing a woman take charge. Whatever the reason, I didn’t have the patience to deal with his silly prejudice.

“And the labor?”  I prodded John for an answer as he looked helplessly at Dave.

“Well, uh, ‘Ma’am, uh, well that’s gonna run ya some where’s between three and four hunnert.”

I looked at Dave, and Dave looked at me.  I wanted to cry.

“Well, we don’t have a lot of choice now, do we John?”  Since I was busy swallowing the lump in my throat, the authority in my voice surprised me.  “How long is it going to take?”

“Well, uh, Ma’am, we’ll git that done for ya just as soon as we can.”  John was still fidgeting, and it was driving me crazy.  “It shouldn’t take mor’n a hour or two.”

“Fine.  I guess you better get to it then.  We’ve already wasted three hours”

Looking at my watch, I waved him away.  He seemed relieved to have something else to do.  I turned to walk outside.  I needed a cigarette.  Dave followed me out, pulling me into his arms for a hug as we stepped out of view.

“I’m sorry honey.”  He whispered softly as he kissed the top of my head.

I looked up at him; my deep green eyes brimming with unshed tears.   I struggled not to let them run down my cheek.  I hate women who cry.

“You know we have to turn back, right?”

Dave pulled me deeper into his embrace, his simple statement slamming into my heart.  I knew he was right.  Our budget could only stretch so far.  Nodding, I buried my head on his shoulders, his black t-shirt soaking up my tears.

Now you must understand something here.  It’s not that Dave and I are poor.  In fact, we live a comfortable life.  We both have jobs that we enjoy getting up for in the morning, and we both get to spend every day with our best friend.  Unfortunately, neither of our jobs pays very well, so we do have to watch our money.  I wasn’t kidding when I said that I had scrimped and saved for three years to take this trip.  Now, in one startling instant, our hard-earned savings had been spent, and our trip was over.

“Unless!”  You could almost hear the wheels grinding in my head as I tried to think of some way to salvage our trip.  “Unless there’s some other way.”

“I could call my mom.”  Pulling myself from Dave’s shoulder, I looked up into his face.  I mentioned this possibility hesitantly, knowing how much he would hate the very thought of borrowing money.  I rushed on before he could interrupt, “She did say to call if there was an emergency.”

His face grew soft as he looked at the hope on my face, and he chuckled quietly.  If I had ever doubted his love for me, his actions that day proved his feelings beyond a shadow of a doubt.  My sweet, strong, gentle man, always standing beside me, my rock to lean on in times of need.  I would cherish him always.

“If that’s what you want to do Lorrie, then that’s what we’ll do”

I kissed his cheek, a huge grin appeared on my face, and I rushed off to give Mom a call.  Luckily for me, she was home, and listened sympathetically as I relayed the catastrophes of the day.  Moms always seem to know when their children are upset, and of course, mine was no exception.  She was almost in tears herself by the time I had finished.  She readily agreed to lend us the money with no interest and low monthly payments.  We would have to tighten our belts yet again to make the monthly payments, but I didn’t care.  I was going to Canada!  I was so happy I danced around the showroom; the troubles of the morning faded from my mind as I celebrated this small victory.  Dave laughed, giving me his ‘you’re crazy, but I love you’ look, and sauntered over to pour himself a cup of coffee.

Just then, John appeared once again, a serious look on his face.  He made a wide circle around me and headed straight for Dave.  I rushed over to see what was wrong.

“I’m afraid we have a little problem.”  John stated, studiously avoiding my eyes.  “We won’t be able to get all the parts we need before Monday.”

“Ah crap!”  I muttered.  If we waited until Monday, we’d miss the entire reunion.  “Isn’t there anything we can do?  Couldn’t you just rig the old one back up and get us back on the road?”

“We can’t do that.”  John continued looking straight at Dave, answering as though Dave was the one asking the questions.  He pulled a mangled piece of metal from his pocket.  “If we try to put this back on the water pump, it’ll just blow out again.  You wouldn’t make it across town.”

“Well, there’s got to be something.” I stated brusquely.

“Well Ma’am, you could buy a new car.  We have lots of them here.” This time John looked straight at me.

I was slightly annoyed that he would say such a thing at a time like this, and I was ready to give him a piece of my mind.  I didn’t need his smart mouth adding to my headaches.  Then I looked at his face.  I could see the eager desire to please in his eyes, could see that he hoped I would notice he was only joking, just trying to lighten the mood.  Suddenly, I felt sorry for him, and ashamed of myself.  Here the poor guy was doing his best to help, and I was behaving like the shrew from Kalamazoo.  I reminded myself that none of this was his fault and looked back at him with a smile.

“Nice try John.”  I commented wryly.  “What else do you have up your sleeve?

He relaxed.  Relieved, I think, that I wasn’t going to make a scene.

“We could rent you a car Ma’am.”  He began.  “I should be able to get you one for about a hundred dollars.  You could have it for the rest of your trip and pick your car up on your way back through. We could even attach the expense to your car repair bill. We’d have you back on the road within the hour.”

“Well, then, what are we waiting for?”  I asked, hope bubbling in my heart. I linked my arm with his, and we headed for the service desk.

True to his word, John had us back on the road in just under an hour.  I heaved a sigh of relief as we headed north out of Spokane.  The rest of the trip was uneventful.  I called Dad to let him know that we were running late but would be there sometime that night.  It was dark by the time we got to the Canadian border, and Dave missed seeing the spectacular views as we followed the curves around Kootenay Lake.  We pulled into the campground at Crawford Bay just before two in the morning.

To my surprise, a whole group had stayed up to await our arrival.   Everyone was talking at the same time, clamoring to be heard, welcoming us both with hugs and kisses, even though they had never met Dave before. Wrapped in the warm, loving embrace of my family, I looked over at Dave, grinning from ear to ear at his startled expression.  Laughing out loud as he got his first taste of the overwhelming wave of humanity that I call home.  This was going to be the best trip ever!