The main reason why our road trip plans went wrong was that Erin’s car had a breakdown. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read the previous post. On Saturday, we had planned to leave early in the morning and drive all day to get to St. Louis, MO. Google maps estimated it as a 10-hour drive. Fine, I thought – we can leave at 7:30, drive 5 hours, stop for lunch at 12:30 or 1:00, then drive another 5 hours and arrive in St. Louis some time in the evening. Sounds like a good plan, n’est-ce pas?
Sure. But thanks to a screw-up at the Tom Thumb pharmacy, we couldn’t leave until after 9:00 a.m. because they missed one of my prescriptions that I couldn’t live without. So we left Garland around 9:20. Then, as we approached Allen, Erin remembered that her Crocs had gotten ruined and she really needed a pair, so we stopped at the outlet mall and made a quick visit to the Crocs outlet store there. Back on the road by 10:40 – only 3 hours off target. We could still make it!
Well, we made it as far as Vinita, OK. We were just entering the Will Rogers Turnpike when the rear wheels started misbehaving. At first, Erin (who was driving) thought it was just a strong wind, but it got harder and harder to keep the car on the road, and I surmised that we had blown a tire. We limped off the Turnpike and back into town. We headed for the Walmart, but when we got there we discovered that they didn’t have an auto services bay. What kind of a sick, twisted place was this??? At a gas station, we asked a customer if he could recommend a tire shop, and he gave us directions to a nearby place that was, unfortunately but not surprisingly, closed. By this time it was about 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon, and I guessed that almost every place would be closed – probably until Monday. Finally we pulled into a Pizza Hut parking lot.
When we got out to assess the damage, we discovered that the tire itself was still intact. However, the entire wheel was leaning out from the car at a wonky angle. With sinking heart, I realized this repair was going to involve more than a simple change of tires. Hearts heavy, we went inside and called AAA.
Now I’m going to stop right here and tell you this: if you don’t have a AAA membership, get one! It’s not too expensive (about $75 a year, I think) and it is definitely worth having. The AAA representatives I talked to were kind, generous with their time, and willing to be of help in any way they could. The first lady I spoke with had a cute Minnesota-type accent, and her concern for us and our predicament was crystal clear through the phone lines. With many reassurances, she promised to get someone to us right away. She asked how many passengers were in the car, and when I told her it was my daughter and myself, she said, “Oh dear, two lovely girls, and stranded on the road! Oh dear! Don’t you worry at all, I’m going to take care of you.” I was so charmed by her accent and her sincerity that I forgot to be upset about the car. That in itself was a blessing.
Soon after the first call concluded, I received another call from a different AAA representative, who wanted to make sure that we were staying inside the Pizza Hut, out of the heat, because it was such a hot day. She said that we shouldn’t try to wait outside for the tow truck – she would tell the driver to come in and find us so we could stay cool. Another representative called me a little while later to let me know that the truck was on its way. As a whole, they could not have been more helpful or solicitous.
The driver arrived a mere thirty minutes after our call. Albert was a lanky, leathery man of about 60. He got down and crawled underneath our car to see what the problem might be, and diagnosed a broken wheel bearing. The shop where he worked was in nearby Miami, but they wouldn’t be open until Monday. He reckoned the same would be true about any of the auto repair shops in the area. I explained about our trip and our plans, and I guess he could see the despair on my face. We were stranded in Vinita.
He seemed to chew on this for awhile, and then began to explain his situation. He was not the regular tow truck driver – he was filling in for another guy who was on vacation. He worked part-time for the owner of the towing service, but earlier in his life, he had owned his own garage and repair service. The old facility was next to his house, and he still had all the equipment. But a few years ago he decided to semi-retire in order to spend more time with his grandchildren. He offered to take the car back to his shop and try to fix it. The parts dealerships in the area were all closed, but O’ Riley’s would open up tomorrow morning, and he would get the part and fix the wheel. We wouldn’t have to wait until Monday!
I couldn’t believe my good fortune! Albert loaded our car on the back of his truck, and gave us a ride to the nearest hotel, which was a Holiday Inn Express. He waited while I booked a room, and then lowered the car back down so we could pull out our overnight bags. As we watched him drive away from the hotel, it suddenly dawned on me that I had let a total stranger take my daughter’s car away, and I didn’t even know his last name or remember the name of the towing company! I could imagine telling the police that I had allowed some guy named Albert take my car away, and now I wanted it back.
My misgivings were allayed, however, when he called me an hour later to tell me that he had taken the wheel apart, and it looked like all we would need was a new bearing, which he could get in the morning. At least he was keeping me posted, and now I had his phone number stored in my phone.
We ordered delivery from the same Pizza Hut we had visited earlier, then watched some TV and went to bed early. The next morning we took advantage of the hotel’s continental breakfast, and then negotiated with the manager so that we wouldn’t have to vacate the room until we had heard something – one way or the other – from our repairman.
When 11:30 came and went, I started to get nervous. What kind of idiot would just hand their car over to a total stranger? Then my phone rang, and it was Albert, telling me that all was well and that he was bringing the car back to Vinita within the hour. What a relief! What a blessing.
The total charge – for parts, labor, and towing – came to $250. All in all, I think it was a fair charge, especially since Albert had voluntarily used his own equipment on his own time. His wife came with him to bring the car back to us, and I told her that Albert was our angel. She nodded, looked over at him as he undid the chains on the car, and said, “Yep. He’s a good man, a really good man.”
Now consider this: we just HAPPENED to break down in Vinita. We could have been way out in the middle of nowhere. Albert just HAPPENED to be covering for someone else that weekend, and he just HAPPENED to have all the tools and knowledge necessary to get the job done. Although the break-down messed up our schedule and caused us to miss s0me of the fun things we had planned to do, I marvel at God’s perfect timing and God’s provision for us in our hour of need. Our Lord was watching out for us, and he used a “good man, a really good man” to meet our needs and show us a glimpse of divine Providence.