This was quite the turn of events…
34 minutes before my eldest daughter’s tee-time in the opening round of the High School State Championship…
I had just finished working with her at the range and we were about to head to the putting green as we had a lot to go through as it relates to fast greens.
My two oldest girls & I had come down the day before for the practice round and had stayed the night. Joanna & the younger two were set to arrive just before the opening tee-time to cheer her on.
My phone rang, loudly, mind you (and I have a funny alien-like ringtone for Joanna that sounds a bit odd for the casual eavesdropper) and I answered.
“The truck just died at a light and won’t crank back up!” Joanna says. “What? Where are you guys?” I quickly asked as I backed away from all the contestants.
“We’re only about 2 1/2 miles from the course by that Marathon where we always stop for restrooms.” she says.
“Are you guys still in the truck?” I ask. “Yes!” “Well get them out of the truck or get it off the road somehow? And put your hazards on if they’re not already. I’ll be up there in just a couple of minutes.”
As this is a fairly big event, I didn’t want to rattle my eldest. I briefed My other daughter and her coach of the situation and told them I’d try to be back by her tee-time, but not to mention it to anyone.
I took off running as time was of the essence, both for the upcoming tee-time, but also the other three sitting on a highway in a dead truck.
I found them exactly 9 minutes after the initial call came in (pretty cool being that just an hour and a half earlier they were 92 miles away). They were all the way in the back of the parking lot. Like, way in the back.
25 minutes till tee-time.
“How’d you get the truck way back here? Weren’t you on the road when it died?” I asked.
“Oh my gosh! Right after I hung up with you a bunch of guys from the power company pulled up and pushed us all the way back here. And then they left, just that fast. It was great!” she said with a big ole’ grin.
So I ask a couple of questions as I’m getting into the truck to start it. At this point I was hoping it was something wicked easy.
I’m pretty well versed on alternators, starters & dead batteries in the last month. Even a water pump. But this, this didn’t sound anything like it.
Sounded like it wanted to start but just wasn’t getting any gas.
My face has a confused look so I ask. “Tell me again, how was it acting?” “It was absolutely normal until I got to the light right there and then I tried to accelerate and it just stalled. And then wouldn’t turn back on.”
Mind you, it’s not stick shift, so that’s odd.
Now I’ve popped the hood.
Everything looks normal so I tell my son to to crank it up so I can hear.
Again, nothing, but it’s trying.
I close the hood, shrug my shoulders, cringe and say “I have no idea.”
“Should we call AAA?” Nope. We don’t have time to stay and wait for it.
I’m not missing this tournament, nor is anyone else.
“Let me try for a minute.” I say. I used to have an old truck that sometimes took some time & some gas pedal pumps before it’d get gas through.
Nothing, but close. Again, nothing, but close. And then…
It starts. We’re in business!
“Okay, let’s see if we can drive it to the course and then we’ll look into it further.” I say.
18 minutes until tee time.
My son and I start driving (Joanna and my youngest were behind me) and all’s going well. 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 mph. Gradual progression, works like a champ. I’ve gone probably 3/4 mile at this point and am intentionally staying in the right lane.
46, 47, 48, and then it sputters for a moment, completely shuts off, and my steering wheel locks up. Like all gauges went straight to zero and the lights on the dash and everything go out. My eyes bulging at this point while I verbalize what’s happening to my son, I throw the truck into neutral and get the steering wheel to release.
With no power steering module active I muscle the car (this is no joke) towards an upcoming light that turns out to be a little dead end road that strangely goes only about 150 feet and then ends.
Yay. Instead of having a dead truck at an intersection with an address, a gas station, food & bathrooms, we now have our own tract of land, some sketchy woods, and no businesses or houses in sight. Um, crap.
We park the truck well off the side of the road in a little rocky dirt area that I’m not super fond of. I try a couple more times but am having no luck whatsoever.
I phone a friend of mine who’s a mechanic and I share the story with him. He tells me there’s all sorts of potential problems and wants to listen to it. A minute later he basically says you need to get it towed.
Don’t have time for that right now, but thanks!
“Okay, going down to one car, let’s get everything and put it in the other vehicle” I say. A mad scramble ensues.
3 minutes until tee-time.
Finally, we’re all loaded up and heading to the course with my truck just sitting on the side of a highway. It was no secret that I was hopeful it would get stolen at this point.
As quickly as I can safely write about, we make it to the course. An impressively fast unloading takes place (food, backpacks, umbrellas, waters, etc) and we make a run for the first tee as the tee time is now 3 minutes in the rears.
We lucked out in that the last of the 4 players to tee off is my daughter and we wave to her from about 75 feet (while running) as she steps up to her ball.
We watch as she tees off and her day has officially begun. And, just as she puts her club in her bag and starts to walk down the fairway, we turn and run back towards the bathroom.
My eldest eventually hears the story and was clued in on our happenings, but not until the round ends.
About the time that we all had to ride together and see if the truck was still there.
And, on a side-note, my daughter was super thankful that we made it there on time and stayed with her. She wasn’t happy about the putting though.
So, now, the round is over and it’s dark out. We’re all tired and not wanting to start the process of waiting for a tow truck.
There’s interesting chatter in the car about how maybe our truck is gone. What if it got stolen? What if it got towed to an impound lot? How much is too much to pay to get it out? What if it got broken into? What if it…
“Awe, crap! It’s still there!” as I pull up beside it in the dark. I turn my lights off and pull up just behind it as we’re still figuring out what to do.
Joanna’s now on the phone with AAA and they want a location. Well, heck, that makes two of us! She’s now trying to find our exact GPS coordinates so they find us out in the middle of nowhere. Fun!
So, my son and I go up to the car and try it again, nothing, but it was close.
As we’re sitting there, in the dark, about to try again, a mid-80’s style Lincoln Towncar (they’re easy to recognize) pulls in, slowly and turns their lights off as they near my side of the truck.
My son asks if I have my gun. “It’s in my hand” I say as I am putting the window down with the other hand and waiting to see what the mystery car will bring.
“Is everything okay?” a sweet old voice asks me from a recently downed window. From the sound of it, she too, was in her mid-80’s. She turns her light on and the voice matches what I was thinking. It’s just her and maybe her husband (or brother, friend, son, boss, pastor, pimp, I don’t know?).
I assured her all was well and told her, briefly, why we were there and what we were doing.
“I don’t normally see cars over here so I just thought I’d see if I could help” she says.
Now, truth be told, she may have been a master mechanic or the word’s best disguised serial killer…or maybe just a helpful little old lady about to get turned down. Regardless, “thanks so much for stopping and asking, but we’ll be okay!” as I wonder to myself, “will we?”
She leaves, Joanna’s now pinpointed our whereabouts and our existence sounds more like battleship coordinates as I feel like mine’s about to sink.
And, hang on a second, “did that just happen? Did an old lady just pull up in the dark on an abandoned road and ask to help?” Yes. Yes she did.
Does this kind of thing happen to anyone else?
Anyway, I’m getting cranky (pun intended), so I try it again.
As if to say “nah, I was just messin’ wit chu!” it starts back up.
I’m equally as stunned as the rest of the family and now my face is stuck in some sort of confuzzled mode that I can’t get out of.
Do we try to drive it again? Do we go to a lit area? Do we go back to the gas station? Do we try to make it to the hotel (6 miles)?
The rep from AAA is also curious as she now has a tow truck driven en route. I tell Joanna to cancel the request but that we might have a new one in a couple of minutes.
It gets canceled and I opt to try to get it to the hotel.
I start driving. Right away I notice that it starts to sputter when I let off the gas. Now it’s messin’ with me again. Two can play at this game, so I, keep my foot on the gas ever so slightly, even while my left foot is simultaneously on the brake (um, this is not a normal strategy, but one I discovered while learning stick shift – truth be told, I haven’t used it since… until this moment).
Every time I hit my brakes and stop I’m now continuously watching my RPM’s flutter and drift towards dead. I find myself revving the engine and monitoring my gauges as though I’m on a low-flying plane.
Somehow the route to our hotel is through a commercial & residential area where a ton of stop signs live. They were everywhere! I was SO not a fan.
This was an interesting ride as stop signs turned into rolling slow down & look around points. Much like they are to a first-time driver learning stick shift in an uphill neighborhood.
Like, I just didn’t want to stop and, unless I really had to, I wasn’t going to.
My son is absolutely cracking up at my commentary and my unwillingness to obey simple traffic signs. It was a gamble, for sure, but no animals nor people nor properties were harmed during the making of this story.
Lucky for us, I didn’t have to stop at a single stop sign, the truck made it through without dying, and we didn’t see a single policeman.
We make it back to the hotel and, though it was cool out, I’m in a full sweat. “That was stressful!” I say. “Which part?” Joanna says. “Yes!” I say and just walk towards our room.
“I’m not doing anything with this truck till morning“ I say. “I’m good with that.” she says.
Morning comes and guess what?
Not a single problem. Starts right up as though we were all imagining what happened the previous day.
I’m somewhere between excited and confused at this point, but I reluctantly drive it anyway.
Made it to the course for round 2 and then it started right up when the day was done.
Still no AAA, but we’ve got them on speed dial. We opted to see about driving it all the way back home and it did it without a single hiccup.
Sometimes we have struggles we don’t understand. Sometimes blessings come and there’s no good reason for them. Sometimes we feel like someone is watching over us & protecting us. Sometimes we feel like we don’t deserve what happens to us.
And then sometimes, we just have to stop and be thankful for the cards we were dealt. They say the Lord works in mysterious ways and I’d say this was definitely one of those mysteries.
A solid week later (this was last Friday), some 346 miles on the truck, and not a hint of a problem… nor a hiccup… nor a stutter.
Lessons are everywhere if we look for them.