Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Yes, it could have been a lot worse.

Before I begin our Travel experience from almost 2 weeks ago (which may not even make this posting yet, as there are some interesting prequels to bring up), I have to say that it could have been a lot worse. I get that. But I swear, there is a curse when it comes to car issues and traveling. I think of the talk b y Quentin L. Cook (an LDS General Authority - a lot like the rank of a Cardinal) whose remarks were titled "Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time":

Last winter my daughter had a white-knuckle experience driving in a severe snowstorm. She reminded me of a similar situation I had with my two sons many years ago. My youngest son, Joe, was three years old, and my son Larry was six. We were traveling by car from San Francisco to Utah in June. The weather had been very good.

As we started our ascent to the Donner Pass summit in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, suddenly and without warning an enormous snowstorm hit us. None of the drivers was prepared. A semi-truck in front of us had jackknifed and was spread across two lanes. Other trucks and cars had slid off the freeway. One lane was open, and many vehicles, including ours, were desperately trying to gain traction to avoid the other vehicles. All traffic then came to a halt.

We were not prepared for this blizzard in June. We had no warm clothing, and our fuel was relatively low. I huddled with the two boys in an effort to keep us warm. After many hours, safety vehicles, snowplows, and tow trucks began to clear up the massive logjam of vehicles.

Eventually, a tow truck hauled us to a service station on the other side of the pass. I called my wife, knowing she would be worried because she had expected a call the prior evening. She asked if she could speak to the two boys. When it was the three-year-old’s turn, with a quivering voice, he said, “Hope ya know, we had a hard time!”

I could tell, as our three-year-old talked to his mother and told her of the hard time, he gained comfort and then reassurance. Our prayers are that way when we go to our Father in Heaven. We know He cares for us in our time of need.

He goes on to talk about how each of us will face trials and hardships in this life. That is very true. However, I'll stick to the "travel" theme as I recall some of those trials.
Did You Forget Something?
I think back to July 1989. I was 14 and my Mom was the sole driver on a trip to Salt Lake City from Phoenix. That was a big deal, because A) My mom never drove long distances up until that point. My Dad always did the driving. B) My Grandma was with us. She was 71 at the time, but never drove a big car like our Suburban and never did long distance drives either (my grandfather always drove), so she wasn't an option to drive. And C) I was 14, so I wasn't a driver option. My two sisters were also with us. They were 8 and 5. Suffice it to say, they were out of the running for possible drivers.

Anyway, we made it through Arizona and stopped in Kanab, Utah at a diner/ice cream type place. We also went to a park where our toy poodle Taffy was approached by a huge dog that looked like it was going to eat her.

As we left Kanab, the car (actually, like I said, more like a huge boat 1978 Chevy Suburban) made some weird noises and my Mom said something about it "not kicking in", but it eventually did and we crept up US-89. Then at one point we cut over to I-15.
Blue Arrow: Kanab    Yellow Arrow: Beaver
WELL...over 100 miles later, we reached good ol' Beaver, Utah to stop for gas.  But what happened? My Mom realized she didn't have her purse. Where would it be? 

Kanab. 115 Miles back.

That wasn't even the worst of it. I don't want to throw my Mom under the bus. That isn't what this posting is about. It's about Travel Woes and this was indeed a Travel Woe.

In 1989, it was a good idea to carry Travelers Cheques instead of just Cash. But she didn't do that. My Mom just carried cash. All of it for the trip. And where was the cash? In her purse. 

At the diner in Kanab.

We went to a pay phone in Beaver (kids - ask your parents what pay phones are) and called the diner. My grandma was the one who made the call. I'll never forget the name of the young lady who she spoke to at the diner. Amber Hamblin. And since Jacob Lake is down the road from Kanab (in Arizona) and Jacob Hamblin founded the area, I am certain that there is some relation there. 

But as usual, I digress.

The purse was there. Untouched. Everything there! Talk about luck! Or Guardian Angels! Or both!

But we had to spend the night in Beaver first. Grandma paid for the motel since my Mom didn't have her purse.

Years and years later I learned my third great-grandfather on my paternal side, Sidney Tanner, settled in
Sidney Tanner
Beaver and that is where he died at the age of 86. This is after crossing the plains into Utah with the rest of the Mormon Pioneers years before.

If you've ever been to Beaver, you have to ask yourself.....why? After Sidney literally walked and rode horseback across the country (originally from the state of New York in the beautiful Lake George area!) and then into the beautiful Wasatch Mountains of the Salt Lake Valley (and then spent a brief time in San Bernadino, California), he ends up settling in.....Beaver?

See, I'm not trying to throw my Mom under the bus in this post. But I guess I'm throwing Beaver under the bus. Haha....Beaver under the bus. I see road kill!

 Okay, sorry. Moving on.

So the next morning we backtracked 115 miles to Kanab, picked up the purse, and trekked the next 300+ miles up to Salt Lake (passing Beaver again). My Mom believes that the car acting up as we were leaving Kanab (the first time we left Kanab) was something telling us to stop. She would have discovered her purse missing and we never would have had our Beaver adventure.

I also never thought I would have a blog post with the word "Beaver" in it so much.

So while I know there were travel woes before the July 1989 Kanab-Beaver adventure, that was the first major one that I recall.

The Demise of Bambi's Mother
This next one comes just over 5 years later in 1994. I was 19 and Chris and I were engaged. It was Labor Day weekend and we drove to the Provo, UT area (from the Phoenix area) to attend the baby blessing of our newest nephew, Carson Hatch who was only a couple of weeks old. Wow. To put things into perspective, Carson is now in Africa serving an LDS mission.

No, I don't feel old. Not at all. :sarcasm:

Zions Nat'l Park in SW Utah,. Note how close it is to Kanab, site of previous story.
Well, Chris and I wanted to take the scenic route home. After entering Zions National Park in the afternoon of Labor Day 1994, and looking at the views, we turned a corner (yes, I was driving) and I saw a blur of brown fur flash across the car. What happened? A deer committed suicide using our 1982 Honda Wagovan as its method of operation to do so. 

Seriously, it was like two points intersecting. Here is the Math problem: If a deer is running through the forest at a constant speed of Y at X time and doesn't slow down when it reaches the highway, and a 1982 Honda Wagovan is going around the corner at about 45mph at X time, at what point and time will the two meet?

As the deer ran into the road , it was right there on its run across the road as we were turning a corner. It allowed no reaction time at all.  The picture below is rather accurate to the deer's speed, but in our case, the deer was even closer. Thankfully, no antlers either.
I had a picture of the damage, but I cannot find it after 19 years. It was even on display at our wedding 2 months after the accident. Maybe I can take a picture of the TV screen as I watch the wedding video to see if the picture is seen. 

But going back to the incident, it doesn't matter that we weren't at fault with the deer's demise. If you kill wildlife in a National park, the ranger will make you feel like a criminal. He also made it sound like I was going 90mph and carelessly took out the deer like the elf bowling game (below). After all, we were "kids" and there is a stereotype when it comes to kids and cars. (Well, Chris was 24, but he looked like a kid). 

Anyway, the radiator was flattened and there was steam along with blood and deer fur. I shouldn't have gone to look, but I checked out what was left of the deer. It was a beautiful deer, but definitely dead. And to add more insult the injury, Mr. Ranger also pointed out that the deer I hit was a female and she probably had babies that were going to be left alone and now die because Mom isn't coming back. Yeah, thanks, Mr. Ranger. Make me feel even worse just for driving around a corner at the wrong time!

Luckily, we had friends in St. George who came to pick us up. We expected having to stay with them or have them drive us to Vegas to grab a flight home. But instead, they gave us a car to drive home! Then they towed what was left of our car to St. George. We only had to pay for labor because someone had a hood from a similar model and a radiator and just swapped it out. Talk about more Guardian Angels in a bad situation! 

But we had to get the nice car that we drove home back to St. George a week later. Actually, they met us in Vegas. May I remind you it was September? The nice car we borrowed had A/C but the newly fixed Wagovan did not (it never did). That was a tough drive back to Phoenix. However, we cannot deny the blessing in being rescued from the sight of the deer's demise and how the car was fixed. Sure, we had to pay out some money, but it was considerably less since we didn't have to pay for the parts! 

Despite the yucky nature of both situations above, there are definite amazing "Guardian Angels" at work!

Bargains Aren't Always Best
We've had car issues on trips after killing Bambi's mother (a couple, actually), but the next incident to relay jumps all the way to December 2009. 

It's actually going to be featured in an upcoming issue of Parents Magazine about "Vacation Nightmares". Coincidentally, the Parents representative I spoke with sent me one of the final drafts today! Therefore, my sub-heading "Bargains Aren't Always Best" is taken from the title she gave my story. I'll add little details in red:

        When Jill and her husband were calculating the cheapest way to travel with their two kids from their home outside of Phoenix to her mother’s house in Idaho Falls one recent Christmas, the most affordable solution called for driving five hours to Las Vegas and then flying to Idaho from there. 

          This was when Allegiant flew to Idaho Falls from Vegas, and not from Mesa Gateway yet. The following year, it began flying to Idaho Falls from Mesa-Gateway!

       Says Jill, “I was against the idea of driving to Vegas, but (Chris) did a whole spreadsheet to convince me that the cost was right.” The car was so packed with stuff that he got creative and tied two suitcases to the trunk of their Saturn: an empty one to bring things home in, and another filled with gifts including a jar of “reindeer food” that their 6-year-old son, Christian, had made for Santa’s hardworking sleigh team.  

    Things went fine until they hit I-40 (just outside of Kingman) and both suitcases flew off the back of the car. The family pulled off the highway and Jill’s husband managed to retrieve one of the suitcases, but had to run for his life when a semi-truck came barreling towards them.  

Jackson Hole, WY. A few days later.
    “The suitcase that was still lying on the road was the one with Christmas presents, and all we could do was stand there and watch that huge 18-wheeler plow right over it,” Jill recalls. Christian was devastated to see his reindeer food smashed, along with the paint set he’d bought as a gift for his sister, Mikelle, which turned the road spectacular colors. 

     Then there were all the Christmas movie DVDs—cases flattened and scattered everywhere. (Strangely, while the cases bit it, most of the DVDs survived!)

    “It was like watching a National Lampoon movie, where you say, oh, yeah, right, like that would ever happen,” Jill says.

     They recovered what they could from the road, and she held the suitcase on her lap the rest of the way to the airport (at least 2 more hours), refusing to let her husband tie it back onto the car. Then he lost his cell phone in the airport. After they finally arrived, the entire family was hit by a stomach virus.  Can I tell you how much fun THAT was?

     Everyone loves a good deal, but spending fewer hours in transit can be worth more than saving money. Says Jill, “I stand firm now whenever my husband tries to get me to travel on the super-cheap.”  

Therefore, bringing up these instances does put things in perspective as I recall the latest vacation drama in my next post.  No animals died.  No one's stuff was run over. We didn't accidentally leave our money behind, but let's just say our money is getting left behind in Flagstaff.  But that story is to come.

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