Misadventure on the road to Missouri

Rhonda Silence starnews@boreal.org unorganizedterritory.me

Long time readers of Unorganized Territory may recall my misadventure with my daughter-in-law Michele (“Goosie” to friends and family) in December 2012 to pick up their family’s new puppy from my sister in Missouri.

The little Australian cattle dog’s name was selected before we met him. Because Goosie and my son Ben own Benny’s Collision Center in Grand Marais and because the new puppy would spend most of his time at the body shop, a collision center-themed name was desired. Dinger, Crash, Bondo, were all considered and rejected before they finally agreed on the unusual name of Damage.

Little did we know the puppy’s name foretold what to expect on that trek. We barely made it out of Cook County before disaster struck. We hit a deer in my small SUV just three miles from my house.

Not to worry, we thought, as we moved our bags to Goosie’s car. We got our bad luck out of the way and the rest of the trip would be smooth sailing. Until we had a flat tire near Carlton, ended up in a blizzard in Iowa and had yet another flat tire just before entering Missouri.

It was a disastrous trip, but the reward was great. It was nice to see my sister Rhodelle, her husband J.R. and son Jacob, however briefly. And we fell in love with the little cattle dog who served as our good luck charm on the way home. There was no damage heading north.

Goosie and I laugh about the misadventure now, but at the time it was pretty miserable. So I should have thought twice before making another spur of the moment trip to Missouri. But I didn’t.

The latest trip came about because J.R. bought my dad’s big white diesel truck. Dad bought the truck in Missouri several years ago with J.R.’s help. It was perfect for dad at the time, but now that he is no longer cutting and delivering firewood, he really doesn’t need it. So it was decided that the truck should go back to Missouri.

My parents, who travel to Missouri every year on the way to their Arizona abode, planned to drive the 1,400-plus miles separately, my dad in the big truck and Mom in their car. They were sure everything would be fine.

All I could imagine was disaster. My husband Chuck shared my concerns and since he is retired, he volunteered to help drive. Once the truck was safely delivered, Chuck could fly home and Mom and Dad could continue their journey as usual. To my relief, my parents accepted the offer. Everyone got ready to go and I prepared to spend a few days home alone. I was fine with that.

Until it was time to drop Chuck off at Mom and Dad’s house and wish them goodbye. It is always hard to say goodbye for the winter, but this year was even tougher. Not only were they leaving, but Chuck was going with them. He would get to spend a few more days with my folks. I wistfully said I wished I could go.

For the 10th time or so, Chuck said I should go. We could rent a car, he said, and drive back together. It would be cheaper than flying. I finally couldn’t resist. Just as I decided at the last minute to make a speedy trip south with Goosie, I did it again. I dashed home, packed a bag, and jumped in the truck, rescheduling things from my cell phone on the road.

It was a noisy, bumpy ride, but it was fun. We switched drivers and vehicles and stayed in touch with Mom and Dad by cell phone, using them somewhat like walkie-talkies.

We only made it as far as Albert Lea, Minnesota the first day. That was fine too, as we had a nice visit with some Cook County summer residents, Chuck and Marcy of Tom Lake.

However, day two dawned with a hint of disaster. Dad went out early in the now-frigid weather to get the diesel warmed up. It would not start. A kindhearted fellow in the parking lot pulled up and tried giving a jump-start. No luck. Dad called AAA and talked the truck driver into giving him a tow to get it started. That worked. After a circle around the block, the truck seemed to be running fine.

We set off down the road and after driving for several hours, stopped for lunch in Ankeny, Iowa. The weather had warmed and surely the engine had too, so we thought it would be safe to shut the truck off. It was not.

The truck wouldn’t start and the towing company we reached refused to give a pull to get it started. As Dad tried calling other companies, a gentleman from Austin, Minnesota, offered assistance. He had a full-size pickup and a towrope and after the briefest of tugs, the engine started and we were back on the road, vowing to not turn the engine off until we were at Rhodelle’s.

No such luck. The truck died one more time on a freeway off ramp in Missouri when Dad wasn’t quite quick enough on the clutch. As Chuck and Dad tried to get the truck to roll downhill to get it started, a woman in a van from Colorado stopped and kindly offered assistance. Again after the briefest of pulls, the engine turned over.

We made it the rest of the way without difficulty. Apparently three mechanical misadventures is the quota for the trip from Grand Marais to Stark City, Missouri.

As before, it was worth it. It was nice to see my parents safely off on their winter trip. And it was wonderful to see my sister and family, albeit briefly. I’m willing to live dangerously and head that way again sometime. But first, I think it’s time for the Missouri relatives to head north for a visit!

Stop worrying about the
potholes in the road
and celebrate the journey.

Fitzhugh Mullan

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