We raised enough money to rent a truck and pay for the gas to get us back across the country a mere five weeks after we arrived in the Las Vegas area.
Days were spent – and tears were shed – sorting, letting go and repacking our belongings so it only took us a couple of hours to pack the truck. I planned to leave the truck at the U-Haul facility overnight so we could leave early the next morning, but was told it was impossible due to liability. It was already well after lunchtime. With no choices left to us, we made plans to be on the road by 4:00 PM. I brought the Purple Plum around the U-Haul parking lot, and a kid barely out of high school strapped the car onto the carrier. Then, we headed back to the house.
Sitting at the dining table, apologies were made to our hosts for the abrupt departure we were about to make. Time was ticking away. Panicked and rushed, we gathered our things. Daughter #1 cleared and washed down the bathroom sink, cleaned the mirror, and began to throw our things into boxes. The cats, Milo and Rory, were caught and secured in their carriers. We had to leave quickly to make it to the first hotel – the only one at a reasonable cost that accepts pets, which was in Holbrook, AZ. It was getting late, nearly 6:00 PM. We said goodbye, apologized once again for the hasty departure, flipped on our traditional opening travel song (On the Road, Again by Willie Nelson) and set out on the journey.
Once again, a furious wind plagued us with up to 70 mph gusts. It seemed excessive. In the earlier post, Sometimes, Life Hands You Lemons; Other Times, Life Chucks Them at You, I wrote about the big blow from the Nor’easter storm that followed us from Kent Island, Maryland to the Las Vegas area.
In the desert, gas stations can be few and far between. At 9:30 PM, we pulled into a Love’s Travel Stop. I made my safety walk around the car to discover the strap around the passenger side’s wheel was completely off and stuck underneath the tire, which sat askew in the trailer’s wheel well.
My heart dropped into my stomach, and I started to shake. I glanced out into the dark of the desert, thinking about having been stranded out there on the highway, but quickly turned my attention back to the problem. What was I going to do?
I looked around for someone who might be able to help. A man was gassing up at the next pump. He was pulling a flatbed trailer with a truck on it so I ventured, “Excuse me. Can you help me?”
A bit hesitant, the man followed me to the opposite side of the car. “Oh, that’s not good!” he said in a Texas accent. He called over another man. I was taken aback. The younger man was about thirty, tall and thin with a van dyke style facial hair.
Together, in a feat of strength, the men lifted the car up enough to slip most of the straps out from beneath it, but not all. I would need to reverse the car on the trailer.
A few moments later, D #1 emerged from the store. As she came around the truck to the car, she stopped dead in her tracks, staring at the second man. Our eyes caught, and I mouthed, “I know, right?” She took a spot in front of the trailer to help guide me back, when she noticed the safety chain wasn’t attached. The car was hanging on by the straps on one wheel. Had it broken free out on the highway, someone could have been killed. We all marveled at the good fortune that it was discovered before that could happen.
The strap finally freed, they re-strapped the wheels and chained the trailer up. The first man said it was the strangest coincidence they were there that night. He had loaned his truck to the younger man. When it had failed to start, he got a trailer to drive out to Arizona pick the truck and his friend up. Soon after, we had thanked our helpers and were ready to go.
Once we were back in the truck, we couldn’t believe how much the younger man resembled my late husband, Steve, the girls’ father who died when they were four and two. It felt like some bizarre providence that they helped us out on the road so near where Steve had lived in Arizona during part of his time on the road. A time featured strongly in the book I’ve written and need to do the final edit on.
Exhausted, we rolled into the parking lot of the Holbrook Motel 6 sometime around 1:00 AM.