Day 3 was the day when we felt as though disaster had struck… Paul got out of the car at a gas station and pulled they key from the ignition. He knew immediately what he had done, but it was too late. Try as we might the key wouldn’t budge. We were suddenly stuck in North Platte, Nebraska.
A little over an hour later we were all in the tow truck. Sadie squealed in delight. We drove first to the Chrysler dealership, where they said that they could begin work on the truck the next morning after ordering a part. Since that was less than ideal we then had the tow truck driver tow us back to the shop he worked out of, while I wondered if we were making the right decision.
We drove past corn fields and an ancient looking tractor before pulling into a garage on a questionable looking street. I was pretty sick with worry at that point.
I realized that we were pretty much at the mercy of whoever was fixing the van. They could quote just about any price and we would have to pay it if we wanted to get back on the road and get where we needed to be by the time we needed to be there. And, because we’re new account holders at our new bank, I knew that the majority of the checks I’d deposited wouldn’t clear though until August 1st, and that we barely had enough to cover the expense of driving cross country (we’ll get Paul’s paycheck for the entire month of July upon arriving back in Naples).
The mechanic explained that he’d managed to remove the lock without drilling it and that the fourth pin had fallen down, creating the problem (because the key couldn’t go all the way in). They were driving the lock over to a local lock smith, to see if he could fix it.
We decided to take a walk towards a park that was about six blocks away while we waited to hear the verdict.
The walk down the street felt perilous after a Rottweiler jumped out at us and threw itself against a chest high chain link fence next to Sadie. The street looked more and more questionable as we proceeded. I noted that the bars, tobacco store, and pawn shop all seemed to be thriving, but nearly all the restuarants were out of business.
After a short while of unsuccessful play at the playground (imagine a frightened Sadie at the top of a giant, rather scary play structure, and a giant, pregnant me having to climb up to rescue her) we headed back, grabbing tacos at the only restaurant on the street that was open while I fretted about making ends meet in the coming days.
Back at the shop we waited.
And then, four hours after the key had been pulled from the ignition, the verdict came in: The van had been fixed. The key fit perfectly. The locksmith had rebuilt it and the mechanic had replaced it. Everything worked. I held my breath as we waited for the price and then nearly burst into tears when I heard the amount.
Had the tears fallen they would not have been sad, worried tears. No the tears I barely managed to restrain were tears of relief as I thanked everyone I could see in that little shop.
The total was $99. $301 less than the quotes in California. $700 less than the arbitrary amount I’d imagined in my worrisome “how-much-will-this-be” scenario.
Did I mention that Nebraska might be my favorite state now? The people in that little shop were amazing. They knew that we were desperate and definitely could have taken advantage of the situation. Instead they sent us on our way, amazed.
The amazement lasted through Iowa (which I have to say, is one of the most beautiful states I’ve ever visited), and into Illinois, which we drove through after nightfall. We made it all the way to Indiana, driving from 1pm until 1am before pulling into a motel and tiredly plodding down a hallway to a room where Mae Bae awoke and refused to sleep in a crib.
Finally I curled up on the remaining six inches of mattress that the cuddling girls hadn’t sprawled on, and managed to fall asleep.
We had survived Day#3... and made it to northern Indiana. We were nearly back on track. Now we just needed to find a place to live...