Faith, Family & Fun: Disastrous road trip gives plenty to be thankful for

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Spending a week of vacation in Colorado over the Thanksgiving holiday may seem like a dream to some.

It certainly did to me. This was to be my first real vacation in several years and my first time back home since my mother died more than a year and a half ago. My dad was getting remarried and the wedding was set for the day after Thanksgiving.

My wife, two youngest sons and I had been anticipating this trip for six months. Let’s just say we’re glad to be back home in Texas. The trip resembled a cross between “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

We began our adventure by leaving my car with a repair shop to fix an oil leak. The Saturday before Thanksgiving we hit the road, destined to spend the night in Amarillo. We got as far as Wichita Falls when CLUNK, the transmission in our Ford Explorer went out. We crawled back into town in first gear only to find all the repair shops closed for the weekend.

We spent the night in a cheap hotel and slept on beds that felt like bricks, covered with sheets as rough as sandpaper. The next morning we upgraded hotels and wasted the day at the mall and other chain retail outlets.

First thing Monday morning we limped the car to Quality Transmissions. When they opened up the pan on the bottom of the transmission, it was thickly coated in shavings and ground up parts. It was going to have to be replaced and it would take until Wednesday to get the job done.

We left the Explorer there and crammed into a smaller Dodge Journey that we rented. We finally left Wichita Falls Monday at 2 p.m. and decided to drive straight through to the house we rented for the week in Johnstown, Colo. Since we wouldn’t be arriving until after 2 a.m., we had my daughter, who lives nearby, check in for us. As we were passing through Amarillo, she called to give us the details. She then asked why we were checking out on Wednesday morning.

Perplexed at this, we called the owner. Apparently there was a screw-up with the Website that made our reservation and instead of getting a week we got three days. He already rented the house to someone else the rest of the week, so we were out of luck.

Instead of spending Tuesday visiting family and friends and going into the mountains as we had planned, we got to spend the day scrambling to find new accommodations. My daughter was with us because her car had to go to the shop (no surprise there). We finally found a hotel and were checking in Wednesday afternoon when our friends Bill and Cheri Gee saw my wife’s plea on Facebook and offered their home to us. We cut our reservation short to one night and on Thanksgiving morning hauled our stuff to their place.

Our plan was to spend Thanksgiving with my brother at his home in southeast Denver. After seeing and experiencing the weather forecast of ice and snow, we opted not to make the trip. Our friends Jerre and Terri Bauman graciously invited us over for Thanksgiving at their house and we had a great time.

My dad and Barbara, his bride-to-be, spent the day playing airport shuttle. They were picking up several of her family members, including her eldest son and his family, who are missionaries in Estonia. He was the pastor who was going to conduct the wedding. The day before their flight, the airline called a strike but cancelled it at the last minute.

Friday morning brought the big day. We had a brunch so both sides of the family could meet. The rehearsal was at 2 p.m., followed by the wedding at 4 p.m. It was an amazingly beautiful service and all of us were so happy to see Dad and Barbara tie the knot.

Since we could not return the rental car and pick up ours until Monday morning in Wichita Falls, we got a bonus day in Colorado. We spent it running errands. The main thing was to rummage through a storage unit where a bunch of my things had been stored since Dad moved out of his house. The original plan was to obtain a trailer and haul the stuff back home. Instead, I had to handpick a few items to cram into our overstuffed rental.

One of the items we found was a library book that I checked out in 1973. For the fun of it, we returned it to the library. They got a good chuckle out of it and thankfully forgave me the $1,400 overdue fine!

On Sunday, we headed back to Wichita Falls, crawling at one point through a snowstorm and black ice. We made it back home on Monday, a day late and about four grand over budget.

Despite all the headaches, we are very thankful for family and good friends and we are very pleased to have a whole new branch grafted into our family tree.

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