The Big Trip: Day 3
We woke up well rested and headed to the lobby for complimentary breakfast. The Blue Heron didn’t set the bar very high in this regard, so I was psyched when I saw the scrambled eggs and crisp bacon. Chuma was less entertained about eating and skipped his meal. He knows it’s time to hit the road. He jumps in the back to assume his position. We make sure we have all our belongings including my beloved plant which may have died the first night due to the extreme cold. Since that night, my dad has faithfully been carrying it in and out of hotel rooms hoping we can nurse it back to life. The plant has been with me for years and holds a special place in my heart.
Once in the car, we take our staple morning selfie, Dad pumping his fist. We can do this! We have been journeying at a good clip, covering endless miles of highway. It helps that the speed limit has increased to 75 or 80 mph. Today the land continues to sprawl for miles yet seems a little less brown and baron. There are more signs of life as we catch glimpses of green smatterings covering the prairies. Clouds decorate the vibrant blue sky creating a picturesque landscape. We are gifted with this view for miles until we pass a dreary span of land or for lack of better term mud, with cows crammed side by side. Instantly my heart drops knowing this is a slaughterhouse. While I am not against eating meat, I am a strong believer in organic foods. Cattle should be grazing in open pastures. Instead these cows are sitting knee deep in their own feces eating corn that does not fertilize the land, unaware of their unfortunate fate; my last vision of Nebraska.
For some reason I feel a sense of excitement as we leave Nebraska. I make Dad pull over to snap a quick picture of me under the Wyoming sign. Four more states to go! We later debate whether this was the reason for our downfall. We are gaining ground and getting closer to my future, my dream and my love. Unfortunately, Chuma doesn’t seem to share the same enthusiasm. Shortly after entering Wyoming he sits up. I look back with concern as he hasn’t sat up the entire trip. I look closer, his mouth starts to curl, and I know exactly what is about to happen. I am driving but am talking to Chuma: “Hang in there buddy! We are pulling over Chuma!” As if this is going to somehow stop the inevitable. As I pull over, it happens. Chuma arches his back and vomits. I jump out, grab him, and run to the side of the road. Snow covers the ground as I walk him back and forth. He starts to vomit again. My poor little guy is not doing well. Summit Rest Stop is up over the hill and we head there. Chuma and I walk ahead on foot, trudging through the snow. Behind me I hear an obnoxious squealing sound coming from the upper parking lot. Turning to look at what’s causing this awful ruckus, I realize its coming from my car. I throw up my hands urging my dad to stop as I race towards the car. He looks at me puzzled and rolls down the window. “Do you not hear that noise” I inquire. He hadn’t, but now he does. He sets out to the restroom while I google what the possibilities could be. The car comes to a stop and I realize this horrible ear-piercing screech only occurs when we are driving, not while idle or using the brakes. I presume it is only a belt and Laramie is 17 miles away. We try to make it. About 400 feet after entering the highway the check engine light comes on. Well, we gave it a shot, we pulled over and called AAA for a tow. My dad has been a loyal member since 1985. As always, AAA arrives within a half hour. Chuma is forced to ride in the back on the tow bed. He looks at me with sad and longing eyes, I know he is confused by all of this. We climb into the truck’s cab and head towards Laramie. The driver informs us these amazing mountain ranges are the end of the Rocky Mountains, my favorite.
Being the google expert Alexis sends me a list of 3 vendors who can take care of my Volkswagen in Laramie. I look and choose RCB Auto Repairs because it has 4.7 out of 5-star rating. RCB is a small auto repair shop on the edge of Laramie. The office has a smell of the auto parts that are strewn throughout. Bob looks up from his desk and seems leery about the travelers that have just entered his office. He says that he can’t even look at the car until 4pm. My dad slumps and says, “Oh jeez we are on the road to Oregon and can’t lose time.” At that time, I jump in and suggest going somewhere else. That statement seems to perk Bob up a little and he says that he will look. He pulls the car into the shop and he wonders if it may be a pebble in the brake pad. A pebble in the brake pad? My paternal grandfather had owned an auto shop, so we are not in foreign territory, but a pebble in the brake pad, this we had never heard of. I take Chuma for a walk around the elementary school and watch the children yell with excitement as they run throughout the playground. My heart feels heavy as I call Alexis who calms me. She tries to sound positive as she assures me this won’t slow the trip and we will be back on the road in no time. I head back to the shop, slump into the well-worn chair and prepare myself to hear the worst news possible. While waiting, a well-dressed man walks into the shop, looks at us then says to my dad regarding his hat “Yankees, huh?”. I am sure this is not the first time my dad has heard this, but he laughs and tells him he is from Massachusetts. With intrigue the well-dressed stranger asks “where?”. “Longmeadow” my dad replies. Our heads perked up when this mans’ response was “near Chicopee.”. Here we are in the middle of Wyoming and he is inquiring about Chicopee, which is a small dot of a town in Western Mass, and coincidently happens to be the town in which my father grew up. Before I know it, they are chuckling and discussing a longtime mutual friend. I laugh to myself, leave it to my parents, socialites extraordinaire, they seemingly know someone everywhere they go. I laugh at the encounter and say, “only you Dad”. At this point it seems like hours have passed, but in reality, it’s been 45 mins. Bob walks in holding a small pebble between his pointer finger and thumb. We look at him puzzled as he explains we are all set, it was just a pebble between the brake pad and hub. A rush of relief floods over me as Dad asks him to check the oil before we get on the road. Two hours after we pulled into the shop, after taking apart the car, pulling out the pebble, and changing the oil, Bob is looking at us from behind the desk and telling us we only owe him for the oil change. His kindness takes us by surprise and we are grateful. All the guys in the garage have a beautiful spirit about them and have made this experience beyond amazing. I know by looking at them, their sun beaten faces, broad chests, long hair and worn clothes, that each have their own life stories I wish I could stay to hear them tell. What I do know is this, if you are ever in Laramie and need help we recommend RCB Auto Shop. Bob will take care of you.
After a quick picture with the RCB guys we get back on the highway. We have been side tracked but thank god that it wasn’t more than just a pebble. As we leave the Rockies and ever so slowly approach the Cascades, the landscape slowly changes. The flat grasslands have evolved into plateaus with what appeared to be mountain ranges in the distance. We cross the continental divide before heading into Utah. Now going 80 mph we are winding through massive plateaus as the sun sets. We decide to call it a day. We didn’t make it to Twin Falls, but we made up some valuable time, and met some upstanding people along the way. Pulling into another Best Western we locate our room and head to dinner. After a quick bite, we find ourselves exhausted. Tomorrow should be our final day.