Travelling with Kids: How Optimism Helped Our Family Avert an Emergency Crisis!

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As I loaded my family’s belongings into three different cars, strapped my kids in their seatbelts, and settled in the back seat alongside my seven month old baby, I was grateful. Things could have been much worse, but we were all on our way safely home after a long and trying ordeal.

It was approximately 7.5 hours into our 8 hour road trip home from Colorado, and I had just finished reading “What Was the Underground Railroad?” by Yona McDonough to my kids to help the time pass a little quicker. It was also the perfect opportunity to teach them a little something along the way. Upon closing the book, my 8-year-old daughter, Azure asked the question all kids ask a million times on a road trip: “Are we there yet?”

We obviously weren’t there yet, because what surrounded us was the mountain walls of Spanish Fork Canyon in Utah County. But, in order to satisfy Azure’s need to know when we’d be home, I did a quick Google Map search. Luckily, I found that we were only 29 minutes away, to be exact!

When I told her the good news, she breathed a sigh of relief, because we were officially less than a half hour away from being let loose from the van that had held us captive for so long. And, I, too felt content that we would soon be safely home.

Then came an ominous noise. It sounded like ten tons popcorn kernels popping with the bass cranked up, came from the back end of the car — along with the hydraulics to match! My husband quickly pulled the van to a stop. After a careful assessment of the situation, he found that our back, right tire had blown. Upon further inspection, he also noticed that a few hoses had been hit by the debris of the tire causing a lot of liquid to leak out.

“So much for making it safely home,” I thought.

Well, good thing we live in the age of cell phones and internet service on those phones. I would no doubt be able to search the number of our insurance agent to get roadside assistance, and we’d be home free before we knew it!

Ummm… as it turns out, these modern gadgets don’t always work when you’re between the walls of a canyon. We just so happened to find the perfect spot — for miles, mind you — where there was no internet or cell service to be had.

“We’ll just coast slowly down the canyon until we get service,” my husband calmly said. “If I remember right, the mouth of the canyon is just around the corner.

A few minutes later, still no service in site, a strange smell came from the car. The temperature of the engine rose rapidly. The antifreeze was leaking and the engine was burning. Again, we stopped. But this time to gather all the water we could to pour in the engine so we didn’t catch fire.

With no cell service, my husband waved to passerby’s for help. As it so happens, staring and honking at the people in need is the definition of help! Even two Highway Patrol cars passed without checking what was the problem. For several minutes, we tried to wave down somebody to assist us in our time of need.

Nobody.

We quickly realized that we were on our own, and would need to take matters into our own hands. So, we continued on, slowly but surely, stopping to cool off every few minutes. And, no, the mouth of the canyon was not right there. We were farther up than we thought.

The smell from the leaking antifreeze got stronger, and the noise of the broken tire continued to echo loudly throughout the car. The thought came to me to text my three brothers who lived in nearby towns to see if they could help, all while hoping that there would be a pocket of service somewhere that would let the message go through. With no service in sight, I knew it was a long shot.

Just then, we rounded a corner where an old trailer was parked, with a man selling homemade beef jerky. This man was big, burly, scruffy, had a cigarette hanging from his mouth. If I were to judge a book from its cover, I would have kept the van rolling by. However, right away, he noticed that  we were in trouble, and quickly stepped to our aid. He clamped off the damaged hoses and sent us on our way with a few gallons of water to keep the engine cool as well as some jerky to snack on for the long trip ahead.

I will never judge a book by its cover again. This burly man turned out to be an angel in disguise.

Not long after clamping the hoses, we came to a gas station, and the cell towers shined their service from above. I called one of my brothers, and indeed my text message had gone through! They were just minutes away from coming to our aid.

After over two hours and twenty miles of crawling down a canyon in a broken twelve passenger van, we were home finally free.

What could have been a terrifying story, ended up being okay. We now have an unexpected adventure to share for many years to come.