It Happened One June...

Once upon a time in a place not far from here, a family decided to adopt a beautiful purebred Irish Setter for the youngest son to call his own. Since the breeder was located in a picturesque town only five hours away, they thought to make it a mini-vacation.

The father had started a new job only two weeks earlier and couldn't take off work to go, so the mom thought, "The kids and I will go alone. Just a couple of days. There's an amusement park there. A water park. We'll have a quick vacation this year, pick up the dog, and come home. Next year we'll take our big, expensive trip somewhere we can all go."

The hotel was booked, car serviced, dog owner contacted...all was set.

Two hours into the trip, Mom runs over a blownout tire strewn on the interstate. Thinking it was lying flat, she opts against throwing on the brakes and tries to straddle the biggest hunk lying in the road.

Mistake. They hear a loud "Clunk! Clunk!" underneath the car, going at 75 miles per hour and the van immediately loses power. Mom coasts across the right lane and onto the shoulder as the smell of gas fumes fills the van.

The engine won't turn over and the oil light flashes red. Cars and trucks whiz past only a few feet away, showering the van and its five occupants with searing exhaust and the stench of melting rubber.

Mom is about to panic. The outside temp is approaching 100 and inside the van, heat builds. Older brother calmly suggests: "Why don't we call a tow truck and have them take us to the next town and rent a car to go on to our destination?"

Mom holds the panic in check as she considers that. Should they? Or should they forget this whole thing? Still at least four hours away. Was it worth it? But what else could they do?

"It's Sunday. Nothing's going to be open on Sunday," she moans.

Little Sister pipes up from the backseat. "Want me to find a service station on my GPS?"

The GPS! That most wonderful of God's creations for the flustered traveler! Within minutes, Little Sis locates three service stations within 25 miles and Mom begins to call.

First one, no answer. Second one-Bingo! They fix cars and their towing service is available. Thank you, God!

The heat inside the van had built to broiling and they flee up the grassy embankment to the shade of the woods--also populated with ticks, chiggers, and poison ivy. But in 100 degree heat, those things don't matter.

With the background roar of interstate traffic, Mom hunkers down in a cluster of trees, praying no poison ivy is nearby, and starts calling rental car places. Call after call, getting price quotes ranging from laughable to ridiculous, she finally settles for laughable and reserves a Chevy Traverse.

The very kind man at the service station comes to get them--and all their gear, and takes them to the airport where they rent their Traverse, load up, and continue the trip.

Six-and-a-half hours after they began their trip, they find their hotel--a nice one, thank goodness. Maybe things are looking up.

The next morning, they head out for the theme park, spirits lifting, although Mom is ill. She tries to hide it and assures them she's fine, parked on a bench in the shade instead of riding rides. At least maybe they could have a good time. Unfortunately, many of the rides they'd looked forward to are closed for repairs. They try to make the best of the ones that are still open and hope the water park will be better.

Mom calls the dog breeder to check in, make sure they were on for getting the dog--the whole reason for this trip. "That number has been disconnected,"intones the robotic voice that can't possible comprehend what those words mean.

For three hours, Mom hits redial, launches an internet search for another number, and comes up with nothing. Website is gone. Phone number that worked two days ago is disconnected. She shuts her eyes, steels her roiling stomach against the stench of melting asphalt, and wishes she was anywhere but here.

At one o'clock, a miracle happens. The breeder calls! She explains that her phone line had been accidentally cut and yes, they still have the dog. They plan to meet the next day at noon to hand off the dog.

Mom inhales. Things are looking up.

The boys approach from the water slide, blood dripping down Big Brother's face. Mom leaps from the pool chair.

"I hit my head. I need to wash the blood off." He winces and ducks his chin, displaying a bloody clump of hair on the top of his head.

"What happened?" Mom cries as visions of Urgent Care flash across her mind. The cheap vacation keeps getting pricier.

"I don't feel so good," he says and for a quiet, non-complainer, that says a lot.

They shuffle to the First Aid building and get him inside. The air conditioning is worth whatever they have to do to him. The medics quickly clean up the blood, assure them he doesn't need stitches, and let him fill out enough paperwork to demonstrate he can still think.

By now, the fun is about over. Big Brother doesn't feel like riding anything else. It is so hot, fun is hard to find. By four-thirty they leave and Mom thinks, "It's over. We don't have to try to have fun anymore. We can leave soon."

Early the next morning, the phone rings. The breeder says, "The dog got out and we can't catch her. She's chasing birds in the field and refuses to come. If we can't catch her in time, do you want to wait or take another dog?"

Mom thinks about laughing. Hysterically. Maniacally...but it would scare the children. "We'll talk about it," she says and hangs up.

Little Brother is heartbroken. No, he doesn't want a different dog. He wants THAT dog. HIS dog, the one whose photo he fell in love with online. He tears up and Mom clicks into Instructor mode, using this as a teaching situation while wanting to kick the dog people.

Mom and Little Brother pray, turning it over to God and in an hour, the dog people call. They've caught her. The deal is still on.

Babe joins the family just as the skies open and the rain pours. They shove a nervous Irish Setter into the already crowded rental car and onto the lap of a beaming Little Brother. Mom navigates through the torrential downpour, trying to find the highway out of Funland. And at last, nerves shot and longing for home, they set out.

Three hours to the service station where the van waits in the heat with a new fuel pump. Unload, load up again, don't lose the dog, no one pass out, back to the airport to turn in the rental, and they turn towards home.

"This is certainly a vacation we'll all remember," says Mom.

Big Brother rubs his sore head, "Everyone but me!"

Thank goodness vacations only come once a year!


Anonymous said...

Hilarious account, although I know it wasn't funny at the time. At least you ended up with the dog. I hope your newest family member proves to be worth all the trauma.

Lea Ann McCombs said...

Hi Careann, Thanks for stopping by. Yes, Babe is quite a sweetie and she's worth the trip. The most expensive FREE dog we've ever owned!