I like to minimize risk. I don’t do extreme sports and I don’t usually like to take chances. So, when we decided to visit my eldest son in Branson, MO, who is doing a Summer Project with Campus Crusade for Christ, I made sure the ABS system and Traction Control were fixed, the oil was changed and the tires balanced and rotated on the Griswold mobile! I also double checked my car emergency kit and bought some better jumper cables to leave in the vehicle.
The trip up to Branson was mostly uneventful. We were packed: the wife, two teenagers, 1 of their friends and my parents. The kids slept, listened to music, played on their phones, tooted and we enjoyed the scenery, especially the mountains. I don’t usually have my Google location service turned on, but I turned it on in Little Rock, Arkansas. And wouldn’t you know it, the Google Map APP took us directly to the hotel without fail. We checked in, drove to the spot in front of our room, I put the van in reverse to straighten out and that’s when I felt the pop! I put the van in drive and it wouldn’t go! After a few moments of panic and messing with the shifter, the kids and my dad pushed me the 5 feet into the parking space.
We arrived around 2:45 p.m. and had tickets for the Southern Belle Showboat at 4 p.m. I asked the front desk for a few numbers to some cab companies and had two cabs pick us up in time to make our reservation. While we waited, I texted my mechanic and called a friend from church who works in parts at a Chevrolet dealer here in town. While I was doing all this, I found out that the closest Chevy/Saturn dealer was in the next town.
I explained to my friend and my mechanic friend (through text), that the van was still in gear and that the shifter was free flowing. After I turned the van off, I couldn’t turn it back on because of the failsafe that the van has. My Chevy dealer friend informed me that a small dealership would probably not have the part I needed, but he said that he could overnight it to them if I needed it. This was Sunday, that meant that the cable wouldn’t get to the dealership till Tuesday and then it would have to be installed. We were planning on leaving Tuesday morning. As it all sunk in, the stress: physical, mental and financial, were all starting to pile up!
We attended the Southern Belle Show and called cabs to get back to the hotel. I immediately started looking up car rental places online since we were going to need something to get around in. And, I also started looking up possible reasons why my Saturn Relay would do this. At around that time, my mechanic friend called and told me after thinking about it for a bit, it was probably the shift cable. The cable snaps on top of the lever that switches the gear in the transmission. It is held by a grommet that can eventually deteriorate. If I could get the cable to sit on top of the lever and then zip tie it in place, once I get the van in gear, it would stay there. He told me that I should look under the van, on the driver side, by the brake booster, I couldn’t miss it. As he was telling me this, I rolled my eyes. Even with the fix, did I want to drive all the way to Houston like this?
After a few minutes of thinking about it, I decided to try and get my fat butt under the van enough to see the piece he was talking about. My car kit has a cheap fleece blanket I bought during Christmas clearance for $1.99. I unrolled it and laid it down under the van. I grabbed my Waka Waka Solar Lamp for some light and started “playing mechanic.” It didn’t take long to locate the piece. I moved the lever to the park position, placed the cable on the lever and wouldn’t you know it, the van started and I was able to put it in to gear and reverse. However, when I moved it to drive, the cable fell off. I was going to need to zip tie the cable in place.
The hotel provided some zip ties and my son was able to get under the van enough to get the zip ties tight. Once again, I got in and started the van and I was able to reverse and drive! I felt a big sigh of relief, however, the stress was still there. Did I want to risk traveling back from Branson, going through the Ozark Mountains with this fix? I’m talking about 600 miles, 10 straight hours! I was really worried about the road from Harrison to Conway. It was very windy, had some steep hills and not a lot of room for roadside repairs. If the cable was going to pop-off gear going up a mountain, it would most likely be during this leg of the trip.
Well, we risked it and made it back in one piece. We stopped once for gas. I shifted into neutral and turned off the car. It started back up with no problem. We stopped to eat, but I never took my foot off the brake and we ate in the van on the road! I knew we were going to be good when we hit a BIG bump crossing over a bridge and the zip ties held. Although it was nice to visit with my eldest son and to see Branson, the trip was very stressful for me. But I was grateful for knowing others who could help me when the chips were down.
We always hear that SHTF doesn’t have to be the End of the World. A SHTF scenario can be a scenario that only affects YOU or YOUR FAMILY. Now, to be honest, this wasn’t a true SHTF scenario. The cost was only extra money spent. But, if you are in a situation when you don’t have the extra money to spend on what is needed, then things can become very depressing and more serious.
It’s always good to have people you can go to for help. I was grateful that I could call a few people with knowledge about cars and car repair, especially people who knew I was in a bind and who were thinking about my situation while they were back at home. In a SHTF scenario, you should have people you can count on. No one knows everything! It is important to build networks of people that you can trust. But remember, to have friends, you have to be a friend and help others too.
When you have to risk, try to minimize the risk. My mechanic friend told me that the worst case scenario if the zip ties came off was that I would have to just put some new ties on. Of course, he wasn’t thinking about the terrain in the mountains. So, we tried to minimize the time and effort that it would take by purchasing a good jack and stands. If we needed to get under the van again, it would be a lot faster than struggling with stretching and contorting under the van.
Having tools is always helpful. I was glad to have a cheap blanket to use. I didn’t take work clothes and I really didn’t want to mess up my “vacation” clothes. In reality, this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but still. The Waka Waka Solar Light was very helpful too. It shines a lot of light and I could set it down and aim it where I needed light.
Just be prepared for CRAP to happen. We can live in fear and worry all our lives. There is always “something” that could ruin our day, month or year! When we live in fear, we live in stress and that isn’t good. It’s better to try and make the best of it. This is easier said than done, but I have learned that it becomes easier if you put things in perspective. Just knowing that, “it’s just money,” or “it’s just a missed appointment,” or “it’s just time,” and that everyone is safe and healthy is key to your overall outlook.
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