Living in Oklahoma was an incredible experience. Working in radio, working with folks in the medical supply industry, consulting on numerous campaigns, working with the Oklahoma Rifle Association on legislation...the list goes on and on. Which is why moving back to my home state of Washington was a tough decision to make, but after long hours of discussing the move with my wife and my kids, it had become clear that now was the time.
My uncle Cliff has been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a terribly debilitating disease wherein a lung transplant is necessary to ensure a long, productive life. Being in Goldendale, Washington with him and his family is important at this stage of both our lives and will also give my children the opportunity to see where I grew up and to experience a little of what I did "back in the day." My oldest son, Matt, lives in Washington as well and being closer to him and my grandson is a joy.
Of course, the journey was an eventful one - a trip that will go down in history as one of the funniest and dramatic travels of my lifetime.
We worked on the Explorer for about two weeks prior to leaving, fighting with the "blower motor control" unit which was expensive and a classic pain in the rear. Fortunately, we got the thing going and yes, the AC was working just fine...until we loaded the vehicle with essentials and hit the road. Suddenly, the air was just air and driving in the Oklahoma heat was rather like cruising down the highway in a fully loaded sauna. But, undeterred, we were on a mission to get to Goldendale, Washington and there wasn't a whole lot that was going to stop us.
Shawnnessy and my daughter, Anna, had packed all of the necessary road trip snacks and were surprisingly upbeat (a couple pounds of beef jerky tend to make one smile), though saddened about leaving Mason, Madison and Samantha behind - knowing that eventually, they would be coming to visit and that Samantha would be moving out to Washington after the school year.
We drove through the evening, finally exhausted, we stopped in Hays, Kansas for the night. The next morning (Tuesday), we had some breakfast, feeling confident that we could make it through Colorado, perhaps even drive through the night and hit Goldendale in the morning Wednesday. The AC still not working, we headed out, showered and fresh, anticipating some amazing scenery. Then, later that night as we hit the middle of Utah, orange barrels (a familiar sight in Oklahoma) crowded the darkened highway. Suddenly, when the brakes were applied, a terrible sound came from the right front wheel - initially, I thought it was a flat tire...but it is never that easy. One of the bolts that holds the brake pads onto the rotor busted and the whole darned thing was smacking up against the wheel.
Stuck for the night along the side of the road, we were fortunate to be at an off-ramp and away from the highway. The following morning, we made calls to little towns nearby for the replacement bolt and the auto parts dealers weren't really sure if they had one. The Ford dealership had one, but of course, it would take a couple days to arrive as it was located in a warehouse somewhere in Siberia. A kind gentleman came by, asked if we needed some help, and we were still calling around to see if there was a part somewhere. A little while later, the gentleman returned - he happened to live just about a quarter mile away. We limped the vehicle to his house and he and I went off to the auto parts store, Anna and Shawnnessy stayed behind speaking to his wife and daughter.
Since we were in Utah, he told me all about the history of the area, shared that he was LDS. I learned about the town, the community, his faith and to be perfectly honest, it was immeasurably enjoyable. We got the bolt, headed back and repaired the vehicle. Before long, we were back on the road. We won't soon forget that incredible family in Utah who helped us out in a very tough patch.
More to follow...
*Transmission issues and the long hill up from Maryhill.