Friday, January 6, 2012

Week 1: Who invited Murphey?

Well, now... I haven't blogged since we hit the road and I simply do not know where to begin. I suppose we'll just hit the pictures and explain as we go.

We left the northern Colorado area around 11:30, after last minute trips to the bank and figuring out how to make the dolly work with the minivan. Grandma and Papa followed us all the way through Denver to see how everything looked with the hitch, dolly, and minivan. It was driving great, so they said goodbye, and we headed out towards TEXAS!It was chilly, but the sunset was amazing, as we passed through a bunch of wind turbines on the way.
Alas, the excitement was not to last. Pretty soon our luck ran out (that full half a day of luck), and left us with only bad for luck.

We planned to stop off at a place in Dumas to sleep for the night, but there was a new overpass that was not on the google map Michael used to plan the route, and we missed the turn. So, we found what looked to be a wide dirt parking lot in which to turn around. Only it wasn't exactly a parking lot. It was a mud pit. It was a sneaky mud pit with a hidden ditch that was iced over mud so it looked like the dirt surrounding it, too, and just on the same level, so you never saw it coming until you were in it.

Oh yeah. That was one stuck Benny Bus. It was COLD mud, too. Nothing to do but pray, then call our road side service, who hooked us up with a tow truck. The tow truck got stuck at least 4 times pulling us out, but three hours later, we were out, kids were sleeping in their bunks, and we learned a big lesson about mud, and about this trip. Basically, no matter how knee deep we get in it, God will arrange to pull us out. That tow truck was only a few blocks from where we were stuck, pulling someone else out of a mess, and he was there within 30 minutes, determined, despite his own trouble with the mud, to get us out. We had some fears that he'd give up and we'd have to pull in a larger truck the next morning from Amarillo. Nope. Got us out. Our plucky little bus did just great, too. That was an, eh-hem, operator error. ;)

The next night was our first Wal Mart parking lot night in Big Spring, TX! The kids were thrilled! (Don't ask why. They just think it's really cool to sleep at Wal Mart.)

After that we headed towards Medina Lake, outside of San Antonio, to the RV Park that is part of our membership. The silly GPS turned the bus down a dirt road, (really GPS? Dirt road? Aren't you supposed to ask permission before doing such dumb things), and you simply cannot turn a 38 foot bus towing a minivan around on a dirt road. Michael decided we had to at least remove the minivan from the dolly, so I could follow the bus and make it easier to handle the road. That was definitely a God thing there, because when I started following it I realized something was terribly wrong with the wheel of the dolly. In fact, we arrived to find it looking like this:

I do believe our guardian angel has been working overtime, because that could have ended very badly on the highway. But wait! It gets better!

First we'll take a moment for fun, however. No point bumming everyone out.

The night we arrived was New Year's Eve and it turns out the park was having a party at the activity center!
Remember Benny Bear, our bus mascot? Here he is dressed up for New Years!

The party was fun, and we found out something interesting. Our quirky, geeky young man is a, *gasp*, "chick magnet". I suspected it after a few other run-ins with teenage girls who tended to befriend him at every turn, but when three of them started cheering relentlessly while he played a very lousy game of pickle ball, Michael came in to get me to ask me if they were serious or mocking, because he couldn't read girl behavior. I went to check it out and spotted it immediately. No mocking. They were trying to impress him. I just shook my head and wondered what in the world we were going to do with that child. They hadn't even seen him play fiddle!
Being the ornery mother I am, I had to tease him later, asking him why those girls all like him when he twitches, laughs at himself, and obsesses over planets? He informed me that he wasn't doing any of that in front of them. Really??? So, you save that for us, huh? :-p

Mary made about 3 or 4 best friends, too, danced with a chicken to the chicken dance, and the twins sat on the couches with their laptops to catch up on the internet, avoiding eye contact with anyone who could ask them to dance, while other teenage girls flocked around them, happy for more female companionship.

The next day showed us what a true walking petting zoo this place is. Ducks and deer are everywhere asking for food, and you can buy deer corn at the local store... so we did.

Ok, back to Murphey's Law and how it has applied at every turn.

There was no time to figure out how to repair a dolly we could not even tow before our Wednesday showcase down in Mission, so we decided to change our plans and drive down early that morning in the minivan, then drive back. Bad idea. I had forgotten that this was the week of "everything that can go wrong will go wrong."

About 60 miles from Mission the transmission on the van started seriously slipping. We crawled our way there and arrived just in time to slip on our outfits, stand up and smile pretty, sing some songs, then Michael went and fretted about how to get us the 280 miles back to the dog and bus (dog was tied to the bus with someone looking in on him), and I booked gigs for 2013 and one even for 2014, 'cause the kids may like to eat next winter, transmission or not.

We decided there simply wasn't a choice, so we piled back into the van and drove it all 280 miles on low gears. Angels were pushing us because it made it, and it didn't take nearly as long as we feared. In fact, once or twice it actually shifted into a high enough gear to turn off the hazard blinkers.

It was a late arrival, but we made it home to our dear bus, dog, and not so dear cat.

Thus ends our tale of our first week. We should be a mess right about now, but if you want to know the truth? We're having a *really great time*!!! I have no idea why. Something must be wrong with our brains. Today, after feeding deer, Mary exclaimed, "This is the best day ever!". Sean, after playing mini golf and pool said, "This is like *paradise*." Really? We got stuck in paradise, huh? They're all sold by now, troubles and all.

So, what's the plan for the van and broken dolly? Honestly, we don't know yet. The transmission fix will cost about double what the van is worth, but we simply cannot afford another vehicle, so it may have to be done. Not sure who can fix the dolly, either. The spindle will need to be cut off and a new one welded on. I don't know who can even do something like that, especially when it can't be towed.

We're completely at the mercy of Providence, and I admit, it's not been a bad place to be so far, so we'll just go along for the ride. Maybe we'll find a few more things to go wrong and be the inspiration for a National Lampoon movie or something? Hey, there's an idea...

Update: Since writing this, the dolly was deemed unredeemable, and sold. The minivan's estimated doubled today when they found it more serious than expected, and it will go to the scrap heap tomorrow. We are officially a bus only family.


  1. I read with total absorption!! Lessons learned (by me)? - Never trust GPS, God is good (knew that one anyway :) ), and a positive frame of mind can keep you going through a lot of difficulties.

    I look forward to hearing how you got the transmission and dolly sorted.

  2. You go, Costello's. You are an inspiration. Wish I was there.

  3. I enjoyed your article and also the similarities in our lives/experiences...We have had a transmission failure...twice and only God got us through it. Only difference was we had to fix our van cause it pulls our camper. we are currently in McAllen Texas...also play violins, viola, cello...though we don't have a cd. We do alot of travelling south of the border. If you are in the McAllen area when we are we'd love to get together and swap stories/ play instruments together. Blessings to you! The Anderson Family (also on FOTR)

  4. Hey, Coleen. If you get this response, consider emailing me directly - amberwavesband @ gmail .com. We'd love to try to arrange a meet-up when we head back down south soon.