Posts Tagged ‘college trip’

September 8-19, 2008

It was supposed to be a leisurely trip moving our youngest daughter and a carload of her belongings 800 miles away to her university dorm, stopping to visit her grandparents along the way,  and leaving Phoebe to stay with my parents as we continued on. We were advised to make it a memorable trip, but little did we know…

100-year flooding in Lubbock, a hurricane in Houston, oh, and might as well take down that tree in Garland while you’re at it.

— Twitter

Our car’s trunk was carefully loaded and packed to the brim. Ali took her place in her half of the back seat surrounded by even more of her belongings piled window high in the other half. Not willing to let Phoebe ride in my lap the entire way to my parents’ house, Steve rolled down the back window and I slid her in to perch on top of Space Bags (what a godsend!) filled with bedding and clothes. We weren’t sure she’d want to stay there, but once she settled in, she seemed to enjoy the view.

On the way to Iowa we received a call from Jenna lamenting that Lubbock was having a 100-year flood. By the evening of Thursday, Sept. 11, her Saturn Ion3 stalled out in high water that other cars were still managing to drive through. She called police who arrived quickly, but left to attend to others when she said she had called OnStar; however, the tow truck they arranged was unable to reach her that night due to closed streets. Thankfully, she and Jens were able to walk home and their apartment had no flood damage. Due to ridiculous lack of communication and miscommunication on OnStar’s part that resulted in several wasted trips on foot back to the stalled car, her car was finally towed to a Saturn dealer just before closing time on Saturday. On the following Monday, we were told her engine block was cracked and she’d need a new engine. We then had to deal with antics from State Farm for several more days.

Meanwhile, Steve was busy planing a sticking bathroom door and setting my dad up with a laptop computer we’d brought with us to eventually replace his outdated system. I was feeling bad and sucking cough drops, hoping I wouldn’t pass the cold I’d gotten from Ali to my parents, and Steve was coming down with it. Hurricane Ike was aiming at our kids in Houston and even our area near Dallas was under tropical storm warnings and extremely wet and windy because of it. Joel and Blake were busy deciding whether or not to evacuate. Our home was vacant and we suggested they use it. In our absence, we’d left our cats in the charge of a sweet neighbor girl who came in frequently to care for the cats, take in mail, and water plants. Before Joel got there, her dad called to let us know that a tree leaning over our main yard from our creek property had fallen, and he offered to take care of it for us. Fortunately, no one was near it at the time and there was only minor damage to the retaining wall and sprinkler system. It wasn’t close enough to the house to be a threat, but somehow, our mailbox was spared.

After Joel and his family evacuated, Hurricane Ike pummeled Galveston, Houston and much of the Texas coast. We were glad they were safe in our home and not in the midst of it, although they did have to deal with the inconvenience of getting the house ready to show just after they got settled in with their stuff, the stairway was adequately Zoe-proofed, Blake began studying, and Nana’s stash of toys had been found. Steve continued to deal with our insurance company about Jenna’s car as we drove to Minnesota, and that’s when we learned that her claim had been grouped with those of the hurricane, even though Lubbock’s flood preceded it by several days and was totally unrelated. Regardless,  they seemed to think Lubbock was a coastal city instead of about as far away in Texas as one could get, and no insurance adjuster would look at it until yesterday. Finally, we’ve learned the repair will consist of a rebuilt engine rather than a new one and the warranty we had wasn’t quite what we thought.  After some hassle, the warranty situation still turned out to be pretty good, however. Although her friend Sarah has been a big help to her with transportation, as of tomorrow, Jenna will have been without her own car for two weeks. Perhaps it will be ready by the end of the week.

With the damage and power outages in Houston, Blake’s classes were canceled for several days, giving them all an unwanted vacation. While staying in our home, they received a call that Chief and Sarge, the two dogs they had reluctantly given  up to new owners just a few weeks prior had been found. A friend of theirs was able to pick them up and keep them until Joel’s family arrived back in Houston. They enjoyed our air conditioning while they had it and have still been coping with the lack of it and intermittent electrical power since their return.

In Minnesota, we saw Dan, Sally, Brandy and Jake, as well as Steve’s mom. Matthew even arranged an overnight visit to see Ali on his way (out of the way, really) to take his car back to Dallas from Chicago. We had offered to drive it home for him, but our timing was just a few days off of when he needed. and so we ended up crossing paths. On the 15th, we repacked the car and somehow Steve even managed to find space for a box fan Matthew had brought for Ali (unbeknown to us until we got to Minnesota — he would have air conditioning this year and wouldn’t need it. It was a nice gesture, but we didn’t expect to be able to make room for it!). Loaded down again, we headed through Wisconsin on our way to Illinois, — but just outside of Eau Claire, our alternator warning light came on. As there was no Mercedes dealer in the area, we were referred to a locally owned repair shop in Chippewa Falls. The owner went out of his way for us and tried his best to get us on our way quickly. He offered to take us to a restaurant when he thought the alternator could be rebuilt within a couple of hours. When he found out that one of the necessary parts couldn’t be had until the following morning, he offered to take us to a motel. We had to be in Chicago by a specific move-in time the next day, so we started searching for rental cars big enough to handle our load. None would deliver a car to his shop so he lent us a car to drive over to their small airport and pick one up. We picked up a Toyota Rav4, drove it back to his repair shop, transferred the load, and were on our way again. We had planned to take Blake’s dad up on his offer to stay at his apartment with him for a couple of nights, but our delay meant we were very late arriving. We called ahead to let him know, offered to get a motel instead, and he graciously said it wasn’t a problem. He stayed up to let us in and give us a “parking pass” for our dashboard.

On the 16th we did some shopping and moved Ali in. We took advantage of the Rav4 to try to buy a 3.0 cu. ft. mini fridge, but all the stores near the campus seemed to be sold out. They were also sold out of hangers and several other miscellaneous, but necessary items we needed to buy. Parking on campus was difficult and we did a lot of walking. The campus and weather were beautiful, but my feet were blistered and eventually my hip complained too. While Ali had meetings, we unpacked her room. She brought less than most, but even in a single room, space was pretty tight. We filled nearly every nook and cranny then left Ali for the night, drove along the lake and into downtown Chicago before heading back to Blake’s dad’s late again. We let ourselves in, slept, said our thanks and goodbyes before he left for work in the morning, and then headed to some stores further out for the rest of Ali’s supplies.  We realized that we’d forgotten to put our “parking pass” back on the dash the night before and were grateful the car hadn’t been towed during the night. That’s all we needed after everything else.

There was no 3.0 cu.ft. mini fridge anywhere to be found, but we did find one at a Home Depot near David’s apartment with a capacity of 3.5 cu. ft. — and it was even on sale. Ali’s list clearly said the size restriction was 3.0, but we decided to remove it from the labeled box before taking it in and give it a shot. Would anyone inspect it that closely anyway?

We unloaded the fridge and last few items, hugged and said a teary farewell reminiscent of a similar goodbye to Jenna a few weeks ago, then drove back toward Chippewa Falls to retrieve our car.  Still transporting a refrigerator box we needed to rid ourselves of, we managed to deposit it in a recycling station at a rest stop along the way. We started looking for a motel around 10pm, but our first couple of stops proved fruitless. Wondering why all the motels in the middle of Wisconsin were full on a late September Wednesday night, we continued on to the next town. We found a nice room with a noisy refrigerator, a noisy air conditioner, free wifi that didn’t work, and an electronic beeping noise that woke us at 3:45am. BUT it had TV,  a comfy bed, a shower, and a free breakfast we took advantage of before heading out once more, stopping to pick up our car, return the rental, and then on to my parents’.

In all our driving, we must have counted a dozen dead deer along the road and a few live ones (nothing like the herds we saw in Texas between Houston and Dallas a few weeks ago — probably 200 head or more!), but thankfully, we avoided any deer-related accidents, had no further car trouble, and arrived safely in time to say a quick hello to our dog, only to leave her again right away for dinner out with Mom and Dad. We stayed the night and headed home the next day. The remainder of the trip was uneventful (thank God). We arrived home to find two well-fed cats pretending to be attention-starved during our absence, although we know better. The house was left spotless and whaddya know  — when I went to cook dinner the next day, a twenty dollar bill jumped out of the kitchen cupboard!

Many thanks to all who helped make this a memorable trip. 🙂 We are so very grateful that in spite of  numerous inconveniences, nothing REALLY bad happened and everyone is safe!

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