Bringing Liahona Home: Our First Trip Together

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Friday morning began way too early for me…around 5:30 we took off to pick up my dad and head to the airport. We were in the air by 7:20 and about 6 hours later we landed in St. Louis, MO. We rented a car and drove about ½ hour to Midwest Transit Equipment in Swansea, IL to see the bus that I had been waiting weeks to get. We arrived at MTE near closing. Becky was in charge of helping us with the paperwork and Paul and his son, Paul Jr. were helping us with the purchase of Liahona. I went to start her up and….nothing. Paul had Andy, the mechanic, replace the battery with 2 brand new ones. It involved quite a bit of work, actually, what with drilling and adjusting the lips that hold the batteries in place. We got her started and put down the dough for the big girl. We finished up around 5:30 pm and headed back to drop the rental car off at the airport. We dropped it off and traveled into the night towards Kidder, MO to meet up with one of my very best buddies, Dee, and her family. We drove for around 7 hours that night. I let my dad drive for part of that time, and he was giddy as a school boy…it doesn’t take much. Driving at night was nice because it was cooler and there weren’t nearly as many drivers on the road around midnight. I got to practice my right turns…still hate them. We arrived in Kidder and I dropped my dad off at the Best Western and headed over to Dee’s house…it was sometime between 1 and 2 am.

Saturday was a sunny day and Dee and some of her girls headed out to sell shaved ice to their community. Her hubby, Wes, headed out to take care of the generator for their bus. I got ready and went out to back down the drive….which was when I went off the road…and ended up in the mud. I called my dad and told him that I was stuck. I tried to put boards down and had Dee’s 14 year old daughter guide me further down the hill, thinking it might help to be level and have a running start…yeah, it was loads of fun! I finally got a hold of Dee’s hubby and asked him if he could pick up my dad and help me get out. Wes was searching for blocks of ice for Dee, who had ran out….there wasn’t any block ice for miles around. Wes tried to pull Liahona out with their suburban…and broke the tie down he was using. We headed into town to let Dee know there wasn’t any more ice and to buy a good tow cable. I spent about $75 for the tow cable and Dee started packing up for the day. Back at the house, I got behind the wheel, the boys had me back out of the holes I had sunk into, and we hooked up the tow cable…..and after a few minutes I was out. It was around 3 pm and we were still thinking we would have plenty of time to get a few miles in before bedtime.

We were all happy and talking about where to go for lunch when Wes noticed that the brake light was on along with an annoying beeping noise. He got under the bus and had my dad pump the brakes…he was soon covered in brake fluid. The left brake line had rusted through and needed to be replaced. I was quite deflated around now….how on earth would we possibly find a mechanic that could come out here and replace that and how much would they charge? That was when Dee’s amazing hubby, Wes, came to the rescue. Patiently he worked the broken piece of brake line free. Then he called and found a store that had new brake line. He and my dad went there after they dropped Dee, her daughter, and I off at Walmart to gather snacks and supplies for the road. We got done and headed back to the house. Wes attached the new brake line that he and my dad had bent to match the broken one, then they bled the brakes until they were nice and pressurized again. Dee made us a lovely salad (she is really good with food) and we were on the road again. We left around 5 pm and drove well into the night, through the gusty winds of Missouri and Kansas. We slept over in a dive in Russell, KS…that’s what happens when you drive to the point that you can no longer stay awake and you take the first place you see.

Sunday was beautiful and we were excited to get on the road before 5 pm for the first time. We filled up and headed out. We put on a lot of miles and the plan was to drive until we reached the Rocky Mountains, where we would call it a night and check into a hotel. During the long day of driving, I asked quite a few questions about how vehicles work and my dad spent about an hour explaining the whole process….WOW! Around 5 pm, we passed through Denver, CO and changed drivers. My dad and I had no idea that we were driving up into the mountains until we were already up in them. My dad hadn’t been there in around 40 years, and I had never been there, so we were caught a little off guard, but Liahona took it like a pro…..until we had been driving for about 1 ½ hours. That was when I noticed a burning smell and the smoke blowing out both sides. We pulled over and after a few moments of waiting for the radiator to cool down, we tried to figure out what was causing the smoke. We assumed it was the overflow off of the radiator, which wasn’t even that hot. We got back in and headed onward. The next exit was Silverthorne, CO. Both my dad and I agreed we should get off and get fuel, it was getting low rather quickly. As we turned into the fuel station, Liahona died. Not really, just figuratively. We tried to get her started up again, but she wouldn’t. So, we left her there and went to grab a bite to eat, hoping she would cool off and we would get her going soon. But she still wouldn’t turn over. We borrowed a jug from the service station attendant and starting putting fuel in, a gallon at a time. While we were attempting this, a man pulled up to my dad and asked him if he needed any change. I guess he thought that we didn’t have enough money to get a full tank (it does cost around $180 to fill it up). Seeing him holding some loose change in his hand, ready to give it to my dad, was touching and comical all at the same time. We could see that there was a fuel leak somewhere, but the little flashlight we borrowed from the service station wasn’t able to help us much. We still couldn’t get her to start. We called Wes and he called his brother in law who is a diesel mechanic to find out if we needed to bleed the fuel injectors because we did know that the tank had been close to empty right before it died. He called back and was trying to explain to me how to bleed the injectors. Between the cold, the dark, and the fact that we were still not sure WHAT exactly was wrong, we finally gave up on trying to figure it out and found a hotel room for the night.

At the Luxury Inn and Suites, I asked Peter (the desk clerk) where I could find a mechanic that would be able to deal with buses. He was so sweet. He actually looked up the info online and found a place that was only a few blocks away, Summit Mobile Service. They were available 24/7, so I called around 11 pm and spoke with James. I told him about our situation and asked him if he would mind coming over around 8 in the morning to check her out. He said to call him back in the morning, but to plan on it.

Monday was cold. It started off with a call to the service station to let the attendant/manager know that I was having someone come to try and help us get her moved. She told me that the night manager had never mentioned that we had spoken with him about parking there overnight and she was just about to have it towed. I guess we just happened to die right where the fuel trucks drop off fuel….yikes! I called Summit Mobile Service and James agreed to be there ASAP and gave me a number for a tow company. I called…they wanted $250 to tow her 1 ½ blocks to the shop. I headed down to the station to try and find someone to help me move her forward 15 feet out of the way, good thing I had that $75 tow cable! I asked Terry, as he was finishing up with fueling, and he instantly agreed. He and his buddy pulled the bus forward. What nice guys.

Soon after, James with Summit Mobile Services, showed up with his truck and tools. He had originally told me that he would have to charge me $75 for the trip, plus $50 for each hour. I was relieved that it might only take $125 to get her up and running again, but still very skeptical at this point. He opened her hood and I asked if he could see a leak in the fuel line. He laughed at my question….because the fuel main line was completely detached (thus the smell and the smoke right before she died). I asked him how much it was going to cost and he said he was going to do it for $75 total because (he is such a nice guy and) it shouldn’t take too long to fix her up. He reattached it and then began showing me how to bleed my fuel injectors…should I ever need to on my own. After we got her running again, he asked what my plans were with the bus. So, naturally, I shared.

When he heard we were headed down to Central America and that I wanted to learn everything I could about the bus and how to take care of her, he started sharing advice on what we would need to buy and have on hand, what we would want to change/replace before we left, and took the time to show me where everything was. Seriously, James is one of the nicest people I have ever come in contact with. In fact, I would refer him in a heart beat to anyone. Not only was he EXTREMELY knowledgeable, he was also punctual, affordable, pleasant to work with, and willing to help out by sharing what he knew for free. What more could you ever ask for in someone? No worries, mon…no worries.

As we were talking, my dad showed up, all smiles. It is nice to see the bus running when you have had a few crazy days of wondering what could go wrong next. He was especially happy to hear that it hadn’t been because we had ran out of fuel due to negligence on our part or that we would need to leave the bus and drive home in a rental. James told us that our engine sounded absolutely beautiful and that we had really lucked out being here at just the right time.

I think my dad finally got to see what I have been seeing for several weeks now, that there are so many good people in the world and that God is watching over us all of the time. What were the odds that we would have our brake line give up the ghost while parked in a great mechanic’s driveway, then have the gas line come undone as we were pulling into a service station….while driving through the Rockies…with the only diesel mechanic for miles around only a few blocks away? We were so blessed. Really, so very blessed.

Once we got the go ahead, we took off, with me driving through a snow storm in the Rockies and down out of Colorado and into Utah. We knew that there was always a possibility that more could go wrong. We even joked about what else could go wrong. But after having been through so much and seeing so many miracles in play, we no longer had any fears. We enjoyed one another’s company and fondly recalled all of the greatly appreciated help along the way. Just two adventurers learning (yet again) that life is what you make it and that, with God, all things are possible.

Gracias por leer, mi amigos. Pura Vida! Mrs. C
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