Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Roadside Miracles

So I went to LA last week to audition for Wicked and to meet with a television producer. I also got to hang out with some friends and even did a couple of touristy things, so it was a fun and productive trip.

About twenty minutes into my trip back to Vegas my beloved car (which I've had for nine years and which has basically been problem free during that time) started to make a sound not unlike the clickity-clack of an old roller coaster. I knew this was not a good sound, and the fact the my battery light was on made me even more ill at ease. I was stuck in slow moving traffic at the time, and the car seemed to be worse when I was driving slowly, so I decided to pull off at the next exit. Not being terribly familiar with the LA area, I didn't really know where I was or where I might find a garage or auto parts store. As I pulled off the exit, I was a bit disheartened to see that I was in a residential area, and my car was not driving with much power, which indicated to me that either my battery was dying or that my alternator was malfunctioning. I turned on the first street and was delighted to run into an auto parts store, so I stopped. It was my hunch that my battery was dying since it was pretty old, so I just bought a new battery and replaced the old one. I am not very mechanical, so this took a bit of time, but the staff there was very nice and lent me some tools (which I ended up buying in case I needed them later).

When I started my car, my battery light was still on, so I asked the man at the auto parts store what else the problem could be. He said it could be my alternator, which he tested. It turned out my alternator was at a 12 when it was supposed to be at a 14.5, but he believed I had enough power to get to Vegas, but suggested I get my alternator replaced once I got there.

I drove out. My car was still not driving well, and it was still making the bad noise when I drove slowly, and my battery light was still on, so I was a bit worried. However, as I picked up speed, the battery light went off and the car seemed to be doing okay, although it still made the noise if I went above 70 mph, so I tried not to do that or shift into another gear while going up hills.

It was my hope to at least make it to Baker, California, where I had to refuel anyway, and which is about 90 miles from Las Vegas. However, about four miles past a small town called Barstow, California (about 98 miles from LA) all the indicators on my dash board went dead, indicating that my battery was no longer running. At first, I didn't realize all systems were dead because I was still coasting at a very high speed. Once I realized my car was dead, I pulled over as far to the side of the road on Interstate 15 as possible.

When I purchased my cell phone, I also purchased the roadside assistance plan in case of just such an emergency. I called the number, and the lady who answered was so kind and helped figure out exactly where I was and gave me the option of a cheaper tow truck that wouldn't get to me for an hour or so or a more expensive tow truck that could reach me within a half hour and also take my car to a garage and me to a hotel. I'm a cheapskate by nature, but I opted for the more expensive option.

I was able to talk to Jonah and my mom while waiting. Jonah got permission to leave work and come meet me in Barstow, where I was being towed. I told Jonah he didn't have to do that, but he insisted. He's a bit of a worry-wart, but I was touched he wanted to come.

True enough, the tow truck came just when it was supposed to. The tow driver was very nice and took my car into the garage and told me how to tell Jonah the easiest way to find me. He also took me to a pretty inexpensive, but nice enough, motel.

I grabbed a bite to eat and watched some Netflix using the free wireless the motel provided. I felt like I was in a movie: a semi-cosmopolitan guy gets stranded in a small town filled with eccentrics and backwards people. Everyone in the town that I met was very nice, but most were also a bit odd, too.

Jonah finally made it a few hours later, and we both fell asleep. It was my birthday the next day (not exactly either of our plans for my birthday, but oh, well), and we went to Denny's while my car was being repaired. It turned out the tension belt was the problem. I guess this is what turns the alternator's rotor and causes it to charge the battery. By my estimation, I drove nearly 98 miles with a loose, but functioning, tension belt, which means I didn't lose any more power in the alternator or the battery.

The damage was nearly $400 (not including the money I had paid for the battery), including towing, replacement of the tension belt, and the replacement of another belt, which was also damaged. Jonah and I were able to get out of town in time for Jonah to get to work that night. He followed me all the way to make sure nothing further happened. The car drove fine, but we did have to stop once to put oil in the car (a minor problem my car has been having that I was already aware of).

Although I ended up spending more on my trip than I had previously intended, I felt very blessed and watched over by the Lord. Finding an auto parts store in a foreign part of town just when I needed it; being able to drive so far with a damaged belt; having a fully charged phone and a roadside assistance plan; getting a reduced fare on the tow because of that plan; breaking down so close to a town with a garage and not breaking down in the middle of nowhere (which is very likely on that trip); having a garage with the necessary parts and them being able to fix it in a short amount of time; having an inexpensive motel so close to said garage as well to places to eat; having Jonah following me to make sure I got home safely; and getting home safely without any complications; having enough money to cover the costs; and being able to have a positive attitude throughout - these were all miracles, and I am grateful and certain that my Father in Heaven was watching out for me.

I still think I will take my car in to have it checked further as I am not sure that all is well with it, and if I can afford it, I may even trade in my car for another one while it is still running relatively well. We'll have to see. But I just wanted to publicly thank my Father in Heaven for keeping a watchful eye out for me. I really appreciated it.


D-Train said...

You are SO lucky to have broken down close to Barstow. I once broke down coming to LA from Vegas and was about 10 mies past Baker when I broke down. It's funny, the same thing happened. All of the indicator lights went on, and I did not realize the engine was off because I was still moving so fast. There were no hotel rooms when I got to Baker, so I slept in my car in like 95+ degree heat.

The next day when the mechanic finally crawled out of bed in his trailer behind his shop, it took him about 5 minutes to realize that somebody had tampered with my fuel line, and that it had become disconnected. He said there is no way it could have come off on its own, and that somebody must have messed with it. He screwed it back on, I gave him $20 and was on my way.

To this day, that is the only trouble my 1997 For Ranger has given me. The whole thing was like a blur when it was over, and I know exactly what you mean when it seems like you are in a movie.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Thanks for sharing this, Cody. It's little things like these where it seems that someone is looking out for us that we often take for granted or dismiss as mere coincidence. I think it's important to acknowledge them when they do happen because we never know how many more such situations we'll find ourselves in where we may just need another "roadside miracle." :)

Gay LDS Actor said...

D-Train, you're right, there are far more desolate places to break down on that route than Barstow. And I've been in Baker in the summer when it's unbearable. I can't imagine sleeping in your car in such heat.

I'm hopeful my wonderful car won't give me any further problems. It's been a great car.

FD, I agree; it is the little things like this that remind me that God is looking out for me. I really try hard to look at negative things as positives when I can.

I remember one time I was rushing to get home because there was a storm coming, and I got off the freeway to get gas, and as I was leaving I accidentally got on the freeway entrance heading the wrong way. I was especially annoyed since I had made this trip many times before and had never made such a stupid error. This detour added an extra ten minutes to my trip, and although initially angered about it, I thought, "What if this was supposed to happen?" and that calmed me down. Later in the trip, I deduced that I had probably just missed a blizzard that was traveling west of my northbound route and while I will never know, I wonder if I would have been caught smack in the middle of it if I hadn't had to make that detour. Who knows? It's a stupid little thing, but it did remind me that God sees our path from all angles, from beginning to end, while we ourselves have such limited tunnel vision. I'd like to think he was looking out for me in that instance, too.

The fact is, I think God is always looking out for us. We're just often too blind to see it.