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Home Sweet Home
digimind
thwack
We finally got back home late last night, a day and a half later than we originally planned. We both took today off work to recover.

Back in Idaho, this is a view from the back deck of the house where my family stayed in Sun Valley:



On our last full day there, I found out from Terry (the mechanic in Rawlins, WY) that my car needs a new transmission. I gave him our credit card info and told him to order the part from GM if they can get it there the next day, but otherwise to call me back.

Then Jamie and I went along with some of my family to ride the chair lift to the top of nearby Bald Mountain. This is a view from the parking lot at the bottom:

From 2009 Idaho Trip


When we found out the lift ticket was $15/person, we decided to forgo spending so much on pleasure in light of our huge car repair expenses, and just wait at the bottom for everyone else to get back. Well my dad offered to pay for our tickets, and I'm glad he did, because it turned out to be far more valuable than I expected, and we would have been waiting at the bottom for 2 hours! Here are some views from the ride up, which took 25 minutes and included a layover half way up the mountain:



And some views from the top:



And the ride back down:



While at the top, I tried to call Terry to find out what's going on with ordering my transmission (there was a cell tower right there). He didn't answer, but I left a message. We were worried all day, not knowing what we'll need to plan for. For example, if we're going to need a rental car to get home, we'll need to get one from a national chain in Rock Springs, an hour before we get to Rawlins, because we needed to return our current rental to Rawlins but there is no national chain there.

Well when we got back to the house and still hadn't heard back from Terry, I tried calling him again, and he actually answered and said the part would be there the next day by 10am, and although installing a transmission is a 6-8 hour job and he has a 45-min appointment that afternoon, he said he would try to get it done by 5pm and work late if he had to so we don't have to stay the weekend and wait for it to be finished Monday (he doesn't work weekends). Whew! That means we can just drive the rental back to Rawlins the next day and our car will be ready the morning after (since we wouldn't get into town until after 5pm). Our original plan was to drive past Rawlins that day and spend the night in Ogalalla, NE, so we'd have some driving to catch up on, but we thought we could work it out with taking turns driving/sleeping or something.

For dinner, dad cooked up hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, and afterwords we had a big 4-generational family photo with my mom's parents all the way down to my nieces and nephews. Later we played the family card game (Hollywood Rummy), which I won (because I kept score, although I didn't ask to). Then a bunch of us stayed up late to view an Iridium flare at 11:26pm local time. It was suppose to be one magnitude brighter than the one the night before, but it actually turned out to be dimmer, perhaps because it was lower in the sky and had more atmosphere and haze in the way. Well anyway, it was still fun to view it with everyone and point at the night sky with my green laser pointer. :)

The next day we got all packed up, had breakfast at the house, said bye to everyone and hit the road. While we were stopped somewhere along the way, my phone suddenly said it had a voicemail message... apparently a call while I had no reception. It was Terry, telling us the part didn't come in. [expletive deleted] I called him back to ask what's going on and if he knows whether it will be there the next day or what. It sounded like he did his share of fighting my fight for me already, raising hell with the shipping people, who assured him it would be there the next day by 10am. Yeah, they said that the day before, so how is this any different, but what more can we do?

We passed back through the section of I-84 where the helicopter landed on Monday. Here's video from that:



We got back to Rawlins and went to check back in to the Mictrotel we stayed at Sunday night. Turns out I made the reservation online for the wrong week. Apparently Expedia doesn't highlight the current day by default, it highlights some random day in the future. WTF? I just assumed the current day was highlighted, knew I needed a room for the upcoming Thursday night, so I clicked forward and reserved a room for 8/27. Well I needed 8/20. Fortunately I got that resolved at check-in, and they were able to give us a room that night instead, but they didn't have any 1-queen rooms left, only 2-queen. We were happy to have a room at all, obviously, but we were kind of looking forward to the cozy little 1-queen room that we loved the first time, as a way to cheer us up from all the car troubles.

Next day, we slept in as late as check-out time would allow, and called Terry after 10am to confirm the part had come in. Well it hadn't. Tell hell with expletives, at this point we just cried in each other's arms on the bed, not knowing what to do. If we had to stay the weekend, that would mean 3 more nights in a hotel, missing at least 3 more days of work, and our cats would probably die, because we just left them enough food and water for 7 days, and nobody has a key to our house to rescue them. On top of that, we need a way home, so we started looking through the phone book for car dealerships. (They're all on pretty much the same main road through town.)

After we got checked out and got lunch at a Taco Bell / KFC, we got a call from Terry around noon: the transmission finally came in. Great news, but now our plan to shop for a new car is out the door. Knowing it was a 6-8 hour job to install the transmission, and it came in at noon instead of 10am, we were even more stressed that now we'd need to stay in town for the weekend. To save our cats, we thought of the idea to overnight a key to Jamie's sister, so we got our key copied at a hardware store and then headed to the post office. After filling out one wrong envelope and needing to pay for it, the employee informed us that "overnight" wouldn't get there 'til Monday for $20, with an option of Sunday for $30. We ended up just not sending it, and opting to wait for more news about the car, since if it miraculously got fixed that day, we could be home by Sunday night ourselves anyway.

We drove our rental to a manual car wash so I could pressure-wash the bugs off the bumper and windshield before turning it back in. Fortunately the cracked windshield didn't break under the pressure. Then we drove to a cheap hotel in walking distance from Terry's shop and parked in an empty lot nextdoor with the car angled to cast the most shadow on us while we wait for news about the car. I called my boss around 3pm (5pm his time) to let him know I might not make it back to work on Monday. He was understanding and offered to help in any way he can. He also told me to look for jackalopes while we're stuck there. Jamie wasn't able to get a hold of anyone where she works.

After a while of baking in the car, it was approaching the time that Terry said he had an appointment, so I called to find out how my job was coming along. To my amazement, he said he actually has the new transmission in already, but still needs to look everything over, check fluids, etc. There's definitely a coolant leak somewhere, probably the water pump, but it seems to only leak when it's cold.

Well what a relief, we might actually be on the road soon! We decided to walk around in the drug store nextdoor to escape the sun. Then we took the rental car to a gas station to fill up the tank before returning it, and drove by Terry's shop around the time we expected him to be done with his other appointment. There was a tow truck unloading a pickup in the lot at the time, so we decided to park facing away from the sun again, but in a lot near with a view of Terry's shop. After about 15 mins, the tow truck pulled away, so we drove back and popped in to check with Terry. Everything was all set! He was just finishing up our paperwork. He had taken it out for a test drive and everything seemed good. He just advised me to keep an eye on the transmission fluid, since he didn't get a chance to check it for leaks, which he would normally do after driving 40 miles. He gave us the warranty papers for our new GM transmission and handed back my keys. I could've cried. I offered to buy him a case of beer, but he passed. We thanked him immensely and drove separate cars over to the car rental place to return the rental.

It was sooooo nice to have my car back. We drove back to the drug store we had walked around in earlier, and picked up some coolant, a funnel, and a car power adapter so I can plug in my cell phone charger. (My phone died once on the drive to Idaho, so we wanted to be safe.) Before long, we were back on the road, heading home in our own car. My back was very thankful.

We drove to North Platte, NE Friday night and found a Comfort Inn. Saturday we hit the road early and pushed through to Portage, IN (just past Chicago). Sunday we got up early again and drove all the way home. The cats apparently thought we just stepped out the door for a week.

Well now it's back to the grind. Got grocery shopping to do, and it's back to work tomorrow. I want to find a Rochester postcard to send to Terry to say thank you.

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Wow! That was certainly an adventure. I didn't even know you guys were gone! Glad you're back in one piece. :-)

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