A year and a half ago we were on our way home from our second California to Florida road trip. We did things a little differently this time with a big detour up to Illinois to visit some of Fun Dad’s family. After a really fun couple of days it was time to make our way back home. We left St. Louis in the evening, and besides a short stop in Arkansas to visit friends we drove all the way through the night.
We rolled into Amarillo around 6:00 am and stopped at the local Walmart to get some spray paint. Our plan was to stop at Cadillac Ranch, make our mark, and head on to the next stop – hoping to land in Albuquerque and spend the rest of the day and night there. On our last cross-country trip we had wasted our time in Albuquerque trying to find a place to get the stray dog we found checked out. It wasn’t a lot of fun and I was excited to get another chance to spend some time there.
Fun Dad pulled up the directions to where Cadillac Ranch was. It was just down the road from where we were. We went down what looked like a farm road. There wasn’t much around. “Are we going the right way?” The GPS told us to turn right at the next road. It was a dirt road, and because of the recent rain and snow is was rather muddy. The van started sliding and we got nervous. All of the sudden we weren’t moving at all.
We were stuck in the mud. In the middle of nowhere, but thankfully we had phone service so we weren’t too far from civilization. We had renewed our AAA membership before our trip in case any emergencies happened, so we called them up and let them know where we were. The operator told us she’d call around and call back to let us know when we could expect some help.
When she called back she didn’t have any good news for us. Not one single towing company was willing to help us. They didn’t want to get themselves stuck in the mud too. We would have to wait until it dried up, and with the cloudy misty weather, who knew when that would be. I was livid. How could they just leave us stranded? We have three kids in the car! We’re hungry! Fun Dad told me that there has to be a tow company with a 4-wheel drive vehicle that could help us, but AAA didn’t have any. How were we going to pay for a private tow?
Fun Dad desperately tried to dig the tires out with his bare hands. We moved a few feet forward. He did it again. We inched farther down the road. It was useless. We were sliding everywhere and if we weren’t careful we were going to end up in the ditch instead.
I was trying not to panic. The kids were being relatively good. They didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. Fun Dad was covered in mud and his hands were bleeding from trying to dig us out. Some farm tractors drove by and told us they couldn’t help. Suddenly I got an idea. I grabbed my phone and googled the nearest off-roading supply store. A man answered the phone and I started, “This is kind of a weird question, but my family and I are visiting on our vacation and we got ourselves stuck in the mud. No tow trucks will help us and we don’t know what to do. Do you know anyone with a 4-wheel drive vehicle that might be able to get us out of here?” Without a pause the friendly man answered, “Yeah, Billy can help you guys out. Here’s his number.”
My idea was working! I called Billy and he answered right away. Once again I explained the situation. He told me he had to call his buddy and he’d get right back to me. A minute later he called back, asked for our location and said he was on the way. He dropped whatever he was doing to help us out and some men in a Jeep showed up about 15 minutes later.
They were super friendly and chuckled a bit at our situation, but soon we were hooked up to their Jeep and ready to go. Billy instructed me to try to steer in their tire tracks as they pulled us along.
After a short drive we were on paved road again. We were so relieved! I gathered all of our cash, $90, and handed it to him. “This is all we have, I hope it’s okay. We can’t thank you enough.” He smiled, handed me back my $50 bill and told me to have a nice day. If you live in Amarillo and want to support a local business and a nice guy, Billy told us he owns a company called H & H auto glass.
We were right by a gas station, so we stopped there to try and get some mud off the tires. Fun Dad spent a good while pulling mud out of the tires. An attendant came out and gave him a small shovel to use. He did what he could and we got directions to Cadillac Ranch because we were going to finish what we started. Since it was so muddy and gross, the kids and I stayed in the car while Fun Dad tagged one of the cars with our special vacation hashtag – #BishopRoadtrip1213
We went to the nearest truck stop with showers to get cleaned up. We sat at that truck stop for hours with three grumpy kids waiting for a shower. It had a small food court, so we grabbed some lunch. Finally, we got in right before they closed the showers down. We all showered, since we weren’t sure when our next one would be now that our plans had been messed up. Once we were done, we got into our clean clothes and headed back to the car. I started the car and nothing happened. It was dead.
Fun Dad, who was all clean and non-offensive looking, walked to the nearest pump where a woman with a California license plate was finishing pumping gas. He told her we were on our way home too and asked for a jump. She told him that she was too busy to help, and proceeded to drive to a parking spot and put sweaters on her dogs. He came back to tell me about it and a local woman overheard. She asked if we needed a jump and said she’d drive her car right over. Her husband came out of the gas station and walked over in a full leg cast to help us out.
We were finally on the road again, but the van wasn’t driving well. The alignment was off or something. Once again we pulled off the freeway. We looked up a tire shop and headed over to see if we could get the problem fixed. We explained the situation and they looked under the van. There was a ton of mud in the wheels still. They had to take the tires off and hose everything down. We sat for another hour or so, waiting for them to finish. Finally, at about 3:00 pm they were done and we got out of Amarillo as fast as we could. We had been through one of the worst vacation days of our lives, but at least we can look back and laugh at it now. (We laughed then too, though. That’s how we do things.)
Tragically, Fun Dad’s shoes never recovered from that day. RIP dear soles.