When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Our Car on the Tow Truck

At least a dozen Bob’s Red Mill products grace the shelves of our pantry.  Steel cut oats, buckwheat flour, gluten-free pancake mix, and garbanzo bean flour to name a few. The company’s founder, with his glasses, silver hair and beard also reminds the kids of their dear Grandpa (affectionately known as BaBa). That resemblance plus our appreciation of his fine products has made Bob a welcome face in our home. When I found out that the Bob’s Red Mill factory is located just outside of Portland and they give tours daily (M-F) at 10am, it sounded ideal. Besides once touring the Tillamook Cheese Factory, the closest my kids have come to understanding what happens in a factory is reading Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day. Touring Bob’s factory seemed like a great opportunity to help the kids understand where their food comes from and what it takes to turn stalks of wheat into a bag of flour.

Our plan was to first stop at the Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store and Visitors Center for breakfast then head over to the factory. The plan came to a screeching halt (quite literally) when my slightly old but otherwise well-cared-for car died right in the middle of the Milwaukie Expressway. Thankfully we were already in the left turn lane at a light as cars were speeding past at 55mph but my car simply stopped and wouldn’t start up again. Kind locals didn’t even honk at us but I was still unnerved with my Mom and her dog in the front with me and both kids in the back and not sure what to do. Glancing to the side of the highway and down a hill, I saw three guys outside of an office building — they were my best hope at that point. After hollering to ask for help they quickly drove up behind me with hazard lights on and proceeded to push my car out of the busy intersection. By this time my girl could sense my nervousness and was starting to cry. Strangely, having three guys run while pushing our car snapped her right out of it and her tears quickly turned to laughter. Gotta love her quirky sense of humor, especially at a time like this.

If not for the kindness of strangers, this story could have turned from bad to worse but once our three heroes got our car into a safe place we were able to walk to breakfast at Bob’s Store to figure out our next move. (Sorry no photos of the Bob’s restaurant, I was a tad bit distracted. It was just OK, by the way, not really worth a trek to Milwaukie unless you plan to stock up on Bob’s products and/or take a factory tour, something we didn’t get to do but still hope to someday.) While we were munching on stacks of pancakes, I got a call from a car repair place. Not only did those nice guys help us move the car to safety, they researched mechanics in the area and had one call me directly. Did I mention that they were my heroes?

After talking to the mechanic, we called a towing company and were told to look for a big rig with flames on it. Could we have custom-ordered anything more appealing for a 6-year-old-boy? I think not. To make a long story short, we piled ourselves and the cooperative little Happy Dog into the noisy (“awesome”) tow truck, got our car loaded (also “awesome” according to the kids) and went to the repair shop only to find out that my timing belt had broken. This is not a quick fix or an affordable fix. Oh, and did I mention that this was the week that my husband was on a business trip on the other side of the globe and therefore not reachable? So many things were not going our way on this day yet we were safe and everything was getting figured out so we were grateful for that.

Auto Shop

Finally, once the car repairs were all lined up, we rented a car and made the 3+ hour drive home. Along the way, the kids couldn’t stop talking about the tow truck, the repair shop, and those nice guys who pushed us off the highway with their bare hands (Portland’s incredible OMSI plus other museums and staying in a really nice Hotel room were now ancient history compared to the excitement of our day).

Now that the car is fixed, back in our garage (thank you, kind husband for driving back to retrieve it), and paid for (also thank you for going to work every day, kind husband) it’s easy to see all the teachable moments along the way:  Keeping calm in a stressful situation, understanding the mechanics of a car and all the possibilities of engine failure, looking on the bright side, and gratitude for everyone’s safety (and awesome flame-decorated tow trucks). It’s days like this one that are remembered forever.

Do you have a travel fiasco story that you’d like to share?

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