Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mission Story, #1

It all begins, I suppose, with the drive from Lakebay to the Bay Area.

We left the church parking lot Friday morning at 6:05 a.m., with excitement and anticipation. The plan was to reach Antioch by 8:00 p.m. that night, getting in a good night's sleep before spending Saturday doing touristy things.

After picking up the Fishers in Gig Harbor, we drove off onto the interstate, heading south through the morning traffic.

Somewhere around Kelso, the speedometer in the van stopped working. Not a huge deal, I think to myself. We have two vehicles, so the other can pace us. We can get it fixed when we reach the Bay Area.

Then the "Check Engine" light comes on. Probably related to the speedometer, I think, but worth checking out. So off at Kalama to pop the hood. Looking at the engine, I see nothing that would cause a speedometer to stop working. But. . .I see coolant dripping off the engine to he ground below. Just overflow, I wonder?

Back on the road, we decide to stop at the final rest stop before the Oregon border. Kids need to pee, drivers need more coffee. Now we notice a growing puddle of coolant below the van. We pop the hood, Duncan and I poke around. Finally he figures it out - a steady spray coming from the top corner of the radiator.

Probably nothing fatal, but not a condition in which I want to drive over the Siskiyous. I begin to get just a little worried.

But I know people in a lot of places. So I make a phone call to my uncle Ralph in Portland, who calls his mechanic, who agrees to see us right away. And just like that, we're back on the road, heading south to Tigard.

We meet my uncle at the mechanic's shop. One quick look and we get the bad news. "Your radiator's shot. You'll need a new one." I'm thinking this means we leave the van and pay for a rental. But no, he says. "Should take 2-3 hours." And they can check the speedometer while they're at it. And. . .since we're a church group, and his dad was a minister and his brother is a minister, he's knocking $150 off the cost.

We decide to wait it out at my aunt and uncle's house. Most head over there, while Ralph and I and three guys go order Papa John's pizza for lunch. After we've ordered the Papa John's guys asks "and can I ask what kind of group this is for?" I tell him a youth group on a mission trip. He says "Okay, since it's a church group I'll knock 30% off the total price."

So we had an early break, a nice pizza lunch, the kids took a walk on the trail behind my uncle's house, Karina had a good talk with my Aunt Diane. . .and finally, three hours later, the van was up and running with a new radiator and a fixed speedometer.

That was the last trouble we had with the vehicles on the entire trip.

The rest of the drive was long, but uneventful. The mountains through northern California were smoky with fires, so we couldn't see Mt. Shasta, but when the moon came up to the east it shone a bloody red through the haze (at that time, "Hotel California" was playing on the radio. seemed like it must signify something, but I didn't know what). And, unfortunately, due to losing 3 hours with the radiator, and another 30 minutes with the first speedometer check, and losing time to road construction, we didn't actually arrive at our destination in Antioch until sometime after 2:00 a.m. Saturday. That was a long, long, long drive, I tell you what.

But we made it. And God showed he was with us throughout.

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