Day 4: frostbite becomes a reality

Editor’s note: pictures are finally posted! Yay!

We avoided getting kicked out of the hotel in Wyoming, and left early on Sunday morning. We had noticed somewhere back in Missouri that the windshield wiper fluid in Kris’s car wasn’t working, but it hadn’t mattered because the roads had been totally dry. Sunday, however, the interstate was a bit damp, and when all the truckers were throwing wet dirt and road salt up onto the windshield, the need for wiper fluid became sort of critically important.

We were in Utah when we had to pull over and clean the windshield by hand, and we decided then that we had to do something because we were not going to be pulling over every five miles for the rest of the trip. The next city was Ogden, Utah, so we made it there and then stopped to try to find a service station. We found a gas station, and asked a man there where the nearest Jiffy Lube or something of that nature was located. He actually said to me, “In Utah? On a Sunday?” And then proceeded to laugh in my face. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry or punch him. (For the record, I did neither.)

We found one of those super Wal-Marts that has a service station, and tried there. They said it was out of their range of expertise, and they wouldn’t even touch it. They referred us to Pep Boys down the street. So we went there, and Kris stayed in the car with Lucky while I went to go ask if they could help us. The guy behind the counter said that he only had two mechanics working, and they were both going to be booked for the rest of the day, so they wouldn’t be able to look at Kris’s car until the next day.

I went back outside, and Kris and I each called our parents to get an idea of what we should do next. (One of my laws of crisis management: when in doubt, call Mom.) While we were each on our cell phones, a very cute mechanic named Brett came over to see what the problem was. Hooray for being cute white girls looking pathetic and distressed in a car with its hood up. (But seriously, if you ever have car trouble in Ogden, Utah, go to Pep Boys and ask for Brett. Or Jason, the manager. They both rocked.) He said that he had finished working on his last car of the day earlier than expected, so he had time to look at ours. Yay! Brett saves the day!

He had to bring the car into the garage and put it on a lift, which meant we had to take Lucky out of the car. We couldn’t take her into the nice heated waiting room since she barks at everyone, so… we waited outside. In the freezing cold. We found a piece of sidewalk in the sun, and we sat there. We both had to keep getting up because our butts were freezing on the concrete, but we survived. (And Lucky had a blast. She got to dive headfirst into clean snow, play with branches that were longer than her entire body and all kinds of fun stuff.)

It turns out? When Kris took her car in to be serviced before we left Memphis, she told the guys there (multiple times) that she was going to be driving way up north, and that she needed the washer fluid with de-icer in it. Well, they topped her off with de-icer fluid, but they didn’t drain out the old stuff first. So the first night in Missouri, when it dropped to about 8 degrees, the fluid in the line froze and cracked the pump. Great.

So, Jason the manager (he was pretty darn cute too, for the record – who knew I’d ever find Mormon boys attractive?) came outside and told us that the pump was broken but he had no way to get a replacement pump on a Sunday. My reaction was pretty much that ok, it sucks, but at least we have a diagnosis of exactly what the problem is, so we can get it fixed tomorrow in Idaho. He even told us that a new pump should cost about $20, so we’d know if we were getting screwed. I joked around with him that we were going to put the dog on the hood of the car with a roll of paper towels and some windex and make her clean the windshield while we drove.

Kris went inside to pay while I kept the dog entertained, and when she came back, she said, “Umm… all of your flirting and joking around must have paid off, because he just called AutoZone and found us a new pump. It’ll be installed in less than an hour.” Do you see why we loved these guys? So, another hour freezing our butts (literally) outside of Pep Boys, then the car was all fixed and ready to go. And it only cost about $100 for everything. Woo!

Also, I found out later that apparently all of the mechanics there get paid on commission, so money was probably the reason Brett came over to help us, and not because he thought we were cute. Although I’d like to think that we lured him over to us with our beauty, sort of like the Sirens did with the sailors.

The rest of the drive was uneventful. We stopped for the night at a Best Western in Mountain Home, Idaho. Kris was exhausted to the point of being delirious by the time we stopped. After we checked in, Kris remembered something she left in the car, and she flipped the security bolt on the door out, so the door wouldn’t close all the way and she wouldn’t have to use her key to get back in the room. I was in the room with Lucky, and she followed me around while I talked to her. “Ok, Lucky-loo, we’re going to get you some water for your bowl,” that kind of thing. I turned around to fill up a cup with water, and I swear the dog was right next to me. When I turned back around, she was gone and the door to the room was wide open.

I ran outside, and I saw that Kris was already running after the dog. I started to run after her, then I realized that Lucky was headed around the back of the motel, so instead I changed direction and ran the opposite way, figuring that we could cut her off behind the building. I didn’t bother to put shoes on, I just ran out in my socks. I was so panicked that I didn’t even feel the snow and ice on the ground until much later. It was terrifying because the motel was surrounded by 3 different truck stops, and there were all of these huge semi’s driving in and out of them. Kris said later that she was having visual images of the dog getting squashed by a truck, which is why she was screaming for the dog to STOP! And COME! Neither of which seem to be commands that the dog knows. (Yes, T, I know. The Dog Whisperer. We shall TiVo it, I swear.)

We caught up with her behind the hotel, but she almost wandered into the truck stop parking lot next door a few times. Every time the dog would start to come to us, she’d change her mind and run in the other direction instead. I finally got down on my knees (in the snow & ice, don’t forget!) and did the whole, “Come on, Lucky! Who’s a pretty girl? Come here, baby!” thing. It worked, she finally came to me. I picked her up and carried her back to the hotel room.

Incidentally, carrying a 35-pound dog over an icy parking lot while wearing socks is not as easy as you might think. That was when the adrenaline finally went away and I started to realize just how truly damn cold it was. And Kris was pissed that the dog came to me instead of to her. (My theory is that she came to me because Kris sounded angry and I didn’t. Again, being the fun aunt instead of the mommy has its payoff.)

We slept like rocks that night, and we were so happy that it was our last night in a hotel. Tomorrow, we’d be home!