Monday, July 30, 2012

A Travel Adventure

My morning post was about an awesome adventure running through the city. My afternoon post is about a less awesome adventure standing on the side of the road for a few hours. Who's excited?!

One of the more fun components of my job is providing the opportunity for a group of student leaders to attend a national session of The LeaderShape Institute, a really amazing program that inspires them to come back and change their world. No big thing.

We were sending four students to the program this year, and I agreed to drive them down to Urbana-Champaign for the program. Sunday was a dedicated day of driving there and back. I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled up to the Union, and all of the students were already ready to go. I was thinking I'd have to call and wake someone up, but not with these fantastic leaders. Totally made my morning, especially after there was some major coffee spillage at the gas station.

We hit the road and were making great time, with very little traffic in Chicago. I was actually a little concerned that we were going to get to the site too early and have to kill some time. Do not ever think that on a road trip. Not even in your head...

We were in the middle of Chicago when the emergency light went on and said "Tires Low." I had Alyssa, my navigator, pull out the van's manual. It said we should stop relatively soon and check the air and make sure to fill it up so that the tires didn't overheat. It didn't sound flat, so we agreed to get through Chicago and stop at a gas station to check.

We were 20-30 minutes South of the city when we heard the pop and immediately had to pull over.

Womp womp.

While I called the roadside assistance number through the rental company, a few of the students attempted to get the spare out from underneath the van. This is the point of the trip where I became the nervous parent, totally concerned for their safety. As we stood on the side of the road, there was a ton of traffic, and apparently in Illinois, people do not feel the need to move over to the left lane when there is a car on the side of the road. I am pretty sure that I gave a very panicked yelp, "You guys, stay on this side of the car!" Maybe 2-3 times. They totally wanted to solve the problem themselves, and I crushed their dreams in the name of safety. That's me.

While waiting for what felt like hours, a state trooper did eventually stop by. He was very nice and gave us some flares. He also reiterated my "don't go on the driver's side of the car" command, which made me feel slightly less neurotic. Is it just me, or is the side of the highway a totally scary place to be? I think so. Especially when you are there for a few hours.  

Definitely got some color while standing on the side of the road.
Then, two guys pulled up, and asked if we had a flat. They just so happened to fix flats as their business, and had all of the tools in their truck right there. Not only could they put the spare on, if that is what we wanted, but they then offered to actually patch the tire and put that right back on. Despite my protests of "but it's a rental car so I can't pay you and don't know that I have the authority to okay you patching the tire," and "we actually have someone coming," they didn't really listen and just did the work. I was also in the midst of trying to get ahold of all the people I needed to inform of our adventures, and that was one of those professional moments where I just sort of let it happen, because I just wanted to get back on the road. I had two and a half more hours on this leg, and then four and a half back home after that and we certainly were not going to drive that on the donut. Was it the right thing to do? I don't really know. But that is what happened. So thanks to those kind men, for doing that work for free. I kind of expect they were hoping to get paid, but they still did the work anyway even after I made clear I couldn't pay them. It did make it awkward and even more hectic though when the roadside assistance man arrived as they were putting the tire back on. But it worked itself out. 

We did end up driving to the next exit and stopping at a tire shop to make sure we were okay to drive the next two hours. Once we got the okay, and had refueled at Culver's, we were back on the road. Just a few short hours later, the students were dropped off at the retreat center, and I was waving the awkward "I'm not really your mom, but it sorta feels like it right now" summer camp send off. They seemed excited and I am sure they are already in the midst of an amazing week. 

My coworker helped me make arrangements to trade out the car for another once I got to Champaign. She agreed that she didn't feel safe with me driving back by myself on a tire that was patched on the side of the road earlier that day. I am fairly certain the people at the Enterprise counter at the airport thought I was crazy when I told them that the flat tire that they'd heard about was already patched. But, she swapped cars with me anyway, and I headed back to Milwaukee in a Nissan Sentra. Fine by me - I'm a small-car kinda girl. 

The trip back through Chicago had a little more traffic, which gave me some time sitting on the highway to snap a picture or two of the cloudy skyline.

Chicago traffic on a Sunday night. Not excited.
Not long after that, I was back home. At that point, pretty much the best feeling ever. 

Today was a little hectic at Enterprise, as we had to try to track down where exactly I had dropped off their van. But the staff were understanding about the whole thing. 

I am very glad someone else is picking them up on Friday, although a little sad that I won't be in the car to hear all about their awesome experiences. 

Let's postpone my next carpool route until next year though. 


  1. You had a day! Those guys are really nice to help you guys out...


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