Monday, November 14, 2011

Wow. Just Wow. Really long story and I hope most ofit never happens again. was Tim's trip, you ask?

Well....I had been really nervous and unsettled all week. I felt like Calphurnia, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, telling Tim I was really nervous and wished he wouldn't go. It came to a head as he packed and started putting stuff in the car. I found I was really wishing he would fly, even if I couldn't justify it, and as he filled the car, I got so overwhelmingly nervous I was nearly sick. I figured it was because his last tour was impossibly difficult--a freak snowstorm in the middle of October had down a bunch of limbs in our yard--one right on top of Daniel (he was fine, but I had PTSD for a couple of days from watching that)--and it knocked out our power. (We prayed and were saved within 5 minutes by a friend who took us to her house for the night--all while Tim was in Utah.) So I swallowed my fear and actually told Tim, "This is good you're going because everything will be fine, just like every other tour is, and I'll realize that and not be scared of you going anymore. This will stop my irrational fear from developing into a phobia."

I was wrong. Oh, so so SO wrong.

The plan: Drive to Nebraska, do a radio show. Drive to Ohio. Do a couple of coaching/private lessons, 2 days of workshops and 2 shows. After the last show on Saturday night, leave and drive as far as possible, sleep, and then drive all day Sunday to get back in time for shows in Colorado on Monday. That's 20 hours of driving each way, the first set spread over several days, the second trip crammed into one long day.

So, on Tuesday night, armed with borrowed gas money because the budget has been really tight lately, he left after Scouts and drove to Nebraska. Got there in the middle of the night and slept in the van. In the morning, he did a radio show.

Then Wednesday afternoon and evening he drove. And drove. And drove. He had to get to Ohio by Friday. Ohio is 20 hours from Colorado.

He was going to drive until late at night, sleep some, and then get to Ohio on Thursday with plenty of time to visit friends, rehearse, edit video.

He called me from St. Louis and we talked, wished we were together, normal trip stuff.

A little over an hour, he called me again. Driving down the freeway at regular freeway speeds, he had a deer step out into the road right in front of him. He swerved away, but the deer ran into his path and he hit it. Deer went flying. Car was crunched, but still driveable. So he drove to the nearest exit, car steaming and smoking, and found himself at a WalMart. Couple of cops saw the car was broken and stopped to help, but had to call a sheriff because he hit the deer on county, not city, property.

And all of a sudden, Tim was stuck in the middle of Illinios, in Vandalia, with no way to get on to his shows, no money for a new car, no options we could think of. It was a devastating and hopeless feeling.

So he waited. And waited. And finally the sheriff showed up and took a report, and he called the car insurance company--it was an old car, so I hadn't kept the good insurance on it, and they couldn't do anything. at. all.

At least Tim wasn't hurt, despite the fact that he his a deer at 70mph and the air bags never even deployed. And his cell phone worked! Often it doesn't when he travels. But he was stuck stuck stuck.

So Tim did the smartest thing he could think of at 4:30 am. He unrolled his sleeping bag in the back of the broken car and fell asleep.

So, next morning I was awakened by a certified letter. I signed for it and then got online to see what was going on with Tim. It was 11:30 am here. He was online with my mom, chatting.

Stuck in the middle of Illinois, he had to figure out what to do with himself and a car full of sound equipment. My mom lent Tim all the money she had, plus all she could borrow from her overdraft (and I feel so guilty about that because she's a missionary! And I hate having to borrow money, besides). I started posting on facebook--anyone know somebody in the middle of Illinois? Any ideas what to do?

There were no vans for sale in our price range in Vandalia, IL. And there were no car dealerships there. And Tim had to be in the middle of rural Ohio, 8 hours away, by midday the next day. He called around everywhere and finally discovered the only way to rent a car that he could return somewhere else was to rent it from an airport. The only airport he knew of was an hour and a half back up the road in St. Louis. But a shuttle that far was horrendously expensive and we couldn't get ahold of the bishop in town.

And then into the picture came my cousin Deborah. I have not seen Deborah in over 10 years, but we have interacted on facebook for a couple of years.  She lives an hour and a half from Vandalia, IL, and she said there was another airport--in Springfield, IL, near her house, and she offered to come pick Tim up, but couldn't come until 6:00. There was a scurry to see if that gave them enough time to get to a rental counter at the airport--it did, but barely--and then Deborah managed to rearrange her schedule so she could come earlier, and she left right away. It took 4 hours from the time I signed for the letter until we got it figured out to that point.

The new plan: With Deborah on her way, Tim was going to Springfield, IL, to rent a car to get him to Dayton, OH, buy a van there, continue his trip and come home.

While she was en route, Tim took the little crunched van (Still running, but no radiator left, so not for long) a mile up the road to a shop for an estimate. They were nice and gave him the estimate free. $4500 damage. He said the car was worth $3000. We think it was worth less than that, but still! Tim thanked the guy and drove back to WalMart, ate a little, and got ready to head to the airport in Springfield, IL.

That trip, at least, was uneventful. I was relieved--surely things would go smoothly from here on out. Problems solved, right? I got online and there were vans for sale that were possibilities.

A little while later, though, the phone rang again. Tim was at the airport, and they wouldn't rent him a car because he had a debit card instead of a credit card, but if someone was willing to accept the liability, he could use a different person's credit card.

So I started calling around, and so did he, and my brother agreed to do that for us.

So Tim stood in line again, got to the front, and the car rental guy said, "Sorry. Credit card holder has to be here with you." They wouldn't let my brother call his own card number in! And since my brother was in Utah, being there in person was laughable. Except we were too tired and frustrated to laugh.

Frustrated and exhausted from little sleep, Tim went to find a different car rental place. Fortunately, the next place rented him the car on the debit card, but charged him twice what the first place charged.

So Tim headed back the hour and a half to the little broken van to load his sound equipment. I was sure when he got there, the equipment would be stolen. It had been that kind of a day. Every step of the way something seemed to be going wrong!

Fortunately, the sound equipment was there.

Tim cleaned out Melody Yellowvan, closed her up, and left, and I couldn't stop crying. I have never much cared about a car, but that one I loved. 270,000 miles was a lot, though, so I knew she was going to die soon. But it was still really difficult to know he was driving away and that was that. She was gone. He planned to get back on Sunday in time to get a junk dealer out to pick her up, so he left the plates on. Later, we'd both regret that....

All of that took all day. By the time he was leaving Vandalia, IL, it was dark. But he was on the road and I had some hope. The new plan was to get to Dayton Ohio, sleep there for a few hours in the rental car, and then spend all morning searching for a new van and buying it. Dayton, OH, was supposed to be 5 hours away.

We didn't count on the freeway being closed in Indianapolis. Everyone was being routed toward Chicago.

Tim had to get off and go through town, find the freeway again--and it was still closed. Off again, through town more, find the freeway...and he was moving forward again, but it took 40+ minutes.

By the time he drove into Dayton, it was a dawn on Friday. He slept a couple of hours in the passenger seat of the rental and then set out to find a van.

Meanwhile, back home, I had been searching online classified for possibilities and finally found him three that were promising. So he called them in the morning. One had 200,000+ miles on it (and, the ad claimed, seated 150 people). One, it turned out, had a broken steering column. Running out of time, Tim let the salesman at the lot show him a cargo van. It worked, it looked terrible but solid, and it was cheap. But they wanted cash. $950 cash.

So Tim went to get cash. The ATM had a limit of $500.  No banks would take his debit card and give him cash from his account in Utah.

So he called me, and I got online and found the nearest WalMart, where he could get a cashier's check from the debit card. When he got there, he didn't get a cashier's check. Instead, he bought 5 candybars, one at a time with 5 different cashiers, and got $100 cash back each time.

That obstacle overcome, he headed back and bought the van, loaded it with his sound equipment, and left it on the lot. He had to return the rental car and take a cab back to the lot in Springfield, OH. (Turns out Ohio and Illinois have all the same towns....). He had no title for the van, though, and so couldn't get temporary tags. See, in Ohio, you have to get the title from a title office, and it was closed for Veteran's Day. So the dealer left the dealer plates on it and Tim agreed to mail them back when he got home to Colorado, and then they'd mail him the title. Easy-peasy.  Then, when he got home, we could sell the cargo van for what he paid for it, plus gas, and buy a family van.

He hung up from telling me all that at 11:11 am on 11/11/11. I noticed the display on the phone had a line of 11s on it and thought it was odd.

All of that took way way too long, and Tim still had to drive 2 hours to Albany, OH (outside Athens, OH), where he was supposed to workshop some students and then do a show.

He got there 2 hours late.  (Of course, he had warned them what was going on...). But he made it. And the kids LOVED him, loved the workshops. And the show went fantastically, amazingly well. Really brilliant. The audience loved it, and Tim called as he left and sounded tired, but really good.

He was really really looking forward to sleeping in a bed for more than 3 hours. It had been two days in a row of not getting any sleep as he drove all night and then dealt with problems. I was so relieved that he was going to get some sleep, in a hotel where he would be comfortable. So relieved that he would get to let the stress go, and everything surely would go smoothly from there on out.

A little while later, I got a call.

The new van had DIED. He'd checked the oil before he left and added some, so he was surprised when a car passed him and he saw the engine smoking. Rearview mirror revealed sparks and little flaming things falling off the van behind him. Then it made a whole lot of noise and then died. Completely.  Once again, he was stuck in the middle of rural mid-west in the middle of the night.

But he was loosely caravaning with an old friend who had come to see the show and was then staying at the same hotel as he was, so he was going to text Mike Yanchak for help.

He hung up the phone with me, and I looked at the time on my computer. 11:11 pm on 11/11/11. That cargo van lasted exactly 12 hours.

And Tim was once again stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere in the midwest in the middle of the night. Again! How to get him home with all his equipment? He had gigs in Colorado on Monday and Tuesday, so he couldn't just mess around finding another van.

We needed a new plan. So I got online, in tears, and I looked it up and found out he could fly home for $230. So I bought him a plane ticket right there. At least then I could get him home and worry about the sound equipment later.

Luckily, Mike got the text and turned around and came back for Tim. They loaded as much stuff out of the cargo van into Mike's car as they could (because, it turned out, the cargo van's back doors had no lock.).

And then discovered that Mike's car had died!

I'm not making this up. I would have stopped long ago because this is too outlandish.

You remember the "mom" parts of Home Alone, where she is trying desperately to get back to her house to get her son who was alone, and every step of the way something went wrong that got her into deeper and deeper messes? That's what this was beginning to feel like, and it wasn't over yet.

So Mike called AAA. And they couldn't find him.

A cop stopped and talked to AAA. And they STILL couldn't find him.  An hour later the tow truck found them and got the car started--the battery had died.

And they were off to Dayton to their hotel. At close to dawn. Again.

Unfortunately, Tim had to start his next day's work at the a cappella conference at 8:00 am!

So, once again, he only slept a few hours.

And once again, he left a car on the side of the road with stuff in it he had to go back for. (Except this time, Mike went back--what a life saver!).

The next morning, Saturday, he got a ride to the venue with his stuff and workshopped kids all day.

Meanwhile, I called the place that sold him the bum van and said, "That van you sold us died and is on the side of the road with your dealer plates on it. I don't know where exactly it is, you'll have to call Tim."
Then I settled in to Tim's day must be okay, and I went to bed. Finally.

A few hours later, the guy who sold Tim the van called me back and woke me up. Remember, the title office was closed? Yeah, so suddenly this guy is really really motivated to go get that van back because the title is in his name and so is the registration. He even said he'd buy it back, but for junk (so not the full amount Tim spent on it. Bummer.). So he was going to call Tim, and I went back to bed.

I felt terrible. We had spent a bunch of my mom's money to get a van and it died. She was really nice about it, but I was devastated. Tim was even more devastated. And that left our family with no car again.  Mom and I talked options, but there were no good ones. Mom concluded our only option was to sell her wedding ring to buy a van. But I couldn't even entertain that idea.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, my Aunt Mona had been reading the facebook updates I had put up over the course of the last few days to my Uncle Brent, who owns a car dealership. They decided they needed to help us. Also unbeknownst to me, my Mom, Brent's sister, emailed him and asked if there was anything he could do (and I had emailed him to ask if there were any laws that might help us with the dealer in Ohio because even a used car ought to last more than 12 hours). And, also unbeknownst to me (and to each other) my sisters (and a bunch of other people) had all been praying that someone would help us get a car somehow.

So I was back in bed sleeping and unhappy when the phone rang again. I hopped up, and it was my brother in law, Jared, saying he had been online with my parents and my mom wanted me to call the dealership. I told him I had, and he said, no she means your Uncle Brent. So I got online to chat with my mom, and then I called my Uncle Brent and explained everything to him.

He talked me through a bunch of stuff and said he wanted to help us, but it wasn't very promising because we have 8 people in our family, but it's really really difficult to find a van that seats more than 7. "Like a needle in a haystack" were his words. I thanked him for being willing to help and said I'd check with Tim when he got a break and see if we could make 7 passengers work.

I hadn't even gone back to bed again when he called back. "You're in luck!" he said. Someone had just that very morning traded in a rare 8 passenger mini van. He had even had his sales manager go out and count the seatbelts for us to be sure. And he decided it would be best if he just gave it to us, to help support a musician (he is a musician himself), and for love of my mother and to support her on her mission. I couldn't believe it. Few phone calls later, my sisters had the van and were taking it back to one of their houses to keep it until we could get it.

I cannot express how grateful I am for this. I really can't. There are not words to tell Uncle Brent enough Thank Yous.

That settled, I was much happier (how could I NOT be?).

Then the car dealer who sold us the bum car called. He was mad at me and wanted to know where that van was, and I had no idea ("Not here in Colorado!" I said.). So I had to track Tim down and get him to call this angry guy. And I did the math and realized Tim was on stage--no way he would answer his phone. He doesn't even take it on stage with him (how tacky would THAT be?!). The organizer of the event was in the audience, and I had his number. So I called and texted Tim and left messages, called the organizer and left a message, and then realized Mike Yanchak would know where the van was and if it was empty and ready to be towed. But I didn't have his phone number.

But how many Mike Yanchaks from Pennsylvania can there be?

Turns out three.

I called the number in the phone book and got his Grandma. She was really nice and gave me his cell phone number.

So I texted Mike.

And then I talked to the home teachers, who came to visit, and also was babysitting a friend's kids (who are actually easy to babysit because they distract my kids), so I had to feed them something (they'd all been eating the caramel I had made to cheer myself up on Tuesday).

When the home teachers left, I found Mike had texted me back.

So I called the angry guy and Tim had called him, too, so he wasn't as angry, and between us he got enough information to get the cargo van, and he promised Tim he'd pay him back some (but not all. Sigh.). (One of my home teachers is a very good attorney, though, and he threatened to write mean letters if it comes to that.)

Then Tim called me. He had finished his set. He didn't get to watch SONOS even though he'd been really excited to see their show (they're really really good) because he was on the phone trying to figure out what to do with his sound equipment, with the dead vans (both of them!), etc.

Plus he was bone-deep exhausted from sleeping no more than 3 hours a night all week.  It's actually a miracle that he could do his shows. Mike Yanchak actually gave him some good advice on that: "So the energy is different than you're used to. Just run with it." Tim is also really really really good at his job. And since performers don't really get days off when life gets crappy (the show must go on, right?), it's good that Tim is good at that part of his job. His muscle memory is fantastic.

When the event finally ended, the organizer let Tim lock all his equipment in the high school equipment room, where it would be totally safe, and Tim went back to his hotel to sleep 4 hours.  Again.

Then he got up, got to the airport in Vandalia, OH, and came home. Despite the unbelievable difficulties and obstacles, he actually made it to both days of workshopping and both shows. He missed a workshop with some college kids and a private lesson (with Mike Yanchak, actually), but everything else he made it for and was able to do. Amazing.

I have never been so happy to see him walk in. Woke me up and I was so SO glad.

And then we all fell back asleep, all of us exhausted from not sleeping all week as we tried to work out the problems, and we slept all the way through church--I didn't even hear the alarm ring.

Tim got up after just a few hours, though, to get to the very end of church.

And then he spent the afternoon catching up on emails, arranging a way for him to get to his show tomorrow and contacting THAT show organizer, etc.

We still aren't sure how he's going to get his equipment back. He can't do much with no mics and no looping pedals! But we're working on that....

Meanwhile, my siblings decided it was important to them that we get a chance to do what we had planned before all hell broke loose and come out for Thanksgiving. So my sister-in-law is actually driving out the new van in the morning (Monday) and will fly home. What a huge blessing for us!

So the story isn't completely over, but it's mostly over.  We still have to find someone to take Melody Yellowvan away, and hopefully mail us her plates (doggone it!). Have to get the sound equipment here. Have to find out what happened to the cargo van for sure. We're working on all that...

I discovered that the right insurance coverage (at least on the new van) that would have saved us $1200 costs $35 every six months. So guess what kind of coverage the new van has? Yeah. Comprehensive is not so expensive as everyone says it is. At least not on a chevy venture van. That was a very expensive lesson to learn.

And very exhausting.

I also learned that people are anxious to help.

And that sometimes in the middle of the dark, with shadows looming, it's easy to think that God has forgotten you. Faith requires patience sometimes, too.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this while Tim was gone (and he said he did, too):

And my brother sent me a great quote that hits me just right (since I'm a writer and often have seen my life as a story):

""But in order that life should be a story or romance to us, it is necessary that a great part of it, at any rate, should be settled for us without our permission. If we wish life to be a system, this may be a nuisance; but if we wish it to be a drama, it is an essential. ... A man has control over many things in his life; he has control over enough things to be the hero of a novel. But if he had control over everything, there would be so much hero that there would be no novel. ... The thing which keeps life romantic and full of fiery possibilities is the existence of these great plain limitations which force all of us to meet the things we do not like or do not expect. ... To be in a romance is to be in uncongenial surroundings. To be born into this earth is to be born into uncongenial surroundings, hence to be born into a romance."
- G.K. Chesterton, Heretics"

It's true.

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