Monday, December 1, 2014

Our trip of craziness while driving to Florida!

This story is for those of you who think you know exactly how your planned trip is going to turn out!  We are here to tell you that that is what we thought, and this is exactly what didn't happen! We had lots of people praying for us before we even started and while some of you may think that those prayers didn't work, I am here to tell you they did! We had asked for prayers for safety during our travels and this is exactly what happened time and time again.  Also, attitude in everything along with a great faith in God and Jesus makes all the difference! Keep in mind, that during this trip, we laughed a lot, perhaps cried a little, didn't eat meals like we normally do due to traveling or circumstances at the time but mostly knew that we were covered in prayers!!!

This trip was a lot different for us due to the fact that we would be taking two vehicles the whole way to Florida from PA! The plan was to deliver the green bus in the picture to Jay's brother Jim, wife Tiff and their beautiful girls. Jay was to drive the bus and I was to drive the car so that  we had a way home.

 Jay and I originally planned on leaving around lunch time on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. We actually were able to leave on Tuesday evening, thanks to another teacher covering a study hall for me! Before we left our little town, I prayed for safety during our travels for both vehicles and for us. Our travel didn't get started until about 8:30 pm as Jay had to finish checking some things on the bus, and then we drove for three hours, part of the time it was raining. We pulled into a truck stop and spent the night there. Just after we parked for a short night, Jay checked over things on the bus and found a rear wheel seal leak. Not something you want to find when you have another 600 miles or so to go!  Oh, did I mention that Jay was concerned about the batteries not letting the bus restart in the morning? NO?  Well, we had to sleep with the motor running all night. It runs at a much slower speed when not engaged, so it was kind of nice and drowned out all the other trucks running! Talk about white noise!

We got up about 6 am, and I realized the sleeping bag we had over us was wet, near my head! Ugh!! Oh, wait, it is a 1973 Eagle. This means it has old age issues, including roof leaks. I got a towel and dried it off and left the towel doubled in that spot. We decided to eat some granola bars and started driving again in the pouring rain.  Around 9:30 am, we pulled into a Waffle House and had a decent breakfast. Our server was able to find us a phone book. Yes they do still exist! There was a garage across the street and she suggested we talk to the guys there.  I got to stay in the warm bus and read while Jay drove the car over to the garage across the street. It was a car garage so it was wasn't helpful for fixing our issue but they were helpful in directing us to a place close by that could possibly help.  The next garage we went to thought they might be able to fix the problem, but the issue is that the seal might not be a standard one, which means not having the part easily obtainable. Due to some issues at this garage, we were there about an hour and a half, which included them taking a break for their Thanksgiving meal! It still didn't get fixed so we decided to move on south. 

By this time, it is now mid-afternoon. We had only been on the road for about 45 minutes, when I heard a weird noise coming from the car!  I called Jay and asked him to pull over and come listen to the engine.  He did and thought it was something related to the cam drive system.  He asked how it was driving, and I told him "it was fine."  dun dun dunnn! We had no sooner got back on the road, and the battery light came on! I called Jay back and was told "we are getting of this exit NOW!"  Oh boy!  Turns out the exit we were right beside was the one for Kings Dominion!  We no sooner got off the exit when we saw a huge sign for a truck stop and restaurant. I heard another weird noise and the oil light came one.  Jay had warned me that the steering might get tight. WELL, I was turning left at the light to turn into the Doswell truck stop, and there was the steering wheel feeling like my dad's old car with manual steering. I managed to get the car into the spot in the picture, while Jay backed the bus into the other spot. He came over to look under the hood of the car and said "The serpentine belt tensioner broke!" Hmm, not good.  Thankfully, the truck stop had a garage there also!
The gentleman at the garage said he could fix it in about an hour, if we went and got the parts! OH! No problem, we can drive a bus that isn't working right to get the parts to fix a car that isn't working right. So the adventure continues!  We had to drive about 8 miles to an Advanced Auto, who when I called said to me they would pull the parts for us! It was snowing again amid the rain.  The defrost system in the bus wasn't working right, which meant Jay was trying to wipe the windows off every minute or so!! I decided to sit on the steps instead of the chair so I could help wipe the windows. Finally we made it to the parts store and got the parts we needed. Back we drove to the Doswell garage.  The mechanic said to come back in about an hour.  Thankfully, we had a few of the subs we had ordered to help a friend, so that's what we had for supper. Jay went back a little more than an hour later, and the mechanic tried to charge us for 45 minutes instead of an hour!!!  Jay told him "you worked an hour, you get paid for an hour!" Oh and the picture below is what a belt tensioner is NOT supposed to look like! It is supposed to be in one piece!

 The mechanic's name was Bob and he was every so helpful!  He was even willing to make a few phone calls to other garages to see if they could help us.  Bob said he couldn't help us with the bus, due to the garage being closed Thursday through Monday, and also he didn't think they would have the right seal! At least he was honest about it.  He called another mechanic, Mike, who said that there is another garage that works on buses.  He gave Jay directions to find it.  Jay decided to take a ride to find the place Mike told him about. He was told it was a two bay garage, that had just a couple buses parked out front.  When he got back, he said it was business complex!  Jay even stopped and asked at another garage in the complex, and they had never heard of this place! Now, part of the problem was that Mike didn't have a name or phone number to this little place. The only thing bus related was a school bus garage. Oh well! Jay did find a Dunkin Donuts! Yes!  Civilization is ours! We decided to play some cards before turning in for the night. Again, we had to leave the bus running.

Okay, so now for the fun part, well sort of. As I said, we were parked across from Kings Dominion.  Sadly, they were closed for the season! Imagine that!  We decided after breakfast in the bus to go and have some fun as now it was Thanksgiving Day!!  We walked across the street to the big T-rex that is near the entrance of KD.  Jay likes this picture as it shows a drumstick worth eating, when everyone else was having a little ole' turkey drumstick!  We also thought we needed to take a picture of us in front of this cute little chapel. It is actually at the Doswell truck stop, and they used to have videotaped church services! The very nice lady at the store told us that there was even one wedding at this church!
What to do when nothing is open? Take pictures of the Eiffel Tower that was in the distance and pretend we were in Paris. Go for a drive to find another bus garage that was about 20 minutes away. Drive in a hail storm?! Yes, hail strong enough to that we found an overhang to sit under. When it finally stopped, we went back to where the garage was supposed to be. Found a Greyhound Bus Terminal. Great, not. They will work on your vehicle if you already have an account with them!  After all this fun, we drove back to the bus to check on it. Yes, it was still running due to the possibility of the battery not starting again. It was locked, thankfully! 
Our Yummy Thanksgiving Meal at Denny's!
So back to it being Thanksgiving. We actually had a few people call us to check and see what we were doing about our meal! No worries. Denny's in Doswell is open 24 hours.  There were actually two or three families there besides us. Our meal was very yummy. Jay didn't eat much due to him worrying (trying not to) about the seal. There was an Indian family who asked permission to bring their food in. I guess they allowed it, due to the fact there was very few people in the restaurant.

Friday morning showed up with the sun shining, a phone call to another garage and some good news. Jay was able to talk to the shop manager of a garage about 45 miles south of us. He told us to come as soon as possible.  While I packed everything away in the bus, so nothing fell while driving, Jay checked the oil level on the seal...again. I took lead this time, since the gps was with me. It was an easy drive to the place. The place was very nice looking and very large! When we found a place to park, Jay went in to talk to the shop manager. He pulled the bus into their garage and then was told he and I could go sit in the drivers lounge! Wow, wasn't expecting that! Cushioned leather recliners and couches, free wifi, television and snack machines. After about half an hour, the manager came over and said they looked at the problem. And like every other garage, they couldn't guarantee they had the right seal. They did say that there was another garage down the street, that would probably have the correct one, but they were closed until Monday! Aaahhhh!
This became a very common site for me!
Since Jay is the large vehicle mechanic and I trust him completely with his decisions regarding the bus, I left it up to him to decide if we were going to keep heading south or not. The shop manager that we just left, suggested that we check the oil around the seal about every 100 miles or so. Florida here we come! We got to South of the Border Thursday evening. We pulled behind one of the stores and parked across several parking spaces. The bus left its mark on the ground (like it did everywhere we stopped).  We actually took the picture of the oil mark on Saturday when we got back there.
We did pull into a rest stop somewhere after South of the Border for the night. Other than stopping every 100 miles or every hour or two to check the oil levels, we had a very good rest of the trip. We made it into Jim and Tiff's neighborhood somewhere around early afternoon. In the pictures below, Jay's reaction says it all!!  The mileage of 981.6 is for the trip south. 


The sweatshirt you see my husband modeling is the shirt he wore EVERY time he worked on the bus. 
When we got to the house, he gave it to the dog to play with!
We had an awesome supper with our crew at Jay's favorite southern restaurant, Sonny's. Thank you Jim, Tiff, Raileane and Alysia! Love you all! Sadly we had to leave early Saturday morning and couldn't spend much time with our loved ones. About 15 hours with family you only get to see once a year is just not enough.  Morning came way too early, as we got up at 5:30 am! We left about 6:15.  Oh my body was craving Tylenol, and caffeine. Coffee for him and tea for me!  We stopped just before we left Florida and bought a bag of red oranges and a bottle of orange blossom honey. I can say now that part of this morning is now a blur. Lack of rest will do that. Somewhere along the ride north, we stopped for breakfast, and lunch. 

We did stop at South of the Border for a little. As we traveled on Route 95 N, we didn't hit a lot of traffic.   Well, sort of. In North Carolina, we started running into several areas that traffic was a mess. For those of you, who have traveled 95, you understand how traffic seems to stop and then suddenly everyone is moving and no one knows why.  Anyway, three times we decided to get off of 95 and get onto Route 301. Twice we got back onto 95 after about ten minutes. The third time we stayed on 301. This road used to be a well used road, but isn't so much anymore. There are some really cool houses and farms to be seen, unless it is at night and then there isn't much to see. No phone signals, not much electricity, towns are few and far apart. Anyway, when we got off of 95, it was still daylight. The cool things are the ones you don't get to see very often. For those of us born and raised in PA., we don't see cotton farms in our backyards. We passed a few farms that had very recently harvested the cotton. Jay pulled over and got some off the side of the road for us to take home. I figured my kiddos at school would enjoy seeing the real thing. 

Our destination before we headed totally back home was to visit my mom in Delaware. This means we wouldn't be traveling on 95 the whole way back to PA. We needed to take the Bay bridge tunnel.  Sadly, we got to the bridge after dark. We didn't get to take in the view of the water. Oh well, maybe next time! If you have never traveled this water way, there are signs along the entire thing reminding you not to speed! They have spots on the bridge for the police to sit for those who do so. We didn't have any problems there for those of you who just assumed we got a ticket. The roads that we traveled on were all back roads. We did find a cute little country store in the middle of nowhere. The people there was so nice and friendly! The whole shop was about the size of half our house and yet they made fresh sandwiches! 

South of Pocomoke City, we were traveling north about 10 pm. Not clue what road we were on at that point. I just know that because of all the little towns, we had to keep a close eye on the speed limit. By this time, we had been on the road since almost 6:30 am!! Our bodies hurt, we were exhausted and still had over an hour before we reached our destination in Delaware! Out of nowhere, we see a blue light flashing behind us.  Are you kidding?  What did we do?  When the officer came up to the car, he said he pulled us over due to a headlight being out!! YAY! Since Jay had been driving, I mentioned to the officer that we had been driving up from Florida, and had no idea when it went out. He did ask for the insurance card and Jay's driver license. Jay asked me for the insurance card, as I keep my cars in my wallet. I laughed and said, "dear we are in your car!" Anyway, the officer checked our info, making sure we weren't criminals on the loose. By this point, we were so tired, that I busted up laughing over the thought of us getting a ticket after everything else that happened on this trip!! He came back to the car and told us we could go, just get the light fixed. I asked him how far away was a motel. He was nice enough to tell us that it was about 20 minutes away. 

We found a place and passed out about 10 minutes after we go into the room. 6 am comes way to early when you are traveling but if you want to be somewhere at a decent gotta do whatcha gotta do.

Morning came by way too early! We headed to my mom's and had to stop at Dunkin Donut's for coffee/hot chocolate, hmm a few donuts are always good. We had a nice visit, enjoyed a walk with Mom, her pooch Holly, and ended up at this pond. I was teaching Holly a bad trick. We chased the geese a little bit, hehe. 
She loved it and forgot that she is a teeny dog when she showed the geese who is boss when they were sitting on the side of the pond.
We headed north again towards home, first stopping at the groomers to pick up our dog. Jay and I were so sore from the long ride but glad to be home!! The last picture here shows our mileage on the way home.  Over 1800 miles!!!
It was an experience neither of us will ever forget. Would we do it again?? Not intentionally but we both knew that God protected us during all of this, so maybe...we never know what the future holds when the Riehls take a bus trip. Perhaps I should tell you about the bus trip to Disney.  That's whole 'nother story!!