An adventure broke out in the middle of our weekend family trip, a weekend visit with Leisa and Sam. We left early enough that the Friday afternoon traffic hadn’t been too bad. Elena was behaving well in the back seat, looking for green cars. We were headed north on the freeway when all of a sudden the car’s engine stuttered and the check engine light came on.

The next exit was three or four miles down the road, so we merged into the right lane and proceeded carefully. It was clear that something wasn’t quite right with the engine, but we were still moving. Even though it seemed like we had landed in the middle of nowhere, we found a gas station where the attendant pointed us down the road to the nearest mechanic. That shop was closed, but by this time we had the GPS out and took solace in its suggestion that there would be another mechanic in about a mile.

This auto shop–Southern Auto Tech–still had some people inside. I found the owner inside, and he sent one of his technicians out to run a diagnostic. The technician told us that the crank sensor was reporting an error, but that if we could start it up again we should be able to make it somewhere close. At that point we decided to call off our trip and head home, but the car had a different plan because it wouldn’t even start up.

At that point we started to understand how lucky we were to have found this place in particular. While we tried to figure out what to do, the shop owner was trying to find us a part. If we had been in real trouble, he would have driven more than an hour to get the part and install it late at night. We thanked him for the effort, but it wasn’t worth all the trouble; we had other options.

We were grateful for those other options. My parents and brother Luke live about half an hour from where we broke down, so we gave them a call. Although Luke was willing to come get his, we don’t all fit into his truck. My parents abandoned their scheduled dinner date to come help us. We were glad that they were available and willing to rescue us.

Of course they couldn’t get there instantly, so the shop owner’s wife, who also seemed to be the main front-office worker, offered to drive us to someplace where we could get some dinner. Although there were closer places, she drove us all the way to a large shopping center with several restaurants, including the McDonald’s where we ended up (it had a PlayPlace), and a variety of shopping options. It was a nice place to spend the evening.

The only things Elena would eat at dinner were french fries. Remembering my own childhood, I found it hard to believe that she wouldn’t want even a bite of cheeseburger. She did like drinking water form a straw, although that process was not without spillage. Mostly she bided her time until we let her go into the PlayPlace.

She had a grand time in there, even if she did want to be able to climb higher with the big kids. At some point two girls helped her up to the next level of one of the areas, but I intervened before they helped her all the way to the top. Secretly, I wanted to let them do it so that I could go up and retrieve her, but I knew that it would be more responsible not to ever let her get that far away.

So this is what adventure looks like with a toddler–unexpectedly hanging out at McDonald’s while waiting for a ride. She didn’t even realize we were having an adventure until those girls helped her climb further up into the PlayPlace.

In due time my parents showed up and drove us back to their house, where we spent the night. Elena loved saying goodnight to everyone, including Luna the dog. The next morning my mother had an appointment close to where we lived, so after a hot breakfast that made up for the complimentary one we would have gotten in our non-refundable hotel room, she returned us to my car. Tomorrow Jenny and I will head out (possibly leaving Elena with a friend) to get the repaired car.

I do think I’ll get a more grownup sized adventure tomorrow morning, because I plan to bike in to work in freezing, windy conditions. I hope that’s the most adventurous part of the day, and the car recovery goes smoothly.


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