The Kindness of Strangers

We never planned to be in Odessa for 3 days, but it all worked out in the end!

Blanche DuBois proclaimed "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." in A Streetcar Named Desire.  Kindness and strangers is a foreign concept many times today.  We have our guards up much of the time out of fear and personal protection.  A random act of kindness feels like more of a lost art and still has its place.  Our family experienced generous acts of kindness on our last RV adventure of 2023, and it was a faith restoring journey for us.  
On our second morning of travel, we were bright eyed and ready to arrive in Marfa that evening.  And that never happened!

The Kindness of Strangers

Our family takes a camping trip after Christmas each year.  We have gotten so accustomed to traveling long distances that it feels like second nature.  And, even though we have experienced random bumps in the road, none have stalled us out for several days.

We were so thankful that we started having trouble right on the edge of town.

Just as we were entering Odessa, TX, the battery light lit up followed by our heat sensors began going off simultaneously.  I exited the interstate slowly and pulled into a large parking lot just off I-20 with smoke coming out from under our hood.  We opened the hood to find the coolant chamber empty and more questions than answers.

Craig went into the store to ask for mechanic recommendations.  I started to call and seek out someone just in cast no one would recommend someone inside.  The second gentleman that I called was a mechanic that had actually seen us exiting the interstate and was nearby.  He arrived quickly and offered to tow us to his shop to begin a repair.  Few places were open during the holidays and there were not a lot of choices to begin with.

The first things the mechanics discovered were a broken water pump and thermostat.

We enjoyed authentic Mexican food while waiting, and it was delicious!

Our RV served as our waiting room.  We hung out playing games and talking all afternoon!

That afternoon, the crew at the shop replaced our thermostat and water pump.  During that wait, we used our RV as our own little waiting room hanging out and playing cards.  After several hours, it seemed we would be back on the road to Marfa.  However, this would not come to fruition.

Just a few files up the road as the sun was beginning to set, our truck began to overheat again.  As we prepared to stop a single lady pulled up beside us waving with her window down to tell us that coolant was pouring out of our truck as we went down the road.  We stopped added coolant from a spare container for it to continue to pour out underneath our truck.  We were not going anywhere.  

Having the cell number of the mechanic, I gave him a call.  He came out to meet us at a near by Pilot gas station and recommended that we wait until the next morning. We finally found an RV park with a spot for us and agreed to go back to the shop in the morning.

We managed to find great places to stay that were safe and well maintained.

The next morning, I was up bright and early and returned to the shop sans trailer to see what was going on now.  No one showed up to work that morning.  I was feeling frustrated but called around and located a second mechanic that was willing to take a look.  He was an older gentleman with many years of experience now working with his grandson.  

They quickly located where something had not been reconnected.  Its hard to say why, but they fixed this for $20 and it seemed to do the trick.  That is until the trailer was connected.  We limped into the next town over of Monahan.  The car dealership there said it would be next week before they could even take a look.  We couldn't wait a week on our tow vehicle.  We had already lost part of our trip to Marfa and time was ticking.  I called the second mechanic.  He asked me to drive back the 30 miles.  He would loan me his work truck until a solution was determined.  

Now we had to located a second RV park.  And, there happened to be one right next to the car dealership where we were in Monahan.  A local vet owned the RV park and was willing and able to give us a spot.  So, we pulled into a spot, unhitched, and I went back to Odessa with the truck.

Out West RV Park in Monahan is where we stayed for two nights.  It was brand new and so nice.

The next day, the mechanic called to say they were working on the truck but it needed a new radiator.  Great.  So, we would wait and leave later that day.  After lunch, I returned to Odessa in the loaned truck to pick up our tow vehicle and would just go to Fredericksburg a day early.  There was no point in going to Marfa now.  I drove the truck hard back from Odessa to test it out.  Everything ran great.  We hooked up.  And another 2 or so miles down the road we were overheating again.  

We went back to the same RV spot, called the vet in Monahan and arranged another night.  The coolant was gone again.  After a call to the mechanic, I arranged to take it back again the next morning.  As we waited, it was time to really think through next steps.  Were we going to make it home?  Did we need to look at how to get us and the camper home and just go home?  

We hooked up and disconnected so many times that we are like a pit crew at a Nascar race!

I also called my cousin.  He advised me to not tell the mechanic how to do it job but that it was most likely an air bubble that was was trapped in the system and had not gotten burped properly when the new radiator was installed.  My husband added coolant for my trip to Odessa to take the truck back in.  

In the meantime, the first mechanic called to check and see if we had made it and if we needed he and his crew again.  He offered to help us at no charge if we still needed help.

First, nothing leaked after that last refill of coolant.  I made it back to Odessa just fine.  The mechanic had been researching next steps too.  And he seemed to think that our Ford F-150 didn't like the parts house thermostat even with it being brand new and needed a Ford brand thermostat.  The local dealership didn't have one and was telling us January 22.  We couldn't just wait around for 3 weeks.  I started calling and Midland had one a few miles away.  The mechanics wife went to pick it up.  And in a couple of hours, we were up and running again.  Would this be the fix?

I drove back to Monahan, skeptical and wondering.  We hooked up and drove off into the Texas dessert from Monahan to Fredericksburg.  For the first hour, it was silent in our car.  Our eyes glued to the temperature gauge as we drove forward.  One mile, two, one hundred miles, nothing.  No fluctuation in temperature, and the truck was running fine.  

Its hard to say after the fact if the air bubble was in fact the cause of the overheating truck on our third try to leave home.  Or, it may have been the Ford brand thermostat after all.  Maybe it was a combination of the two.  But our truck was repaired, and we made it out of time.  Turns out, fourth time was a charm for us!

Half way to Fredericksburg, I realized we had to call the last RV park to pay for our stay!  I quickly called and paid over the phone relieved that we had made it out safely.  I was also very thankful that we had such kind folks that helped us out along the way.

And we made it.  We made it there with daylight to spare and unhooked at our new spot relieved!  It was surreal.  After days of waiting, wondering, and praying.  Here we were.  

So, we missed the first half of our trip.  Carlsbad Caverns and Marfa never happened.  And guess what?  It wasn't a big deal after all!

We learned a lot on this trip.  First, there are still good people in this world.  There are people that will help you no matter who you are.  It is refreshing to know that strangers will still help another person out.  From a single lady on the interstate waving us down to offer her number and warn us that something was wrong to mechanics that were willing to open on off days and go the extra mile.  We had lots of help.  Plus, we also had to locate RV spots on a dime to unhitch and stay in unplanned places.  We were fortunate and safe at every turn.

We played outside.

We learned how to play Monopoly Deal.  It is such a fun game.

I enjoyed working on my embroidery.

We also had each other.  Sure, we had planned a grand adventure in Marfa and far west Texas, but it didn't happen.  Instead, we ate meals, watched movies, walked our dogs, played new and old games.  It wasn't so bad.  It ended up being much needed rest and down time we rarely get!  And it was a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how to handle uncertain situations with our son.  We certainly spent time praying for guidance as well as wisdom and guidance for those helping us.  Every challenge is an opportunity to match those challenges with a steady hand and faith.  I hope our son will use this experience in his life along the way and reflect back on the adventure of it all.

We made the most of the time we had.  Our time to do the things we planned was shortened, but we did a great job of making the most of that coveted time in Fredericksburg.  

And as we ushered in a new year, it felt great to know that we made it to the other side of it all together.  And we traveled home thankful and happy for one year that ended on a high note and new life lessons to take into a new year.

We had plenty time to try out our new camping chairs while we waited.

Ferris had plenty of time to relax while we waited.

As you move into a new year, I encourage you to look for ways to pay it forward.  These can be simple acts of kindness that require little of you at times.  Last year at Disney, we noticed a family trying to back into a site at a park.  I walked down and offered to help.  Not because I'm nosey or critical.  I'm the one that backs our camper into spots, and it is a hard job.  And the lady was so happy that she jumped out of her truck and hugged me.  

Life can be tough.  But, it can also be a lot better if we help each other out when we can and have the opportunity.  Look for real ways that you can use your skill set in the new year to benefit someone other than yourself.  It is a wonderful way to live.  

Until next time...happy camping!

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