We’ve all read articles that encourage the idea that “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade”, but when one has the opportunity to experience that for themselves it can definitely take on greater meaning. Looking past the natural negative response when life hands you less than what you expected and focus on the good things and blessings in the process can be most beneficial. Well, once again I am having real opportunity to practice what I preach you might say. It was yesterday, August 3, when my husband Jack and I along with our two cats, Woody and Bailey headed out the door in our van, trailer in tow to make our second and what would be our last trip to the high country of Arizona for the season. You see, when you live in what one might call….um…..’insufferable temperatures” June, July and August, you welcome any reprieve you can get. That’s where the high country of Arizona comes in. Within two hours one can drop 20-40 degrees…..simply amazing. So, that’s what we’re trying to do….beat the heat as they say.
So, we’re heading down the road, not a square inch of room left in the van between the clothes, the coolers packed tight with food, the firewood and of course the cats and all their luggage; including a double decker cat stroller. Hey, we travel in comfort what can I say. We’ve got our Starbucks Iced Americano as per usual and feeling much relief that we actually got out of town and are on our way. We pull into our usual first stop in Payson which is the Safeway store to get a few last minute perishables and our cubed ice for those “special” drinks we make. Because we have the cats with us and it is now approaching 95 degrees at this elevation, we leave the van on and lock the ‘kids’ inside with the air conditioning on. When we come back we noticed that the car seems to be idling/vibrating awfully hard. Hmmmm, we think….well it’s just hot, and the A/C is putting extra stress on the car. We pull into the next section of the strip mall to pick up another item and again Jack says he’ll just run in while the cats and I stay in the nice cool vehicle. Well, within minutes after his exiting the car I notice the van start to shake and idle even more roughly. What is going on here? I am thinking to myself. So I immediately turned the car off, tried to hustle Jack on his way by cell phone and figured we just needed to get this puppy back on the road. Nice thought in theory. However when he tried to restart the car nothing happened. It made that sickening sound like it was wanting to but just couldn’t make it. You all know what I am talking about. The “car won’t start – how much is this going to cost me? blues”
Well, this is the start of the ‘gratitude moment’. We just happened to be in a parking lot in front of an Auto Zone store. So, Jack decides he will consult them. Well, at this point with the temperatures rising in the car I am really starting to ‘glisten’ as a lady would say. So the only option is to follow him in the store for his “my car won’t start – 101 course”. The only problem is that that would also leave the cats behind in the hot car. Have you figured it out yet? Yep, we haul out the stroller, place Bailey in it and then put Woody in his steel framed carrier (remember he’s a chewer) and trek into the store. It’s a wonder they didn’t run for cover when they saw us coming with all the paraphernalia we had with us; water bowl, make-up bag (after all I couldn’t let my make-up melt in the hot car, now could I???) and our water bottles. But, they were most kind and said we could keep the cats in the store for as long as we needed. Little did we know at this point that it would be needed much longer than we expected. We pulled Woody out of his carrier and slid him into the bottom compartment of the stroller so he’d be a little more comfortable and began what would be the second phase of this saga.
After considerable discussion and consultation you might say with each customer service parts employee, it was decided that the assistant manager would call his ‘bud’ up the street who had a repair shop. His opinion was that it was our fuel pump. Well, with that pretty much decided we still had the concern of getting the van to the repair shop. We call the Auto Club and they tell us that someone will be there in 30 minutes. Yeah, right. In the meantime, the nice owner of the repair shop offers to come and disconnect our trailer from our van (can’t tow a car that’s towing a trailer, you know). So, while we’re waiting for him to do that, we call the Auto Club again. My husband’s getting a little frustrated at this point as am I and the next words I hear coming from him are, “look, can’t you tell the guy it’s an emergency?? I got my cats here and we’re stranded”. Somehow, the story wasn’t effective. We had to wait another 60 minutes. All the while we’re watching the sky grow blacker than the color of coal and are seeing lightning strikes throughout. Having traveled to the high country as much as we have this time of the year, we know where this is going. The heavens are about to open up and dump a real soaker on us.
To add to the scenario, the poor cats have been away from their food and litter box for nearly two hours and I am getting nervous. I suggest that he take them back to the van so they can refresh and relieve themselves. After all, I didn’t want any surprises in the auto parts store. They were being kind enough as it was. Just after Jack got them into the van, the tow truck guy shows up. I had no idea he would get the van loaded up that quickly and the next vision I see is the van going up at an angle about 10 feet in the air with Bailey looking out the passenger window giving me a “silent” meow. Oh my word…..the cats are in the car!!! Nothing to do now but to pray, as they say. The thunder is growing louder and the van is loaded on the tow ramp, but we still have the stroller and ourselves to get to the repair shop. There are three seats in the tow truck. Jack was going to follow on foot pushing the stroller but the next thing we know, the tow guy is strapping the cat stroller on the back of the tow dolly with bungee cords. I am not making this up…..I have pictures for any of you doubtful readers.
Now my petite 5’2″ frame is struggling to get up in the truck cab which has to be at least 6 feet off the ground, but with the help of a foot rail and a friendly “push” behind me from my chivalrous husband, I made it in. We travel the five or so blocks to the repair shop and get dropped off while the van is being lowered; again with Bailey mouthing a “silent” meow. It’s hard to say where Woody was through all of this. We didn’t have time to ask him, believe me. Because of COURSE, it’s now starting to rain. We run for cover to the little repair shop’s office and are told that by now the time is too late to work on the car so we’ll have to stay the night. I secure a hotel a few blocks away and again we’re offered transportation over to it, which was a real blessing because the thought of trying to make it on foot with two cats, a stroller, their luggage, and our luggage was just a tad bit overwhelming…..in the rain nonetheless.
While I am on the phone with the hotel negotiating a decent deal, playing on the unfortunate nature of our situation, I then see the repair guy hoisting what he called a “Texas sized litter box” into the back seat of his quad cab truck. This left two seats open besides the drivers. Again, where were the cats in their stroller going to ride? OK, you’ve probably figured this one out, right….? They are now riding in the back of the pick-up truck, again bungee corded in. In the rain. We arrive at the hotel, wet cats and all and get checked in. Again, I see the repair man helping to haul our stuff out and this included lugging the “Texas sized litter box” up two flights of stairs because of course they had nothing available on the ground level. He helped with getting us settled and told us that as soon as our car was ready the next morning, he’d call and come and collect us once again.
This is where the ‘gratitude’ part comes in. First off, YES we were upset that our second and last camping trip of the season was thrown way off course. YES, we were just a little upset that it cost us an auto repair bill and a hotel room and frankly, a lot of hassle. But, we were also very grateful. Had we not stopped for that second purchase in Payson, we would have been on the highway in the heat when the fuel pump went out. We would have had no way to get out of the heat ourselves and certainly no way to protect Woody and Bailey. I would have been frantic with worry over them. Jack may have had to hike back to town along a very busy highway in the heat for help. It could have been a disaster. Instead, it happened right in front of an Auto Zone store in a friendly, little town where people still know what it’s like to be a good neighbor. All of our needs were cared for and though it wasn’t the way we had envisioned it, we were OK. And we were after all…..together.
I am also grateful because I had the opportunity to build more faith in my boy, Woody. He’s been a real pill when it comes to trying to chew his way out of his stroller. Actually, he has done this and frankly it truly could be a whole other story on it’s own. But, this time, Woody proved to be a real champ when he had to sit in his stroller inside the Auto Zone store for 90 plus minutes. He just lay very quietly and watched the people come and go throughout the store. Perhaps he enjoyed the entertainment. I know people thought he and Bailey were entertaining. It’s not too often that you see ordinary cats in a stroller, especially in a small town. But, then again….these are no ordinary cats as you well know.
I am happy to say, that we got on our way, albeit 24 hours later than planned, and even managed to secure our favorite campsite in our favorite campground. We’ve had beautiful weather and a really nice time. Woody and Bailey are enjoying themselves immensely watching chipmunks, squirrels and woodpeckers. We are very grateful, actually. So, once again I’ve been forced to count my blessings and not the trials. Something that I think gets easier with time, age and practice. I’ve certainly had the practice lately and knowing life as I do……I am sure I’ll get more. And for that….be sure to stay tuned!!