Published: 8 years ago

Blowouts and Banjo Music, part 2

If you missed the beginning of this saga, you’ll want to start here.

So there we were, fleeing for our lives in Wallace, NC, miles away from the world’s largest frying pan that we could’ve used as a weapon. We made our way into a Piggly Wiggly parking lot (attention non-Southerners: it’s a real thing. Shut up.) where we  assessed our situation: inadequate tire. Serial killer. Small town. Two hours from home. Extreme exhaustion. Indigestion from french fries.

Suddenly, we saw a cop pull up in the lot behind us. Seeing an opportunity to get a police escort to the nearest 24 hour tire shop, I jumped out of the van and walked over, just in time to see him cautiously approaching an old Jeep Cherokee. That cop was soon joined by two other cops, and there I stood 15 feet away, trying to make eye contact but not interfere with official police business and get tazed.

The cops were there for a guy who soon emerged from Hoggly Woggly with a child that I can only assume was his little girl that he had lovingly carried on a daddy-daughter date. Either that, or by the way the cops surrounded him he was a prime suspect in an Amber Alert. Regardless, before I walked off I noticed that he (a) had a spare tire in the back of his Jeep and (b) was wearing a shirt that said “_____’s Tire and Battery Repair.” Since I’m not educated on the propriety of a tire change just before the Miranda rights are read, I decided to let that one go.

The next 45 minutes were a bit of a blur as I started making phone calls back to Durham, advising people that I wouldn’t be there to execute my Campus Pastor duties (i.e.: try to make funny announcements and fail) the next morning. Most significant was a text to Spence Shelton, our Small Groups pastor: “Hey man, is it too late for me to call you?”

And Spence, dear sweet Spence. Community-building Spence. Let’s-do-life-together Spence. Discipleship-happens-in-relationships Spence. Life-as-we Spence. Yes, THAT Spence simply replied, “Yes.”  As in, “Yes, it’s too late for you to call me. Go back to your police crackdown in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot as you continue to evade the Unabomber. But hey – if you need a sermon-based study guide, I’m your guy!”

At this point, there were no other options. No hotels in Wallace. No open tire shops in Wallace. No rental cars in Wallace. No friends in Wallace. We finally realized that we were going to have to get really cozy with our AAA membership and find a driver that could haul our entire family as well as our van, but preferably not our entire family in the van, which I’ve heard is cool, but somewhat unsafe.

After several conversations with the AAA dispatcher as well as the local towing company owner, the calvary arrived in the form of Leslie and his 35 foot truck. The first thing I did after apologizing that he was about to drive us 110 miles to Durham was to ask about seat belts…you know, those things that keep you from flying through the windshield in case Leslie crashes because it’s 10:30 PM and he’s already driven to Fayetteville and Carolina Beach that day and is existing on 15 minutes of sleep and a box of No-Doz.

Fortunately, Leslie had seat belts. Unfortunately, Leslie didn’t have enough seat belts. Or seats. Which is how my wife ended up in the front seat with Leslie, my kids ended up in each other’s laps while sharing a belt in the back seat, and I ended up folded double in the floorboard like an embedded reporter in a tank in Fallujah, tweeting constant updates so that people would know I was in the truck whenever it crashed and I went through the windshield or was inextricably wedged under Leslie’s seat.

Which probably would have been more comfortable than having my 14 year old’s knees in my temple for 110 miles.

Gosh, there’s probably more to this story, but I’ve tired myself out just replaying it in my mind. I could tell you about Jeremy Pollard, our heroic children’s pastor who met us at the church to give us his van at 12:30 AM. I could tell you about driving Jeremy home and then realizing my keys and wallet were still in our van and we had to drive back to the church to get it. I could tell you about Merriem getting a Diet Coke craving and the post-midnight giggles and fortunately Cook Out stays open until 3 AM. I could tell you that I got four hours of sleep and was not a happy camper the next morning. But at this point, all of that is anticlimactic.

So that’s our weekend. That’s how we wrap up weddings at the beach. That’s how we roll on three working tires.

Do you have any horror road trip stories? I’d love to hear ’em. Comment below.

  1. Shannon Cox says:


    You’ll never believe this but my family is from the next little town over from Wallace, named Beulaville. It is equally as small and redneck as Wallace. If only Spence had answered his phone, Courtney could have told you. So sorry for all your car woes, but glad you made it out safely. 🙂

  2. spenceshelton says:

    Feeling real great right now. Just glad you made it back alive. Sarcasm fully in tact.

  3. Sterling says:

    Now this is long, but you can’t leave anything out of this weekend from hell. We are able to laugh about this one now. Not so much then.

    Here is one to counter your weekend!
    So Gary and I decide to drive from Dallas TX to Atlanta GA over Labor Day weekend. It’s a pretty long car ride but we decided what the heck. After talking with some friends about our upcoming adventure, they told us of this lady who was looking for a ride to Atlanta for that same weekend. Gary in his graciousness offered the woman a ride. (I can’t remember her name so from this point forward we will refer to her as, Helga.)
    We leave Thursday night. Go pick up Helga. Who asks, “Which way are you going?” We told her and she said, “No, we will go this way through Forney.” That should have been our first clue to turn around, take her home and cancel the trip, as that would be the best the weekend ever got.
    At about 2am driving through the swamps of Mississippi, we got a for-real-blow-out on the back driver’s side tire. As Gary started the process of putting the do-nut on, Helga and I were shining flash lights around searching for the alligators that had set the trap. We knew they were coming we just had to find them first. Gary asked me to “go find the ‘doo-hickey’ to change the tire with in the glove-box.” So I went and found a ‘doo-hickey’ and brought it to him. With a look of pure disgust he informed that what I had brought him was an ice scraper. Hello, I’m from Texas, no ice scraper needed.
    So with the do-nut on, Helga informs us that she is hungry. 3am in the swamps of Mississippi is not prime time to stop at Denny’s to grab a rooty-tooty-fresh-and-fruity-breakfast. But we do. We were obviously not from there. We let Helga eat, then we ran for it.
    We got to Atlanta. We took Helga to her hotel. Then we headed to Discount Tire Warehouse. We left the car there and walked ~3 miles to IHOP. It was good to be without the stranger from the car. We ordered a huge breakfast and savored every bite. The check came and Gary handed the waitress his credit card. On which she looked, then looked back at Gary with a grin and said, “Um, we don’t take these here. Just cash.” Bad news. Neither of us had cash on us. She said the nearest ATM machine was about 6 miles up this road. We still didn’t have a car, ours was still getting a tire put on. So I waited at IHOP and Gary took off walking to the nearest ATM. Since he didn’t know the city very well, he got lost. (Might I add in here too, this is waayyy before we ever got cell phones.) Several hours later he came walking back up to the IHOP. Threw the money at the waitress and we set off again walking to go get our car from DTW.
    After picking up the car we eventually made it to our friend’s house. (This was my second time ever to see these people. ) They were part of a garage band across the street so we were invited to go over and listen to the “jam session”. We went, and for the first time ever, I knew I was going to get arrested and would have to call my mom to come and pick me up from the Atlanta jail. The music was incredibly loud. The drugs were being passed around. WAIT! Yes, that’s right, the drugs were being passed around. Everyone partaking, except Gary and I. I was sooooooo out of my element. I wanted my momma. As we were leaving the garage from across the street. Friend-one said, “My mother is over at our house spending the night. Do you mind spending the night next door at Mr. Way-Stoned-Bass-Player’s house?” We didn’t really have a choice being that it was about 1am. So we go over to the neighbors house and Mr. Way-STONED- Bass-Player says with Twinkie in hand, “I’d love to hang out and chat some more with you guys, but I have to get up early to teach Sunday School at church tomorrow. Good Night.” Hmmmmm, okee-dokee.
    We made it through the rest of the weekend in Atlanta.
    Time to go home! We were ready to get this over with. We picked up Helga from her hotel and got on the road. Gary drove. I slept in the front passenger seat. Helga slept in the back. We drove and drove and drove. I woke up and noticed a lot of out of town license plates. I didn’t say anything. I went back to sleep. Finally, Gary said, “Do you remember having a stop light in the middle of the freeway on the way out here?” Well, no, I didn’t. What does that sign say over there? That sign said, “Welcome to Myrtle Beach!” That’s right! Gary had ingrained in his head to drive East the whole way out to Atlanta. He had forgotten to reprogram his head to go West to get home. We set back out to drive West. We never stopped driving. We hit drive-thrus, we got gas, we drove. More than 24 hours later we hit Longview Texas. If you haven’t been there, don’t bother. The car decided it needed a break, and broke. It just stopped. It was done. Some dude helped us push it into a gas station, but then we were still a good 2 ½ hours away from home. Gary did not have family in Texas. My whole family is there. HOWEVER, it was Labor Day weekend and they had all gone to San Antonio for vacation! So, Helga said, “I have AAA”. She had AAA come and tow the car to the nearest Chevrolet dealer, which just so happened to be closed for the holiday. Mr. Tow Truck dropped the car and us at the closed dealership and left. Gary found a pay phone, still no cellular, and called a friend of his to come get us. Labor Day, September, in Texas, is not known for the gentle cool breeze refreshing you as you sit and soak up some rays. Instead it is known for the blistering shoulders and scorched feet you get from sitting on a concrete outdoor “showroom” waiting for 3 hours while your friend arrives to rescue you.
    When Jeff arrived we were so relieved. Even though Jeff had no air conditioning in his car. That wind coming through the windows at 107 degrees…..well, at least the air was moving. In the right direction. We were going home.
    You might think the calamities end there but you would be wrong.
    When we got home we were supposed to go to the airport to pick up my family. We went to my parent’s house to pick up their cars. When I went inside the house is was hotter inside than it was outside which was well into the 100’s. I looked around and then I saw it. My dad had left the burner on the stove on. The wall next to the stove was black and was waving at me as I walked into the kitchen. I turned the stove off and prayed as I left the house that it would still be there when I came back with the family. Crisis averted.
    For those of you unfamiliar with Dallas there are 2 airports. The big one DFW and then there is Dallas Love Field, this is were Southwest Airlines flies out of. I knew my family was flying in on Southwest. So we go to Love Field and look at the flights. There is one CLOSE to the time I thought they were coming in on so it must have been it. That flight was delayed 20 minutes. Then that flight was delayed another 20 minutes. The flight finally arrived. No family got off. Gary asked to see the itinerary which I conveniently left in the car. We walked outside and got the paper that said American Airlines arriving about an hour earlier than what I thought, at DFW airport. Now when we arrived at Dallas Love Field Gary had been able to snag a free parking space. I had to go to the garage. I still had no cash. Gary gave me his last $5 to get out of the garage and we headed to DFW.
    Still no cell phones. Gary and I get separated driving to the correct airport. We are both paging each other inside. We drive around the airport for over an hour looking for each other and my family, who, by the way, had gone ahead and taken Super Shuttle home as they were tired of waiting. The airport is a toll road. You must pay to enter it no matter how long of a stay you make of it. I was fine in that I had Gary’s last $5. Gary on the other hand was not. When he finally gave up looking and got to the toll booth to leave, he was asked for $1.50. At which point Gary said, “I am driving my ______ sister-in-law’s _______ car with no ________ money in my ________ pockets and no ________ money in the _________ ash tray. Oh wait here is a _________ nickel. Take it and ______ open the _______ gate or I am going to ________ driving through it!” (Fill in the blanks with as many expletives and adjectives and four letter words as you can.) (Oh, yes, Gary was NOT saved at that time.) The poor kid looked scared to death! He opened the gate and let Gary out.
    Gary went home. He left my sister’s keys in her car in his driveway. He went to bed at that point. We had been awake and driving for almost 48 hours straight.
    I went to my parent’s house. Who were mad that we hadn’t picked them up. I cried. I fell asleep. Didn’t wake for 3 days. J
    Fun Times.
    Top that!

    • Danny says:

      Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. No further comments will be accepted on this blog. Ever.* Aundra just took things to a whole new level.


      *(just kidding. keep the comments coming. but you won’t top that.)

  4. Lauren Dyson says:

    Wow, when you asked for horror road trip stories, you never could even dream up the crazy story that Aundrea had!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I owe you!!! thank you for your trip to the wedding!! So happy you made it home. Wow you got me to read a blog again..

  1. By Blowouts and Banjo Music, part 1 | Connective Tissue on January 10, 2014 at 8:19 am

    […] Coming tomorrow: Amber Alerts, Apathetic Friends, and AAA. […]

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