Friday, September 10, 2010

An American Exile: Defeat

From Devil’s Lake we continued west along US 2 to Minot. We were soggy from the rain and half our stuff was strewn across the back of the van in a useless effort to try and dry out. The trip was gloomy with dark clouds and more rain and the high humidity made everything we touched damp.

Once we reached town, we headed for Ron’s Transmission & Auto Repair. The shop was a dingy, greasy garage that was strewn with cars, parts and dirty equipment. Ron was a quiet sort who jumped right in to our problem with concern. He had Pam start the car and pulled out the transmission stick. He touched the stick with his left forefinger and thumb, rubbed them together and mumbled something about the fluid. He smelled the fluid, rubbed some more on his fingers, smelled, rubbed…I’m not sure but think he might have tasted it too. Anyway, after a pretty careful deliberation he blurted out: “yup, it’s burnt all right!” I stared at the sharply bent brim of his cap hoping to get a glimpse of his eyes…hoping for some clue that this wasn’t a big deal and we could continue on our trip. Sadly, all I got was that the transmission was definitely going to “go” at some point, could be ten miles, could be ten thousand miles but it was definitely going to “go” at some point. He suggested that we fill the transmission up with fresh fluid (it was low from our little incident) and hope for the best. While he performed this task, Pam and I both used the bathroom, trying desperately not to touch ANYTHING.

Later, we found little solace at Buffalo Wild Wings, one of our favorite spots to stop. We could feel the defeat and that feeling ran deep. Pam and I sat there solemnly eating hot wings and trying to figure out what we were going to do. We were both really edgy at this point. A week of traveling with what seemed like no ups and mostly downs, contending with the elements, and putting up with each other. With all that had been going on, this seemed almost like too much to bear. We were beaten and still waiting for the other shoe to drop. We decided to head in the direction of home, knowing that we could not return to the place we were staying for two more weeks, knowing that our transmission could seize up at any minute. Given our situation, we did the only thing we could do at that moment and headed back towards Michigan hoping that the minivan would make it. It was almost as if we were being forced back to the very thing we were running from in the first place. We limped back towards home knowing that there was no home.

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