Day 29 – Truck Trouble

Sean’s Journal: Today I traveled across the plains and farmlands of western Kansas and eastern Colorado. The driving was sometimes tedious, but because the road is straight, I had excellent opportunities to (1) speak with my dad about our reunion as a family and (2) succinctly summarize what I have learned on my cross-country journey. I scribbled very rough notes on a yellow notepad, then stopped periodically to summarize what I had written. My goal is to reach the Loveland, Colorado, area before too late in the evening to camp in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Tomorrow, I’ll drive the winding mountain road to the summit point of Rocky Mountain National Park and then back down through the gorgeous mountain country of Colorado and on to my beloved Utah.

Truck Trouble. My older Ford truck has hummed along reliably for many, many miles, but today it happened. I suddenly noticed that the temperature gauge on my instrument panel was showing “hot.” I took the next exit just a few miles east of the small town of Oakley, Kansas. I parked safely on the frontage road. There was steam coming from the driver’s side wheel well. I got out of the truck to stretch and to decide what to do next. There was radiator coolant on the ground under the engine. I checked the radiator and heater hoses, no leaks. I figured the problem was the water pump. Our family has a road assistance contract with the “Good Sam Club” and I knew I could call them. My phone still had bars.

New Citizen – New Friend. Something told me to just take a lunch break and to watch to see if anybody might come along who could help. I munched a sandwich, ate my apple for the day, and had some chocolate. It was probably just ten minutes until a man in a pick-up truck showed up. He slowed down and pulled over just ahead of my truck and walked back to me as I sat on the tailgate. I hopped down as he said hello and offered to shake hands. He was very pleasant and had a mild accent that I recognized as representing some part of Asia, perhaps India. My new friend who arrived from out of nowhere told me that he was originally from Indonesia and is a newly naturalized US citizen. He now lives in another small town nearby where he helps his brother to manage a convenience store. He looked under the hood of my truck and could see the liquid on the ground under the engine. He agreed with my diagnosis about the water pump. He said he had a tow rope and could pull me slowly along the frontage road to Oakley where there is good mechanic. 

Hooray – Rebuilt Water Pump. So, off we went. We arrived at a gas station and convenience store. My friend introduced me to the store manager who is also the mechanic. After examining my truck, he told me that he had good news. Fortunately, as I happen to be driving a “good ole” Ford, he knew he could get a rebuilt water pump quickly and I’d soon be on my way. I was the recipient of some “Good Samaritan-ship” combined with rural Kansas hospitality. About an an hour later, the mechanic produced a rebuilt pump that looked shiny new. The cost was very reasonable, and my truck was soon ready for the road. I thanked the mechanic and my friend, the enthusiastic, new American. He also gave me directions to a couple of tourist sites in the area: the Fick Fossil & History Museum and the Buffalo Bill Sculpture. He insisted that he buy me a Coke. We shook hands and I was on my way.

The rest of my Kansas-Colorado drive was a bit boring, but uneventful and therefore pleasant. Quite frankly, there’s not a lot to see “on the plains.” My truck is running great. I found a cool campground near Loveland as planned. It was later in the evening, but that’s okay. I look forward to my drive up and over the Rockies tomorrow morning.

Chat with Dad. As a final note, my dad and I do have a schedule for my homecoming. I’ll spend time with him and my sisters and reconnect with other special family and friends in Juniper. Next, I am anxious to spend some time with Vince and Marie. After I get re-settled, I’ll ask Ellen to meet me in Salt Lake City or Twin Falls to talk about whatever we feel like talking about. My adult life is underway with many exciting decisions ahead. 

Vince’s Response: I was wondering when your truck might get the hiccups or show signs of arthritis. I’m glad it happened as it did, and I am grateful for those two fellows in Kansas who were so helpful. See you soon.

Bookends: (1) Always pay attention to the temperature gauges of life. (2) The Rockies are great. (3) The plains are mainly plain, but good folks live there, I know. (4) Watch those mountain curves.