I actually said these words the other night, Labor Day night. Minutes before the miracle happened.
It had been an awesome! day at Knoebel's Grove with my wifey, and Kate & Jay. Kate and I headed for the coasters, Karen & Jay headed the other direction. What a scream... although the coasters of course have safety bars, Kate and her whopping 80 lbs. goes flying like a rocket when we hit the weightless rollers on the Phoenix, so I'm sure to keep her hugged pretty tight. Don't think she minds...
Karen & Jay went for the "vominator" rides that twist & twirl. Strange that they like them, but don't like coasters. Go figure. I'm not that wild about the vominators m'self, so I guess that all balances out.
Endured a couple little sprinkles during the day, but not a factor, and if anything the sprinkles held the crowds way down for Labor Day. Had a fabulous, even healthy, lunch (Knoebel's, by the way, is ranked as the #1 amusement park food in the USA), and a few tastes of their various treats too. We closed the place, staying longer than we had intended, and were out the gate at 7 p.m.
To anyone who hasn't been there, Knoebel's Grove, for all its charm & beauty, is in the center of the middle of nowhere. To get back to civilization, such as it is, leaving at 7 p.m. one drives through miles & miles of beautiful, darkening countryside. We were between two cornfields and starting down a hill, when I saw the first of many notifications. BATTERY NOT CHARGING was the first, followed shortly thereafter by loss of power steering, loss of power brakes SERVICE BRAKE BOOSTER, and my personal favorite ENGINE HIGH TEMP. There's really no way to ignore these notifications.
What could I do, really, but recite a few lines from Apollo 13 while I figured out the mess?
To cause this much drama all at once, it had to be the serpentine belt... odd since it wasn't all that old, but there really was no other explanation. An annoying problem was that there was no safe place to pull over to the side and ponder further, and even if I did pull over, what good was that going to do? We were who knows how far from what, I've got two kids who start school in the morning, I've got a job to work on in the morning, we've got to get home. So we soldiered on, maybe another mile or so.
Remember, this is Labor Day, about 7:30 p.m. Nothing is open except for amusement parks.
We round a bend and find ourselves in a little town.
And wouldn't you know, there on the right is an Auto Zone.
It is open. It has no big need to be open, and we have no right for it to be open, but open it is.
So I make a hard right (remember, no power steering) into their parking lot, coast into a parking stall (remember, no power brakes) and go inside to see if they have a serpentine belt for my truck. Of course I have almost no tools with me, but that's down on the list of concerns "There are 1,000 things that have to happen, in order, and we're on Number 8." I wait behind a guy who is buying brake pads, and then explain my tale of woe to the guy behind the counter. They do, in fact, have the belt... The AutoZone guy goes outside with me to see if we can determine the correct one (there are two, and they differ in length). He then notices that the belt tensioner pulley is a goner. He mentions that yes, they probably do have a pulley, and yes, he can recommend a mechanic in the morning and maybe a place to stay tonight. AZ guy says there's just too much junk to have to dig through to get to the pulley.
Nope, not acceptable. Must get home tonight. School in the morning.
Brake pad guy, who has been tagging along (this is about as exciting as it gets in rural PA on a Monday night, I guess) says he has a buddy who is a mechanic and lives just 2 blocks away. He tries calling his buddy, but no answer. Offers to go to his house and see if he's home. Goes. I figure there's slim chance we'll see brake pad guy again; the excitement storm has passed.
In the meantime, we start pulling out the AAA card, and start wondering how they're going to fit 4 people in a tow truck (they aren't), and start planning other contingencies, all centered around getting home TONIGHT.
To my surprise, minutes later, brake pad guy returns. His buddy isn't home. But brake pad guy (Steve, I come to find out), takes a look under the hood and says "This isn't hard at all. I've done a bunch of these myself. Two screws to lift the fan shroud out of the way. You gotta socket set?
I do indeed gotta socket set, and it has a screwdriver in it, too.
We set to work.
Sure enough, Steve is right on the button. It's two screws and a clip. Then a socket wrench to remove the destroyed pulley, go inside to buy a new belt & new pulley, install the pulley, route the new belt around all the gizmos. Start the truck. Vroom, vroom!
Needless to say, we bought Steve the pizza delivery guy from Buckhorn his brake pads with plenty left over for a nice dinner. All told, we were outta there in less time than it would've taken AAA to show up and a millionth the aggravation!
WHAT ARE THE ODDS that this thing is going to croak a mile from an auto parts store, on Labor Day night, and the store is open? With a guy in the store who is not only willing to help, but has done this exact thing in the past? That would take a minor miracle!
I was telling this story to a friend, and she said "Are you sure Steve was real?"
We'll always think of this as our Labor Day minor miracle.