Dark, luminous clouds hung low over the large mountain we were slowly making our way over. A crack of lightening. Then two. I looked at my dash board to see the temperature gauge rising toward the red. Really?! I thought exasperatingly. It was the one section of the drive with miles and miles of nothing but the shoulder of the highway to pull onto. Reluctantly, I pulled over and turned off the car. I had not expected it to overheat so quickly, thinking I would at least make it to I-26. I looked at my phone. No reception. Why is this happening?! I asked no one in particular. As I stepped out of the car, the rain began to fall. Ok, now take a moment to imagine this. There I was, alone (not one car passed me the entire time), two kids-- one crying, the other yelling "DON'T WORRY GABRIEL!!"-- no reception, one weak little arm holding up the hood (it got very heavy after awhile) while the other fumbled clumsily with the hot cap (that will shoot up at you if you're not careful). Meanwhile, the scariest lightening storm I'd ever seen was taking place right over me. Being evening, in the mountains, with a storm, it was quite dark out and I could barely see where I was pouring the water. I just hoped that at least most of it was making it's way into my radiator (unfortunately, I had no funnel). As I poured, I let myself cry for just a moment. I knew I would accomplish nothing by breaking down (no pun intended), but I was pretty terrified. I have always owned old cars, and I've been in many a sketchy situation because of that, but Aaron has always been with me. Being alone, with two little ones to look out for, paints a very different picture. Alas, 15 very frightening minutes later, I started the car and hoped to at least make it to a gas station.
We did in fact make it to a gas station after driving in blinding rain, too afraid to pull over for fear of over heating again (this time without water in my trunk), or getting hit by someone (you really couldn't see a thing in that rain). The whole drive morbid headlines flashed in my head. "WOMAN AND TWO SONS FOUND DEAD IN DITCH" was one of them. By the time we made it to the gas station it was almost 10:00 p.m. and all three of us were tired and emotional. I took the boys out of the car and ran through the rain as fast as we could into the gas station. Lugging Gabriel in his car seat and trying to keep Aiden close, I was feeling rather fragile and quite vulnerable at this point. I caught the cashier giving me concerned looks as I searched for coolant in my frazzled state. He was a rough looking character covered in tattoos and piercings, with bleached hair and chipped teeth.
"How are you doing, ma'am?" He asked, as I dug through my purse for my wallet to pay. Instead of the generic, "I'm fine, and you?" that should have followed, tears welled up in my eyes and I began to cry. He seemed genuinely concerned and asked if everything was ok. I told him I simply had a bad day and then was having car trouble. He nodded and proceeded to tell me he was having a bad day too. His son was in the hospital and he couldn't be there. It was the son he didn't get to see very much. Even though he was paying $700 a week, the boy's mother would not allow him to visit often. He then offered to get someone to cover for him so he could help me. "No, no, I'm fine." I said politely, hoping he would insist. He didn't. Needless to say, I left feeling much more sorry for him than myself. At least my crappy situation would be over soon.
I only made it about 20 minutes before the car over heated again. I have to admit, I could have called AAA at this point, but as long as I was making it to gas stations I didn't want to wait an hour for a tow truck only to have to ride next to a complete stranger as my infant screamed in the back seat. Plus I was only about 20 more minutes from home. I pulled into the gas station, and a sweet girl who worked there brought me a bucket of water out to my car so that I didn't have to unload the boys again. After she returned to her post and I stood there wondering how I was going to manage pouring a bucket of water with one hand (remember I was having to hold the hood up with my other) another tattooed, pierced, and bleached haired gentleman approached me and offered to help. That time, I graciously accepted.
"Wow, you've done this before!" He said while holding the hood for me, sounding quite impressed with my ability to pour the water right into the small opening. I just smiled. Yes, yes I had. He then told me that I should pour black pepper into my radiator. That it would block that crack right up. Good as new. Old farmer's trick, he said. I thanked him and we went on our merry way. That time sure I would make it home before over heating again.
And I did!