Some of you might know the reference if you’re fans of the National Lampoon movies with Chevy Chase. You know the ones, where things always seem to go wrong on their trips? I swear, that’s my travel mojo lately, with lost luggage, plane delays and now, on our epic drive from Maryland to North Dakota…our truck breaking down.

Our trip started out fine, we got on the road by 7am and by 8am Brianna had only asked “are we at the hotel yet” twice (and again a bazillion times after that throughout the day). But about 5 or 6 hours into our trip, we had a noise. I was the first one to hear it, Josh thought it was just the road but…sadly no. It was an unwelcome kind of grinding noise. That came and went. With no discernible rhyme or reason. We stopped, we looked. Josh is pretty car savvy but he was stumped. We drove in circles. We braked and accelerated. We turned the 4 wheel drive on and off. We called my father-in-law who’s also car savvy. He was stumped. The noise came, it went, it got worse, it got better. We drove through rain and then snow and then rain and then perfectly clear skies. We went through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. We decided to drive past Chicago so we wouldn’t have to battle rush hour traffic in the morning. Josh said we were stopping at 10pm (Eastern time) no matter where we were, to get Brianna out of the car.

So we got to Chicago around 9:30 Eastern time (Chicago is central but we were still operating on Eastern time). I Twittered how pretty Chicago is at night and how much I love Chicago (I really do, it’s one of my favorite towns) and that I wished we were visiting. We drove through Chicago and…oh boy. The noise got worse. The car started pulling and then…things got worse, and worse. As much as I love Chicago, I also know there are some parts you just don’t want to be in at any time of day, but especially night. That makes knowing where to stop when you HAVE NO CHOICE really hard. I spotted a Walgreens/Best Buy just off the interstate and ordered (yes, I really did) Josh to take that exit so we could “break down” in that parking lot. And that’s exactly what we did. Right around 10pm (please see Josh’s statement in above paragraph. I blame him. Even if I was the one who Twittered I wished I was visiting Chicago.)

This is where we’re lucky. 1) we made it to somewhere well lit, out of harms way and 2) with a bathroom (important when you have a toddler.) 3) we have AAA so we knew we had options. 4) Aren’t on a timetable so had time to make decisions 5) got an incredibly awesome taxi driver. Having traveled the world and gotten a variety of taxi drivers, some just plain horrible and unfriendly, the fact that we got such a helpful, kind taxi driver in the middle of Chicago was truly a blessing. 6) were able to leave the truck in the parking lot overnight until 7)the ONLY Ford service center within miles that we just happened to be very close to opened in the morning and 8)we found a hotel room at a clean, comfortable hotel (albeit one that had no working heat in our room and a car alarm that went off outside FIVE times–but who was counting–at 5am. And they did switch us to a new room at 6am when we asked. A very nice, warm room with a view of Borders:P)

But our luck doesn’t stop there. Josh was able to get back and meet the AAA tow truck by about 8am and get the truck to the service center. The tow truck driver also mentioned how it was the only Ford service center in miles because everything else has shut down. In fact, it’s only a mile from our hotel so Josh was able to walk back. It’s now 10:20 and they called about 40 minutes ago to let us know the problem was already diagnosed and should be fixed by 1pm. They didn’t have the part, but found one an hour and a half away and had already sent someone for it. Wow! And it’s all only costing just over $500. I say “only” because we were expecting it to be something much more expensive and at least $1000, plus possibly more hotel and car rental costs, with a longer fix time. In the end, it turns out the right rear emergency brake lost a shoe that kept getting wedged/unwedged and finally wedged, causing the bad noises and undriveability.

So hopefully we’ll be back on our way sometime this afternoon. We won’t make it today (tomorrow sometime), but honestly, there are so many things that could have gone so much more horribly wrong that I’m okay with all this. I really think in the end we have been lucky with how it’s all worked out. And hey! I’m in Chicago. In a really cute, nice part of town. With a Lush store only a mile away. Clearly my guardian angel knows how to make me smile after all.

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