Its funny how a year prior when we decided to go to California, I was adamant that we would only be there a year and then return straight back to Wisconsin. While we were in California, working at camp and exploring the beautiful coast, God began to change my heart and allowed me to truly consider staying in California for longer.
Towards the end of the summer, Brandon and I had decided that we were going to stay in California. We were both really excited for the change in our plans. However, as time went on, we also thought more long term about our goals.
A huge weight at the time was our financial standing. We were fortunate enough to work at a place that really did try to go above and beyond in providing for their workers. Even with that, we had accrued a lot of debt from school and our wedding and we just weren’t sitting pretty with our finances.
We also began to talk about our dreams of having a family. We both agree that we would like to start a family in the next couple of years and our financial status would make it really hard…… and living in a trailer would too……
When Brandon’s parents came to visit us in November, we talked with them about our plans to stay another year but also about our struggles of the current time. For a while Kim and Mike have let us know that we are always welcome to stay with them for a short amount of time if needed. Six months was kind of the understood amount of time (but we also knew that they would never push us out and that six months was not the magic amount of time. If we needed more we could have it.)
There really wasn’t much if any prompting on our end to prompt Kim to give us this reminder. And when she did, we didn’t really say anything in return, but both of us started to consider it.
Just after Mike and Kim left, Brandon asked me if I had heard what Kim had said and if I had any thoughts on it. I had actually spent a decent amount of time thinking about it and told Brandon about it. We agreed to consider it a little further and see what we would decide.
Being late November, we didn’t have a lot of time to make a decision (sound familiar……) as our season and contracts would end in mid December.
After a lot of wrestling around with our options, we finally decided to move in with Mike and Kim to pursue other positions that would allow us to pay off our debt more quickly as well as bring starting a family into the more near future.
Our departure date was a little sticky as we began to plan our departure. The final groups of the season weren’t the best about getting us their hard numbers and so we were caught in between being able to leave the weekend before Christmas or only five days before Christmas. This wasn’t ideal in terms of driving from California to Kansas and then Kansas to Wisconsin to see my family in time for Christmas. Thankfully, we had an amazing supervisory staff at camp that really did everything they could to help us leave a little early to optimize our time with family.
We ended up leaving camp Saturday, December 17th after I had breakfast with a friend from camp. *** Sidenote, we went to Howard’s Cafe in Occidental, CA and if you are ever in the area you NEED to go there. That’s right, I said NEED, as in, you will sorely miss out if you don’t go.
Reminiscing on our car troubles the year before on our way out to California, but also considering how great our car had recently been doing, we didn’t really know what to expect for this trip. We prayed HARD over the car, that with less stuff packed in and on the car (we sent boxes ahead this time and didn’t use the hitch basket at all) that the car would make it all the way with no problems.
The first day we drove south to just north of LA and over to Arizona. We hadn’t booked a hotel for the night because we wanted to just play the trip by ear. We had some extra wiggle room with the extra days we gained from leaving early.
Brandon kept exclaiming how amazingly the car was running. We werent low on power like we had experience a year prior, we didn’t have any weird smells coming from the car, and we were making speed with no problems. It really was amazing how well the car was running and we just kept thanking God.
Brandon being a super husband again drove for this ENTIRE trip. He is such a trooper! Anyways, every couple of hours I would check in with him to see how he was doing and if he wanted to trade and have me drive for a while. We ended up driving well over 10 hours that first day and finally stopped because I wasn’t feeling super well and desperately needed sleep laying in a bed and not sitting in the car.
We stopped in Seligman, AZ, which looked legitimately like the town from Cars. Fun fact, Seligman boasts to be the birthplace of historic Route 66. It was a really cool little town to end up in.
Day two we departed from Seligman, AZ and headed off for Hays, KS. We discussed adding one more night in a hotel between Seligman and Hays, but we wanted to see how far we could push it. We really were not excited about being in the car for another full day and decided to do what we did the night before and get as far as we could, and hopefully all the way to Hays. Upon departing we prayed over the car again and were pleased that it was still running beautifully.
In true Chappell travel fashion, we hit some trouble coming through New Mexico (one of my least favorite states…… but that’s a story for another time). We had just stopped for some lunch and came back to the car to get gas. Brandon went to crank the car and….. Nothing. My heart immediately began to race. I had become all too familiar with the disappointing silence of our car.
Feeling like it could be the fuse that we had had trouble with before– and thankfully having extras in the car for this exact reason– Brandon switched the fuse. We cranked the car again and…… still nothing.
The brand new fuse had popped as well, just like the first one. We had not experienced this before.
Next up would be walking to the Auto Zone down the road (thank God that there was one really close.) We bought some new fuses and talked to the workers there to see if they had any other thoughts or suggestions.
When we switched the new fuses in, each one popped, just as the one before it did.
We were stuck….. Again!
Thankfully, we were also in a parking lot next to a hotel. We weren’t thrilled about leaving the car out of sight but we were also not willing to tow the car to the next lot. We attempted to push the car but that was a definite no go.
Over the course of the night, we looked into our options. Mike and Kim were 10 hours from us and if we absolutely had to, Mike could tow the Tucson with his truck. But we didnt want to make them drive out to get us. We started looking into garages in the area that could help us out on Monday (since it was Sunday…. Has anyone else notice that we always seem to break down on a sunday?)
We were able to tow our car over the the hotel parking lot (right outside our window) with the help of the hotel worker’s family. That at least made us feel a little better about all of our valuable things being left in the car– we had packed it so well this time with the help of our friends Jordyn and Josh that there was no easy way to get the tv and electronics out of the car.
The next day we called the USAA to have the car towed to a garage. Brandon had found a garage really close but wasn’t thrilled that it didn’t have great reviews. He had tried to call another place that had really good reviews, specifically from families that had car troubles while traveling cross country, but didn’t get an answer. While waiting for the tow truck he tried again and had the call answered. We were able to switch the drop off destination to this other garage with better reviews.
We arrived to this one bay garage with one person working. He was an extremely nice man and got to work on our car right away. Within a short amount of time, maybe 20 minutes, he had brought our car on and off the lift about four times. BUT, he had found the problem (pictured below.)
A socket had been dropped into the hood of our car (probably from one of the previous times we had the car serviced) and had wiggled all the way down to the starter. The metal connections were shorting out the fuse and not allowing the car to start. The mechanic made it very clear how lucky we were, that if the socket had been just a couple millimeters to the side, our car could have started on fire while driving on the freeway.
Our car… could have started on FIRE!…..
Brandon and I could not stop thanking God for his provision and protection. This whole time we were worried that the car was going to stop working and thinking about how much of a pain it is to get the car fixed. But if the car had not stopped working and we had not been in to see this amazing mechanic, we may have been seriously injured.
God heard our prayers through the whole trip and protected us from some truly devastating events. We were also reminded to slow down and not be so concerned about timing– timing in making it to Kansas and then off to Wisconsin– our families would understand if we wouldn’t have been able to leave camp until just a few days before Christmas. They would understand if we had less time to spend with them– it’s better than no time at all.
It’s kind of funny to reflect back on our travels in the past year, both from Wisconsin to California and from California to Kansas and think about all the adventures that we have had just in terms of our road travel. They sure do add to the stories and the memories.