Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Trip, Trials, Travails and Most Importantly Tender Mercies, Thanksgiving 2011

(This is Dad's journal entry of our trip to Vegas. I've added highlight photos at the end. I have no idea how to make them jive with the comments, but I'm sure/I hope you can make the connections.)

We had been looking forward to the visit with the Las Vegas Hassells and the blessing of Henry Pierre Hassell. The planning had gone on for some time and the van was also prepared, the oil was changed and all the fluids topped off, tires rotated and all things made ready for the journey. Loaded with a lot of Christmas stuff and ourselves we embarked on our journey at 4 AM Wednesday the 23rd with much anticipation of the events to come.



Little did we realize that some of the “events to come” were not the ones we had planned for though we had preparation that we had not realized.

Our desire to leave early was motivated by wanting to see Sami and Lily before they went to bed. We had figured on a 13 hour journey based on our return from Las Vegas the past Christmas. With XM radio and pleasant conversation in the air we journeyed south. The traffic was pretty thick and slowed our times considerably .

When we filled the gas tank at Dunnigan I thought I heard a small noise in the engine but when we headed back on the freeway the noise went away and I settled into a false sense of security. Three hundred miles or so later we gassed again at Button Willow just outside of Bakersfield where we were to turn off to Bartsow and then on to Las Vegas.

At this gassing the noise was more ominous and I tried to get a sense of what was wrong by pouring a little water on the serpentine belt as that was a good test to see if the noise was related to that part. The water seemed to quiet the noise and we departed thinking or was that hoping to arrive at our destination without further incident. Though our prayers had been directed for several days prior to the trip for a smooth journey we were soon to learn that they would be answered but ways we would not have considered.

About ten miles west of Barstow we heard a now more serious noise in the engine compartment as something exploded apart. Pulling over to the side of the road I looked under the hood and found parts of the serpentine belt lying around the engine though what remained of the belt was still performing its primary function.

I had much earlier put a spare belt in the engine compartment for just that reason, so with the tools which I had and the extra belt in hand I began the repair. When I heard a voice behind me I looked up and saw a state trooper looking over our situation. When he inquired of our circumstance I told I had tools and a spare belt and all would be fine. He said if things didn’t work out well to call 911 and request a tow truck. I told him all was in good shape and we would be back on the road in a few minutes. Had I really understood what had happened I would have taken him up on his offer, but thinking all was well I proceeded to make the repair.

About ten miles west of Barstow we heard a now more serious noise in the engine compartment as something exploded apart. Pulling over to the side of the road I looked under the hood and found parts of the serpentine belt lying around the engine though what remained of the belt was still performing its primary function.

About ten miles west of Barstow we heard a now more serious noise in the engine compartment as something exploded apart. Pulling over to the side of the road I looked under the hood and found parts of the serpentine belt lying around the engine though what remained of the belt was still performing its primary function.

I had much earlier put a spare belt in the engine compartment for just that reason so with the tools which I had and the extra belt in hand I began the repair. When I heard a voice behind me I looked up and saw a state trooper looking over our situation. When he inquired of our circumstance I told I had tools and a spare belt and all would be fine. He said if things didn’t work out well to call 911 and request a tow truck. I told him all was in good shape and we would be back on the road in a few minutes. Had I really understood what had happened I would have taken him up on his offer, but thinking all was well I proceeded to make the repair.

When I placed the new belt on the respective pulleys I noticed the pulley on the belt tensioner assembly wasn’t what I remembered it to be, but not thinking it to be of too great a concern I finished my task, started the motor to check the work, dropped the hood and off we headed for Barstow, with me patting myself on the back for be so resourceful, and also grateful it was not a major repair and that it didn’t have to be done in the dark.

As we approached Barstow once again we heard the now too familiar noise of something going awry under the hood. Pulling into town we pulled over and checking the belt, found it was hot and had melted most of the rubber off the underside. When Mom had heard the second destruction of the belt she suggested that perhaps we ought to find what was causing the belt to disintegrate. We found a part place and stopped. I went in and purchased a new belt but when I had removed the other belt I realized the bearing on the pulley (which had fragmented outside of Barstow earlier) on the tensioner had frozen and the belt we had put on earlier had simply worn itself out passing over that immoveable surface. Now we were in the serious trouble I had just earlier congratulated myself for avoiding. I rushed into the part store and asked the manager where a Chevrolet dealership was, thinking they would be the only one carrying the needed tensioner. He said the nearest dealership was 30 minutes away. The thought of spending Thanksgiving Day in Barstow was depressing because without the van we were pretty much stuck until another part could be found. When the manager asked what I needed and I told him, his words were pure gold, “We have one of those” and he promptly presented it. At first I thought it wasn’t the right one, but after removing the troublemaker and comparing I realized it was the right one and all of a sudden our future for the next day had been returned to what we originally set out to do.


(The offending part and the repair battle scars.)
By the end of the hour (and in the dark) I was able to clean off the melted rubber on the pulleys and place the new belt on the engine. After a brief test firing to see that all was functioning we headed off the Las Vegas and Zach, Tara and family.
That was the Trials and Travails of our experience, but now the Tender Mercies began to wash over us as we realized how our prayers had been answered.

Not taking time to test the bearing on the tensioner just to find out how bad our situation really was allowed us in our “blessed” ignorance to put on the other belt and head toward the place where we could actually find the necessary parts to make a permanent repair and continue our journey.

The fact the belt survived its tortuous existence long enough to allow us to make it to safety is another Tender Mercy. The fact the much needed part was available when and where we needed it was another.

The several days that followed I was immersed in the magnitude of what had happened to us. The Lord who is always aware of our needs. He was certainly aware of ours, knew how limited we were and provided a way that we were able to continue on. Gratitude for that event has colored our prayers personal and together. Our trip and the days since have truly been a time of "thanks giving"!

Other highlights of our trip:



Lily would only warm up enough to smile at us, but she loves her books almost as much as she loves her parents!

Sami, on the other hand, was ready to roll!

Meeting Henry.

What is Thanksgiving without olives?

Red Rock Canyon. Brett says he spent a couple of p days there.


Motor Trend Car Show. Sami wanted to try out every car.

We went to the Berllagio but Dad didn't get any pictures so I had to steal this off Tara's dad's Facebook page.


Henry's blessing. Definitely a highlight!

2 comments:

PaulaJean said...

Thanks for sharing. It is interesting to see when we look back how we have been protected in our trials, and it all could have been much worse!

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