20 Hours in America

West Wing fans will recognize the title of this SteveRogers.info blog post as the title of Season 4, Episode 1 (and 2), where Donna, Josh and Toby got stranded in Indiana.

Well that happened to me today.

For a little background, I left St. Louis on Monday for Milwaukee to see my sister.  On Tuesday, I went to Madison and back to Milwaukee to respectively see my uncle, the Madison state capital, and then go to the Brewers-Cardinals game with my sister and brother in law.  Wednesday I drove down to Chicago to spend a day with a friend from college, Rachel.  Today, I woke up left Chicago and headed east to Princeton.

Two hours into my trip, there was a truck in front of me towing some vehicle on a trailer.  A metal pipe or something similar bounced off the trailer.  I could not really avoid it, and was originally thankful it bounced under my car.  However, this pipe happened to puncture my gas tank, which I figured as my gas gauge went from quarter full to empty in five minutes.  I was able to get off the highway and to a gas station, with my gas light well lit.  My car wouldn’t start again after I had turned it off.

The gas station was not a service station, but there were some locals (who spent their mornings at the filling station) who looked under my car and confirmed there was a hole in the gas tank.

I apparently ended up somewhere in South Bend, Indiana.  Called AAA, and they had me call the fire department before they would allow a truck to tow the car.  So I called; explained the situation; and said I was at such and such gas station.  They asked if it was the one with the deli, and I said yes.  The firemen showed up, checked the car, said it was fine, and proceeded to eat lunch at the deli.

I made calls to AAA, State Farm, the parents, and then organized my notes (phone numbers, confirmation numbers, etc) from the day.  There were three girls working at the gas station/deli, and there were people who came in, chatted, continueing conversations from the previous day.  It was a bit of a scene out of the little farm town and everyone knew each other at this filling station.

3 minutes after I got food from the deli, the tow truck arrived.  The driver was very nice and said that things like this happened often.  On my way out of the gas station two of the girls working there wished me luck.  The tow truck driver hitched up my ’97 Honda Accord, and we drove off to Rick’s Auto Body Shop.

Rick’s was a small shop on Mayflower road with nothing nearby.  I got there and explained my situation, and we relatively quickly got everything approved with insurance for them to fix my car, which would be done by the next day at the earliest.  During this time, Rick himself (an elderly gentleman) came down and introduced himself.  The shop was run by a father (Rick) and son (Dan).   Again this place was classic Indiana it seemed, with a big ol’ bible quote on the wall, and Dan and Rick closing up shop by 4 to go fishing.

Using the shop’s computer and dial-up internet, I found Rachel’s parents’ home number using reverse white pages.  They welcomed me to stay with them while my car got fixed, and even offered to pick me up.  Now, I needed a car to get back to Chicago.  Dan then drove me to the South Bend airport, and we talked with one memorable quote  from Dan asking if Princeton was one of those Ivy Leagues (the farmer/Indiana accent/drawl made the quote).  He was a good guy, who was happy with his life, and looking forward to fishing with his dad and son.

I got dropped off at the airport, but the airport rental car places apparently could not process insurance claimed rental cars.  So Laura, the manager of Enterprise who was just getting off work, continued the trend of midwestern hospitality and drove me another local Enterprise.  During our drive, she pointed out the good restaurants and told me about her job.  She was very nice.  One we got to the other Enterprise, they set me up a car that is only costing me $15 a day.

I brought my GPS with me (I love that thing) and there was no good spot to mount in the car.  Cleverly (I thought it was very clever) I mounted the suction cup to the passenger side visor mirror.  I then made my way back to Chicago, and hung out with Rachel and her family for the rest of the night.

So today, I drove from Chicago to South Bend and back.  While it is annoying to have your gas tank get punctured at the beginning of a 13 hour drive back to Jersey.  I was thoroughly impressed with how smoothly AAA and insurance processed things.  Additionally, it is hard to get mad when you had friendly people at the local South Bend filling station; a patient and helpful tow truck driver; a father-son auto repair shop; a rental car manager who drives a customer to another location on her way home; and a welcoming (and fun) family in Chicago.

The Midwest is the best.

4 Responses to “20 Hours in America”

  1. Gotta love the Midwest. Sorry to hear about your troubles, but good luck with the rest of your trip back to Princeton. Come back with a plan to pay for college education for all, would you?

  2. Greg Mahall says:

    If this happens in Georgia and you hear banjos in the background …. RUN. Ned Beatty has never been the same.

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