Two weeks ago I took off on a Wednesday afternoon to go to Colorado, spend a day or two with my mom and sister, and then head back to Peabody. I do this as often as I can. Mother is 95 and still has a tale or two to tell. And as all five of my regular readers know, I don’t like to miss anything!
On this visit, my Mom’s sister, who is a couple of years younger and lives in Denver, and one of her sons also were coming to spend a couple of hours. I had not seen this particular cousin since he was about a seventh-grader back in the early 1960s. So I was anxious to get there. Our time together was great—it was wonderful to see them.
However, that is not the point of this week’s opinion column. The trip to Colorado is usually pretty easy and uneventful. As the youngest daughter, who lived in Ft. Collins for a number of years, used to say, “Oh, you just go to Salina and turn left. When you get to Denver, you turn right and pretty soon you are there!” Directions to my sister’s house are a smidge different and involve a “town” called Last Chance (and it is), but the part about turning left at Salina and traveling across Kansas is just about as standard as it can be.
This was the first time in all my years of making this trip (either with The Mister or on my own) that I had car trouble. And that is what I want to share with you. No wait, it is not the car trouble, it is the SUPERIOR service I got from businesses in Kansas towns along Interstate 70 that you need to know about.
I want to tell you this because U. S. 50 highway is not all that different from I-70 in terms of people needing services as they travel.
When I got to Salina and was ready to turn left and head for Denver, a caution light was flashing on my dash indicating low tire pressure. I pulled into a travel plaza and walked around the car, checking out the tires. They looked good to me. Did I have a tire gauge to check them? Who, me? What’s a tire gauge?
So I refilled my soda cup, headed out for the left turn to Denver, switched the information buttons to something other than “Tire pressure,” and kept on truckin’. Before too long I was approaching Russell and the soda from Salina was calling my name so I pulled off the Interstate at another travel plaza and took a break. Luckily I checked the tires before I took off again and guess what — the tire pressure gauge was right on. I had one tire that could not lose much more air.
Short cut here is that I headed into Russell proper hoping for a little grandpa-run station way off the Interstate that could fix my tire. As I was looking for such a place I passed Gene’s Tires right on the avenue into downtown. I wheeled in around 4:53, asked if they were still open, and they were—until 6 p.m. A nice young man with “Jason” stitched above his shirt pocket directed me to an open bay. Seventeen minutes and eleven dollars later I was headed back to the Interstate. The lady in the office said, “Yeah, we do get a lot of people off the Interstate. They tend to be in a panic—like you—but we can usually get them back on the road with no problem.”
Several hours later I pulled off on an exit ramp at Colby, planning to spend the night. There was some kind of roar under the car as I approached the stop sign at the end of the ramp. Aaarrrghhhh… now what? I pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot and looked at the undercarriage and tires. Bingo. A wheel-well liner had come undone and was hanging down, rubbing against the tire. Swell.
I drove to the Days Inn several hundred feet away, and after checking in asked the receptionist if she knew where I could get my problem fixed then or in the morning. Guess what she did? To be sure she knew what I was talking about she and I went out to the parking lot and she got down on her hands and knees and she felt around for the screws that were supposed to hold the wheel well liner in place. I told her she didn’t really need to do that. She said if she didn’t know for sure what the problem was, she wouldn’t know where to send me. Good thinking.
Back at the motel desk she hauled out a phone book and gave me names, addresses, phone numbers, hours, and directions to three auto repair businesses close to my parking space at the motel. In the morning I drove to the closest one, Taylor Motors. Shortly before 8 a.m. I walked in, told them what my problem was, and sat down to wait. The coffee in their reception area was just starting to perk. At 8:06 I ponied up $19.86 and was on my way.
From Colby I scuttled off to Limon, Colorado, and turned north on the 75-mile road to nowhere (except Last Chance) and arrived at my sister’s in time to spend an afternoon visiting with my mother, sister, aunt, and cousin—important events at this stage of my life.
That was only possible because of Jason, Michele, and the Taylor Motor boy whose name I didn’t get. So here is what I want to impart to my five regular readers and any other U. S. 50 highway merchant who might be perusing this column: guess where I am headed if I have a problem as I travel?
I am headed to the town that last made an impression on me because someone in some service industry made the difference between me enjoying an afternoon with my family and me being unable to get where I need to be.
— susan marshall