After three fun filled days in Midland, it was time to head home again. Jessica spent the entire morning loading the car like it was a giant game of Tetris. She tried all kinds of combinations of all of our items trying to find the best fit. This was a difficult feat because of the hazards of traveling with a 1, 2, 3, and 5 year old. Questions like these must remain in the forefront of your mind:
Can both kids reach their basket of DVDs easily enough to not necessitate a stop every 30-45 minutes to switch movies for them???
Is there anything in between the little girls that they are going to have a "Mine....No Mine!!!" war over???
Will every single person in the car have an adequate amount of junk food accessible to them at all times???
In hindsight, it becomes apparent that the questions that we should have been asking were:
How does the tread look on that front tire???
How easy is it to access the spare tire once you pile 3 suitcases, 2 pack and plays, two strollers, and three fans on top of it???
Do you have the number for Triple A on speed dial???
So, we were about an hour and at half down the road feeling pretty impressed with ourselves for having 4 happy (albeit sugar laden) kids in tow. We stopped for a bathroom break and had to stop once more while still on the access road to fix G's unplugged DVD player. When Jess opened her door we heard an ominous hissing sound coming from the front of the car. Trying to remain unrealistically optimistic, Jess went back to take care of Grant. By the time she came back to the front, the tire was completely flat. She didn't even have to tell me, she just stood by the window and started crying. What's the big deal???? It's not like we are over 200 miles from home with our 4 kids in 100 degree heat. Perhaps what was really causing her distress was the miles of barbed and razor wire that was about 100 yards from us fencing in the state prison that we were now stranded right in front of!!!!!
I decided that we could totally change the tire by ourselves. I have watched Todd change three tires for us in the past several months and he made it look manageable, really sweaty, but doable. Jessica was totally appalled that I wanted to try. She said that she wouldn't trust a tire that we put on to travel even one mile, much less hundreds. My next plan was to walk back to the gas station about half a mile back down the access road. She said, "Absolutely not....you have a child!!!!" Jess was certain that I would be abducted or become the victim of a hit and run if I tried to walk back. I am really glad that I didn't try to defy her because I hadn't really thought through the logistics of getting someone to help us. Was I going to beg for help and then jump in the car with a stranger to get back to my stranded family? Not a good plan. We called roadside assistance and were assured that they would be there to save us.....in just 90 minutes!!!
So we started counting down, but a mere 15 minutes into our wait, salvation arrived in the form of three state prison guards!! Sgt. Iglehart (who we later came to know more intimately as Wendell), Sgt. Hernandez, and Sgt. No Nametag. Due to an injury, Wendell only got to supervise while Sgt. Hernandez and his equally amazing friend completely rescued us. They may have been less impressed with Jessica's Tetris skills when they opened the back hatch and 2 fans and a stroller came tumbling down on them. They never complained though and they were so encouraging the whole time.
The big kids were content watching their movies, but the girls wanted to get out and play. Since their strollers were already out of the car (sorry Sergeants), they crawled into them. It was crazy hot/sunny, so we had to bust out some sunscreen. It was pretty hilarious, like we were getting ready to head to the park or something.
Sgt. Hernandez told us that the other front tire looked suspiciously close to blowing out too and suggested that we get it replaced too. Wendell to the rescue. He told us that he would lead us to Matlock's Tire Shop a couple miles down the road. He said we could trust that "them's good people" since they were his kinfolk.
So we arrived at Matlock's and unloaded our kids. Luckily there was a playroom in the waiting room. By playroom, I really mean that there was a cage with carpeted floors and walls covered in toys, trash, and papers. It was the strangest thing that I have ever seen. I was glad that it didn't have one of those signs that you see at Chick Fil A that tells you when the play area was last cleaned. It was easier letting Laney play in there without having confirmation that a cleaning had not happened anytime in the 21st century. The kids could have cared less. They loved being out of the car and surrounded by toys! We were so grateful for Wendell and his kinfolk too. About 2 hours after our flat, we were all set to get back on the road and head for home. Even with the added hours, we made it home with happy kids. Laney did start to melt down about 20 minutes from home, but at that point, who could really blame her.