Expect the Unexpected

Launching a business isn’t easy. There’s a lot of planning to do, and invariably some unforeseen event will occur that derails your schedule. Today’s post is about just such an event.

It came in the form of a rock in the middle of a winding road in the mountains of western Utah, on a cold, snowy day. I was driving my Mini Cooper, affectionately known as Little Fiona, from San Francisco to Cincinnati on US 50, when I rounded a bend in a falling rock zone and struck the rock. It clanged around, and I was pretty sure some harm had occurred, but there was nowhere to pull over. No warning lights came on, so I was beginning to feel like I had come through it OK, for about 15 miles. Suddenly, the engine oil warning light flashed red, but it was another 5 miles or so before I found anywhere to pull over. The smell of burning oil was pretty bad, and the car manual said to stop immediately and get help. Well, that’s easier said than done on US 50, which is called the Loneliest Highway for good reason. On the straight stretches, you can see 30 miles ahead and 30 miles behind, with not a car in sight in either direction. Need to check your map? Just stop the car in the middle of the highway, nobody will come along for a while. Forget about cellphone service, too.

I got lucky, however. Within less than 10 minutes of my stopping, a Utah Dept. of Transportation snowplow came chugging along. I flagged it down, and the driver graciously agreed to turn around, go back to high ground and call his dispatcher for a tow truck. After about 90 minutes, along came the tow truck. During that waiting period, maybe 10 cars had passed in either direction. Anyway, the tow truck took Little Fiona, me, and my two cats to the nearest town, Delta, which was about 50 miles up the road. It being a Sunday, there was nothing to do but check into a motel and wait for Monday to get the car checked out. If you’ve never been to Delta, Utah, it’s very much like the kind of town described in a Jack Reacher novel, except there’s no 24-hour diner, and people are too nice to try to run you out of town. Other than that, it’s a hardscrabble town about 35 miles beyond the middle of nowhere.

The next morning, my insurance company, USAA, arranged to have Little Fiona and me towed to a body shop in Provo, about 100 miles north, where the damage could be appraised and repaired. USAA also put me in a rental, so I could get back on the road. It was a couple of days before Thanksgiving, and my original plan had called for me to be home the day before Thanksgiving. Now it looked like the day after was more likely. As it turns out, I made it home as the family was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner! And Little Fiona just needed a new oil pan, and showed up a few days later on the back of a car carrier.

A few words about the scenery, before I go. From the Pacific Ocean to Denver, this country is spectacularly beautiful. I took US 50 from Sacramento, crossing over the Sierras and passing along south Lake Tahoe, which is impossibly blue (and huge). Then US 50 took me across the mountainous terrain of northern Nevada, into Utah. From there I drove I-70 across north-central Utah, and words can’t do it justice. The rock formations of Capitol Reef National Park are amazing, particularly so in wintertime, with snowy accents. Then I crossed the Rockies and dropped down into Denver, and that too is quite beautiful. The drive through eastern Colorado and across Kansas, on the other hand, are mind-numbingly flat and dull. The only way to stay awake is to count the massive windmills. Even that doesn’t help. All I can advise is, stop frequently and drink lots of coffee.