American Heirlooms - January 2019




“That’s it,” I remember thinking. “This bus is dead.”

Bethany and I had loaded up our three sons and two daughters into my brother’s minibus- turned-RV, and away we went on our 15- hour trek to central Illinois to visit Bethany’s family. Hours later, in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, we heard an explosion coming from the vehicle’s engine. Immediately, I began thinking the worst — imagining the bus being towed and spending days with sleepy, upset children while we waited for repairs. Nervously, I monitored pressure gauges and other engine vitals as I coaxed the bus into the nearest truck stop. In an effort to get some answers, I checked the oil dipstick, only to find that it was bone dry. Aha! Thinking this was a problem we must solve immediately, I dumped an entire gallon of oil down the fill tube. Much to my confusion, though, instead of flowing smoothly into the engine, it immediately reappeared, spilled on the concrete below the bus. What is this!? A “helpful” truck driver passing by assured me that “When they’re like this, it’s really bad.” Thanks! While Bethany and I tried to calm our exasperated children demanding to go to Grandpa’s, I texted Winfred (my brother) to let him know his bus was a goner. To my surprise, he wasn’t as quick to write a death certificate for the bus. “It’s okay,” he texted back. “You just have to take off

the engine cover below the dash, reach in, and re-fasten the hose — this has happened before. You also need to stuff some aluminum foil into the port where the oil fill tube is supposed to go.” Relieved that it may be a simple fix, I shifted gears from a simple bus renter to a greasy-handed mechanic. I followed Winfred’s directions, borrowed some tools from a kind maintenance man at the truck stop, and got the bus running smoothly again. Excited to be back on the road, we loaded the children back into the bus, and off we whizzed to Thanksgiving in central Illinois, ONLY to have the same hose pop off — AGAIN — somewhere along Interstate 70. This time, Winfred said we wouldn’t hurt the vehicle if we drove very carefully. So we slogged along on our path at a slower pace, braving the semi traffic breezing past us. We finally arrived! Between holiday traffic and roadside repairs, our trip took over 17 hours.

Fortunately, Bethany’s nephew, Brendal, is a mechanic. He was able to replace the faulty hose at our destination. After a long weekend spent chopping wood, replacing the hose, and creating new memories for our children, our family of seven loaded back up into the mended bus. We cruised home, praying this trip would be uneventful. God must have been looking out for us on the way home, as we managed to avoid the winter storm that stranded many Midwestern travelers. We may have returned to a muddy and somewhat soggy Delaware, but we were happy to make it safely home with every piece, parcel, and person we had brought with us.

–Ethan Zimmerman

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