‘Merica: Home of the brave and land of the free. This patriotic word echoes throughout the United States and can be heard among the sound of sizzling steaks on the grill and kids splashing in the pool. The 4th of July brings out the red, white, and blue stripes unlike any other time of the year. This year, however, Uncle Sam decided to make America’s 241th birthday celebration a one we would never, ever forget. The entire week was a terrible fireworks show in which the fireworks kept getting bigger and bigger until it came crashing into one grand finale.

Yes, I know 4th of July was 2 weeks ago, but this whole ordeal is still fresh in my mind. I felt so lucky when my PTO request at work was finally approved, as I started off as 26th on the waitlist. It’s safe to say I did a little celebratory jig in the training room when I finally got approved. Score! I felt so lucky, but little did I know that my luck was about to spiral down at an exponential rate.

Heading up to Pinetop, AZ, I was extremely psyched to spend a week with Adam’s family at their cabin. The previous 4th of July up there was one of the best camping trips I’ve ever had (even though I went fishing for the first time and realized it’s almost as boring as watching golf. You can tell how excited I was in the picture below).

Fishing in Show LOw

While climbing up one of the big hills to Payson (the last “major” city before Show Low), we heard the first “firework” of the trip. To Adam, it sounded like a tire had blown, but to me it sounded like the back of the trailer crashed down. After pulling over, we both circled and inspected the truck, but we climbed back into the White Beast empty handed. As we continued to drive, the White Beast morphed into a sluggish train; the truck would only go about 15 miles per hour. We felt like the tortoise as all of the hares passed us, and we were nowhere close to the finish line. We expected the worst – the turbo had blown.

Following what seemed like hours later, we made it to the Ford dealership – the only place in town that sold the part we needed. Good news was we only had to buy a hose, and it wasn’t the turbo like we (who am I kidding, I know nothing about trucks) suspected. Being the handyman he is, Adam was able to install the new hose in under 5 minutes, and we “hit the road, Jack”.

Well, just as quick as Adam swapped out the hose was how quickly the truck started acting up again. After a Google search, I learned the “check engine” light displayed meant the check was in “limp mode”. Go ahead. Feel free to start making Ford jokes and thinking “This wouldn’t have happened if you had a Chevy”. This time the truck would go about 40mph up the inclines. The need for speed is a real condition during road trips, so Adam dropped the truck off at another Ford dealership.  We didn’t want to have to inch the truck all the way home.

Before I had known about all of these issues, I had volunteered to make dinner that Friday (every “family” – or in our case soon-to-be-family – takes turn each night). I don’t know why road trips make you so tired even though you’re being a car potato, but we were exhausted by the time we arrived at Show Low and finished at Safeway. Boy, was that an experience! It was so crowded that I parked our shopping cart in a corner, gathered as much as I could hold in my arms in order to maneuver around all of the people, and then dropped it off back at the cart. This is a bold statement, but it was worse than Black Friday. That night, we made stuffed lasagna garlic bread, salad, and Italian green beans. It was all we could do to not fall asleep with a mouth full of lasagna.

The next night the dinner menu consisted of spaghetti with mushrooms and delicious garlic bread (who would have known hot dog buns could actually serve a good purpose). As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I am not usually a mushroom-fan but didn’t want to be the adult that’s picking the fungus (I thought they were a vegetable all this time, but I was mistaken) from her plate and feeding them to the dog (er, I mean Adam). It was time for another firework to go off. I woke up later that night and felt extremely nauseous. I couldn’t even fall back asleep, so I texted Adam and asked him to bring me some medicine. Don’t you love technology and the fact you can text someone that’s a floor below you instead of actually going to talk to them? I didn’t have a bell like my mom used to lay by my bed when I was little, so my phone was the next best thing. 2 tablespoons of flamingo-pink Pepto-Bismol later, it was time to make a trip to the bathroom. This was a tough decision, as I knew there were people sleeping all over the place and didn’t want them to hear any of the nasty bodily functions that were about to take place. I opted with the safer bet – the downstairs bathroom. Luckily, the only witness was the bear hanging on the wall. The next 10 minutes were very similar to the scene in Pitch Perfect where Aubrey spewed all over the stage, except multiple that by 5. It was definitely acca-gross. As if that wasn’t enough, It started coming out the other end too! Is it bad I was happy to lose a few pounds as a result of this?

After serving my time in the bathroom prison, I blamed the mushrooms for this horrible sentence. However, someone played a cruel joke on the entire cabin by getting everyone sick one-by-one and then crossing them off The List. Thankfully, I didn’t have to make any more trips to the bathroom, but it took me a few days before I felt 100% better. Around the same time, the family decided to start the 1st Annual Cornhole Tournament. All my co-workers and closest friends know “Competitive” is my middle name. Obviously, Adam and I practiced before the tournament even began. There were major prizes on the line; 1st place got a $50 gift card to (drum roll, please) The Cheesecake Factory! Now, I’ve devoured their rich, overpriced cheesecake before but had never tried their “regular” food. My competitive juices were flowing even more. Even though we practiced, I think I only scored a total of 7 points during the entire tournament (that piece of information better never leave the confines of this blog). I’m surprised Adam didn’t break it off with me right then and there; my performance was as bad as The Cowboys during the NFL season. Although I will probably look back on that day 50 years from now and think of it as one of my biggest regrets, we ended up with 3rd place and a $15 Dairy Queen gift card. We’re coming for you next year at our wedding, Team Cornholios!

Later in the week, we finally had an opportunity to go for a ride. I was a little weary because there wasn’t enough room for Adam in his brother’s Rzr (it was getting dark out, so he couldn’t ride his dirtbike), so he wouldn’t be a part of this ride. That didn’t stop me though. I was cruisin’. (Now, “cruisin” in rider language means you are flying, not just casually strolling around a neighborhood like I once thought). My quad was pushed to the max; it was in 5th gear and the accelerator was pushed in as far as it could go. 5 minutes in (are you noticing a trend here? 5 minutes seems to be the magic number of the trip) my quad didn’t want to shift into a lower gear and just shut down. 2 men and a toe strap later and my quad was out of business. My quad may only be a 400, but I never had any previous issues. I was devastated because I really wanted to ride my quad in The Pits (the picture below doesn’t quite do the area justice). Apparently, the quad no longer had any compression. I told Adam it was time to sell the quad and get me a dirt bike…

The Pit at Show Low

 Now, this whole time the truck was at the forefront of our minds. We ended up buying an EGR valve at the dealership. Adam planned on installing the new EGR valve himself since Ford was going to charge $1,200, but was so weak from being sick he could barely move. We thought we could make it home with the current condition of the truck… little did we know that was far from the truth.

The white beast (he no longer deserved capitals at this point) huffed and he puffed, and he made it to about 20 miles east of Payson by the “hares on his chinny chin chin”. At first, I thought Adam was joking when he said the truck was done for. I quickly realized he was being as-dead-as-the-truck serious. Now, T-Mobile may be awesome for those who want an affordable data plan, but its cell service left us in a sticky situation (literally). With a broken-down truck and no reception, we had no other option but to hitchhike! I didn’t even know what way to put my thumb – was I supposed to point it in the direction we needed to go? Apparently the thumb signal is only native to America, and most countries have their own way of soliciting for a ride. Could we get arrested for doing this? How long was it going to take for someone to pick us up? I hoped we looked nice and not like serial killers. Ironically, we passed a sign about an hour before warning drivers not to pick up hitchhikers. Luckily for us (first luck of the trip), the first car that passed us, carrying two older ladies in a Lexus, decided to disregard the sign and offered us a ride. It was a pleasant experience and not bad at all. Watch out Uber, you might have some competition!

I won’t bore you with the mundane details of the next few hours, but it consisted of numerous phone calls and aimlessly trying to pass the time. Adam’s roommate, Andrei, offered to pick us up which earned him major brownie points. Now, let me preface that Andrei has totalled numerous cars and is known for his bad driving, but we were desperate at this point. We made it back to the Valley in record time. Several times Adam warned Andrei of the impending curves and asked him to slow down, but did he listen? Nope. What’s most important is that we survived and kissed the hot asphalt once we made it home.

You might be wondering what happened to the truck on the side of the road. Although we took our laptops with us, all of our belongings were just sitting in the bed of Adam’s truck crying “steal me!” to all of the passersby. Adam’s friend referred us to a tow truck driver that was more reasonable than all of the other quotes we received. However, Adam kept calling and texting him on the drive home and received no reply whatsoever. We were back to square one. At this point, we were both past the point of exhaustion. Uhaul didn’t have trailers rated for what we needed to have done. Certain companies wouldn’t tow the truck without the keys being there. We had 24 hours to figure out what to do. Fortunately, Delta Towing saved the day! After everything was said and done, we ended up spending $1600 on Adam’s truck. We thought we could put everything behind us, but the truck decided it wasn’t done giving us trouble this past weekend. That’s right. It broke down AGAIN. Creating a Go Fund Me Account is really tempting at this point.

After this trip, I felt like “‘Merica: Home of the Broken-Down Fords and Land of the Money Pit’” might be more accurate. Even though we got “99 Problems and the truck sure one”, I would still proudly wave our flag any day of the week.

How was everyone else’s 4th of July weekend? Has anyone else had to hitchhike before?

The Blog Has Spoken.