Since my goal for traveling is to report on sites for our tour groups, we strive to keep these trips cheap. For this trip, I decided to drive my 2005 Dodge Caravan with 200,000 miles on it to save money. Now, doing this, I knew there was a decent chance I could have mechanical trouble, and considering the cost of a rental vehicle for such a long trip this risk made financial sense.
I planned well, had my vehicle inspected just before leaving, and even kept water and ice in a giant color in case I did end up on the side of the road broke down. I had taken as many precautions as I could.
As usual, it was what I did not know that was waiting to cause a disaster.
Approximately two hours north of Phoenix, AZ, on a hot July day, my heating core burst as I was driving. I never noticed the car overheating, but presumably, that is what caused it. Usually, this would not be a significant issue as according to my mechanic as the line should be over the passenger side, and since I was alone, it would not have mattered. On a 2005 Dodge Caravan though they decided to design it, so the heating core line travels right over driver's side.
Suddenly, without warning, I was being sprayed by scalding liquid as I was driving. Thankfully, no other immediate cars were around. I try to pull over and quickly press the brakes, but for some reason, they were not working. I opened the driver door, thinking to hang out my left foot from the onslaught of hot liquid.
I start purposely driving the vehicle into the guard rail and finally it stops. At this point, I am concerned my shoe is going to be melted to my foot, so I hurry to discard them. I hobble to the back of the van and pull the large cooler to the ground and pour water on my foot. Eventually, I shove my foot into the cooler's icy water and reach for my phone.
I am stranded on the side of the road, crying in severe pain, standing in a cooler, and trying to wave down assistance. The road was fairly busy, but no one stopped. After 15 minutes, an older couple stopped to help, but they had no signal either. The gentleman wrote me a sign that said 911 to try to attract more help. I'm unclear if they ever tried calling themselves, but at least they tried.
Another 45 minutes pass. There I am. Fat guy on the back of a van, standing in a cooler, sobbing, and now holding a sign that said 911. No else ever stopped.
Finally, I had one bar. I quickly dialed 911, and they dispatched an ambulance. But the ambulance was an hour away. After two hours on the side of the road standing in an icy cooler, help finally arrived.
The kind paramedics had loaded me into an ambulance, but as my foot quickly thawed pain like I've never known hit me and it hit hard.
I do not claim to be tough. I'm an entertainer and a traveler, but lying there in that ambulance, I have never felt like a bigger baby screaming in pain.
The paramedic in the back of the ambulance with me could not find a vein to give me pain killers, so tried administering them through my nose. I am unsure what he tried first, but I know the later were two doses of fentanyl, and it was doing nothing.
Burn pains are difficult to treat like that I was later told.
We finally arrived at the hospital in Wickenburg, AZ, where they moved me to a bed, rubbed lotion on my foot, wrapped it, and declared that would be $1600.
I will say the lotion worked for a while, and now it was time to figure out what to do. I was an hour from my car and two hours from my destination. No one had an iPhone charger.
One other way I had made sure to prepare for my scouting trip was to make sure I had premium AAA, which allowed a 200-mile tow. Would you like to guess how far it was to the recommended AAA mechanic? 198 miles.
The first tow truck decided they could not do it because it was across state lines from Arizona into Nevada and thankfully they found another one that was gracious enough to pick me up and not count the miles until they attached the vehicle.
The driver and I found out this kindness was in part because the dispatcher wanted the driver to bring her back a specific burger from Las Vegas. We were going to be arriving too late for him to go to the restaurant, but thanks to some out of the box planning and a few trial and errors we got her that burger.
I was finally at my hotel in Las Vegas. The benefit was that most of this week was my actual vacation, so I was not changing hotels every night, but the bad part is it was my actual vacation and my luck in the car carried over in the casinos.
It has been six weeks since this happened. I wore fluffy bedroom slippers the first two weeks after as it was the only thing I could find soft enough for my foot and then I switched to soft brown sandals so at least I was not drawing as much attention. I hope to be able to wear shoes again soon. I am still scared every time I get in my van to drive, but I am talking to Dodge about this design issue. I've been told to sue and contacted by lawyers, but I am still hoping not to line a bunch of lawyers pockets.
I am writing all this so you know that things can happen when you travel, and they are a lot more likely to happen traveling alone. Make plans, be aware, but do not let fear stop you from taking a great adventure. Experienced tour guides like those that work with us are one of the simplest ways not to end up in a mess like mine.
I'm also writing this because I want you to know why the next couple of stops along the tour may seem incomplete. I was not able to walk as much so some things were just left out and I hate not to give you a full picture of what these places have to offer.
America is such a beautiful place, and there is so much in each section for you to see. We want to continue to encourage you to join us.
I hope you found this story interesting and that you never have to go through it personally.
By the way, the next town I broke down in front of was called Nothing, Arizona.