Houston, We Have A Problem

Michael recently picked up a copy of Apollo 13 on DVD. It’s one of his all-time favorite movies. What he didn’t realize was that it would turn out to be a great analogy to our life right now. 

Naturally, it’s 13. Why 13?
It comes after 12, hon.
— Apollo 13

We’ve sent months preparing our bus for this long fall tour. Our prayer is that, “The bus can be a place of peace.” Last November we had the engine completely rebuilt and each time we arrive in Effingham we take it to the shop to get it serviced and have other, smaller items repaired. Michael makes an effort to be an attentive driver, watching the gauges diligently, so he can catch any issue right away. 

“Michelle, the bus is getting really hot!” he says as he shifts down to encourage the fans to spin harder. Before I can even respond, he continues, “It’s still going up, I have to pull over!” Before he can get to a stop, the engine dies. 

Houston, we have a problem!
— Apollo 13

Michael and I rush to the back of the bus and look over the engine. We have oil. We have coolant. It’s not steaming…that is about as far as our mechanical knowledge gets us. I grab the road hazard triangles and start setting them out. Suddenly, coolant starts pouring out of the bottom of the engine. 

We pause and watch it pour out. It keeps going. and going. and going. Our engine holds over 40 gallons of coolant. 

“I’m going to call roadside assistance. There is no way we are driving this without coolant.” I decide right away. That was at 6:30 PM. It was 2 AM before a tow truck finally arrived. Evidently it is hard to find a tow company with the right equipment to tow a bus in the middle of Wisconsin on a Sunday night. The generator was still able to run, and the kids continued watching movies in the back, we had dinner, and the kids went to bed. 

Things were anything but normal for Michael and I. We had 8 hours of waiting. Eight hours to hypothesize what could have possibly gone wrong how that affects our family, our tour, our finances, and our stability. We just couldn’t shake that sinking feeling that was in the pit of our stomach. 

Lots of options, none of them good.
— Michelle

It was around 4 AM by the time the tow truck got us safely to the shop and we set an alarm at 8 AM sharp so that we could talk to a technician. 

“I think that you will have bad news for us, but can you look at our bus?” I ask as Michael explains what happened. They were kind enough to set aside what they had scheduled that morning to at least poke around in inside. 

“It’s not good.” the technician explained, He could not diagnose things without taking it apart, but it was very likely that the repair was going to extensive. He encouraged us to call the shop that completed the rebuild.

“If you have documentation that you only have 15,000 miles since the rebuild, you should take it back to them. This engine should last a lot longer than that.”

Obviously, it’s not going to be running in the next week, so Michael calls his dad. He is going to ask him to bring our van so that we can unload the music gear and bring the family to Effingham until we get a plan. He can’t get the words out of his mouth. All of the emotions hit him at once. There is something about asking dad for help that brings forward all of the implications that this can have: a huge financial loss, the loss of our home, the inability to keep businesscommitments.

We’re moving to the LM (Lunar Module)!
— Apollo 13

I say, “Do you run rescue missions?” and in less than 20 minutes, my Father-in-law has left work, packed a bag, and is on the road. No questions asked. That’s the kind of man he is.  Always ready to help out at a moment’s notice.  Now we just have to wait 5 hours for him to drive the 300 miles to pick us up. 

Unloading the music gear from the bus, into our van.

Unloading the music gear from the bus, into our van.

The kids start their schoolwork and we try to eat all the food out of the fridge. I tell the kids to start packing their clothes. Only your clothes.  No toys.  No extras.