Emergency Preparedness Lessons Learned

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Julie and I were out of town all last week for a large family reunion (yes, in case you didn’t know, we are sister-in-laws). We drove about 2000 miles round trip on a fun adventure all around Alberta, Canada.

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Well on the way home I had quite an adventure. We were traveling in our minivan which has over 150,000 miles on it but we had just had it checked out and were feeling confident that it would make the trip. On the way home on Friday things were running just fine and then all of a sudden the van completely overheated and started shaking until we stopped running it and let it cool down. We were about 20 miles from the nearest town and 60 miles from a major city in an area that had zero cell phone service and with our two little kids in tow. NOT a fun experience.

We stopped and ate at the town while we let the van cool down. Then we headed out again hoping to get to the city and pray that some kind of mechanic or auto parts store might HAPPEN to be open on Fourth of July weekend. We were able to get some new hoses which we thought were the problem but then on our way out of town it overheated again. Each time we tried to let it rest and cool down it ended up sucking the battery down to the point we would need a jump start to get going again. We were hot, miserable, and tired … just wanting to get HOME.

We finally gave up on fixing the car around 2 pm on Saturday after spending the night in Helena, Montana and ended up renting a u-haul to tow the van home. The only problem was it only had three seats so our kids had to share the middle seat and squish into the front of the u-haul cab with us and no car seats … EEEK. We made it home around midnight at the end of July 4th and missed all of the festivities. It was kind of sad but at least we made it home safely.

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Emergency Preparedness Lessons Learned

What we were glad we had:

  • Treats, drinks, and entertainment for the kids
  • A spare jug of coolant and bottles of water to help us limp into town
  • A map of Montana so we would know how far the next town was (we normally don’t carry maps with us but we had already gotten lost on this trip once so we happened to grab one)
  • A small tool box my husband insisted we bring
  • Cell phones and iPhone when we got to Helena (helped find the auto parts store and arrange the u-haul when we needed it)

What we wished we had:

  • Jumper cables (we ended up buying another set after the 3rd jump we needed, and this is maddening because we have about 5 sets at home we had just forgotten to stick in)
  • The repair manual for our van
  • Spare cell phone chargers (my car charger stopped working)
  • Printed directions/maps for the whole trip instead of depending on an iPhone that did not get service a lot of the time
  • Hand fans to use when we couldn’t run our air conditioner
  • Stuck with the caravan plan we had originally intended
  • Taken the larger highway route instead of the “backroads” shortcut

Does anyone else have any advice for what could make a breakdown less traumatic? I’m SURE this has happened to more people than just my family!


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