We have been planning our first real family vacation with Justin for a while. It was a bit up in the air, but we had a general idea of going off-roading and then down to Holiday World. The plan was finalized that we would go to the Badlands Offroad Park in Attica, Indiana on July 7th, then head down to Terre Haute for a night to visit with some friends. Spend a little more time off-roading at Redbird SRA in Dugger, Indiana on July 8th and then head down to Lake Rudolf in Santa Claus, Indiana. We had rented a cabin for a couple nights and planned to spend a day at Holiday World. That was the plan and as we all know, the best laid plans of mice and men....can go oh so horribly wrong.
Saturday, July 7th started out ok. We knew it was going to be a hot one (forecast called for 104 degrees), but we had AC in the Bronco. Keith had been working on the Bronco for 6-months to get it ready. There had been many a long nights welding, cutting and other mayhem going on in the garage to prep this truck for the trip. We met my brother (whose birthday was the same day), and jumped on the highway. The trip is about 1.5 hours or so. We got to the Badlands about 10am. The day was already hot and getting hotter by the minute. After paying, getting out flags and wristbands, we headed to the parking lot to offload, air down and get everyone ready for the adventure.
We finally headed out around 10:30am with Keith in the lead. Keith turned down one path and no more then 10 minutes into our ride, we got stuck. Keith tried several maneuvers but we just seemed to keep sinking into sand. We were on a slant that just kept getting more slanted. Keith couldn't get out of the driver's side door and the passenger side (my side) was getting closer and closer to the dirt. Justin was strapped into the backseat.
My brother worked his way to the front of the truck to try and get our winch running - but there seemed to be no power (later on I would remind Keith that I had asked him if he had tested the winch lately). So Johnny got back into his Jeep to work his way to the front front and see if he could winch us out. After several attempts, we heard a large SNAP. Come to find out something had broke on Johnny's right front axle. Things were going from bad to worse. We just kept digging in deeper while the temperature continued to rise. We had to resolve ourselves that we needed help. The Bronco was buried down to the body. So we called the Badlands office. The challenge was trying to explain exactly where we were. We weren't far - but didn't know our exact coordinates. We thought we had it figured out - but when more time went by without seeing anyone - we had to call back in. We did have a couple guys on ATVs stop to see if we needed help.
We are about 45 minutes into this adventure by this point - sitting at a decent angle. All the while our son was talking constantly in the backseat (he tends to get a tad chatty when nervous). Finally, the dude from the Badlands showed up with his Jeep Cherokee and a winch (Yay!). He of course wanted Keith's help, but we were still stuck with no way to open either door to the Bronco. After several maneuvers, the Bronco was finally free. As we came up out of the hole, we heard another large bang immediately followed by the sound of air escaping and we realized that we blew the front passenger tire. But that problem seemed minor in comparison. We thought we could pump the tire back up, but we soon realized that the tire was ripped in the back - there was no fixing.
We were able to get the Bronco out onto the road to get the tire changed. The heat continued to rise by the minute. Keith was sweating and seemed very shaky. He was drinking tons of water and Gatorade. I looked at Keith and realized that he was going to pass out. I called his name and grabbed his arm as he began to fall forward, helping him back down into a squat. Keith is diabetic, so Karen and I thought that his blood sugar was low. He was coherent enough to let us know that his glucose tube was in a pack - but not really sure which pack. So as Johnny changed the tire, Karen and I dug through three different packs (note - Keith likes bags and packs the way most women like black shoes) to find the glucose tube. Keith downed the tube and after a little while, the tire was changed and we thought that Keith was back into a decent shape.
We headed back to the parking lot to load Johnny's Jeep onto his trailer and decide on next steps. Do we go back home and get another car? Johnny and Karen headed home and we decided to go to a restaurant to cool off and get some food (still thinking that Keith's problem was low blood sugar). We sat down, ordered some drinks and our food. When it arrived Keith took one bite and realized that he was going to be sick. He ran to the bathroom but only made it as far as the bin of dirty dishes toward the front of the restaurant. Here we are in a tiny little restaurant in a tine little town with Keith getting really sick in the bathroom. I headed up front to see if he was ok and if he wanted me to call 911 - which he did. Which also told me how sick he was. The restaurant workers got him some cool towels while I called 911. A policeman was first on the scene, quickly followed by the ambulance. By this time Keith had stopped sweating and was cold and clammy. The EMT workers took Keith while I paid the bill on the food we hadn't touched (for some reason they felt the need to pack it to go - even though I told them that really wasn't necessary). So I headed out to the Bronco with Justin and the leftovers to follow the ambulance to the hospital. By this time the temperature was well over 100 degrees and the AC had completely stopped working.
The hospital is actually in the next town of Williamsport, Indiana. A small 16-bed facility with an ER and a helipad in the parking lot. They were wonderful. Keith was in bad shape with full blown heat exhaustion. His blood pressure was low and he was dehydrated. He took 3 liters of fluids. We hung out there for about 3 hours to ensure that everything was back to normal. When it was time to leave the hospital, we were once again torn as to what we should do. Keith was feeling much better, so we decided to go on to Terre Haute to meet our friends for dinner. We hadn't seem them in a very long time and Terre Haute was slightly closer than home, and we did have hotel reservations. So we threw out the lunch leftovers the restaurant had insisted I take (they had been sitting in the Bronco for 3+ hours by this time) and braved the heat for a couple hours more (remember the AC had stopped).
We pulled into the hotel at 5:30pm - just 1/2 hour to spare before we were supposed to meet Jerry and Stacie. We cooled off for a few and then got back into the Bronco to head to Wise Pies for some pizza. Just as we pulled into the parking lot across the street, BANG and that old familiar sound of air escaping. We had just blown the SPARE tire. Unbelievable. Keith pulled on into a parking space - might as well eat while we wait for AAA.
AAA showed up and he was the one that discovered it was a bolt on the axle that was too long and than in fact cut the tire as we turned and bounced in just the right way. So it was decided to load the Bronco onto the trailer and have it towed home. Figure we'll get a rental car for the rest of the trip. Keith wasn't planning on unloading the coolers and other stuff that was in the Bronco, until I reminded him that everything we needed for the rest of the vacation (cabin at Lake Rudolf, Holiday World) was in the Bronco. We said goodbye to our friends with promises not to wait 10+ years to see each other in person again. The AAA driver agreed to take us to the hotel and let us unload the truck (he even lowered it for us). He also reminded us that the Budget was the ONLY rental car place open on Sundays in Terre Haute, so we better get their early if we want a chance at getting a car.
With a $20 tip in hand, AAA headed toward Greenfield with the Bronco. We headed to an air conditioned hotel room figuring we'll worry about the rental car and the rest of the vacation tomorrow.
And that was just the first day of our family vacation.