Americana: Helpers, helpers everywhere 01

A four-wheeling trail in Utah.

Some of my most cherished memories are not of the fun I’ve had, but rather feeling humbled and grateful when the fun went awry.

Years ago, we bought an old motor home. It had very few miles on the beastly powerful engine. What else could go wrong? Well, nothing did go wrong with the engine, but a 30-year-old vehicle that has been lightly used was full of decayed plastic hoses, seals, wire covers, etc.

A mechanic shop in New Iberia, Louisiana, replaced a fuel hose while we drove the shop owner’s car around the region to see the sights we had planned to see.

I worked on the fresh water plumbing leak as we rolled down the road, but a few hundred miles later, we had a flat. Again, to the rescue, hospitable Floridians and other tourists from South Carolina stopped to help us figure out how to get the darn thing jacked up so we could take one of the two tires off the back. One man offered to let us use his RV tire. (It didn’t fit.) Another solicited in a nearby campground for additional jacks to get the maneuver done.

On another trip, when the serpentine belt broke, a mechanic 50 miles away in San Antonio bought the part, drove down to find us and fixed the belt, charging us only for the part and the typical charge for a serpentine belt replacement. Did I mention that it was the Fourth of July?

Perhaps I needed to be reminded of the common decency and generosity that I have encountered in many places across the country. Last week, we had company visiting us. My brother-in-law, Barry, suggested that we all go ride all-terrain vehicles.

We bought two ATVs for our kids and grandkids to use about two years ago, but Jeff and I have rarely ridden them.

Barry led us to a very pretty place and explained that he had ridden many of the trails in the area, and they were so pretty, it was like a hidden gem. The day we went, we had the area almost entirely to ourselves.

But what a climb! The badly eroded trails seemed impassable to us beginners. I was riding on the back, so I could look around at the lush wild flowers blooming under the quaking aspen. Pines mixed with oaks on the north-facing mountains and brooklets chuckled down the mountain.

Jeff couldn’t enjoy the views much as he guided the machine to straddle ruts or attempted to outwit gravity. We went slowly, but finally we parked the ATVs and walked up to the top of a ridge. Breathtaking views unfolded below us. We counted 12 different varieties of wild flowers. But it was time to face the monster descent.

After less than half a mile, Jeff misjudged the proper approach to a rut. As we began to slip backward, he tightened his grip on the handlebars, inadvertently squeezing the throttle. The ATV surged straight up, dumped us off and rolled over the top of us.

I thought we were dead. But all the limbs worked. No bones jutted through the skin. Our helmets had protected our heads. We hurt everywhere but seemed free of serious injuries.

Barry settled us as comfortably as he could and went down the mountain to try to bring us down in his truck. We all suspected that it would be impossible.

Part way down the trail, he encountered a couple in a side-by-side. They had four seats with seatbelts and roll bars overhead. Barry told Sherie and Jeff Warner what had happened and they said, “We’re right behind you!”

She drove us down so gently. It seemed like a miracle that she could navigate the trail so well. But after we were safely back to our truck, Jeff Warner came looking for her. He briefly indicated that Jeff’s sister, Lynda, had also flipped her ATV. The Warner’s side-by-side made a second trip up and back. Jeff Warner brought our machines down for us.

Later that night, Jeff Warner texted Barry expressing concern for our diagnoses.

Lynda and I are bruised and scraped but not broken. Jeff has three broken ribs, abrasions and bruises.

But we’ll all be fine, thanks to our kind and generous fellow Americans!

God bless America!