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Voyageur's Best Generally Speaking Columns of 2002

Vacation allowed me to encounter angels in McGregor

Vacation allowed me to encounter angels in McGregor
Going home from a vacation
by Lauri Winters  | October 1, 2002

It wasn’t the kind of an end to a two-week vacation that I would have asked for, but it turned out to be all right after all.

Dear Husband and I had a two-week stay at a small resort in northern Minnesota (north and east of Grand Rapids) planned for most of the summer. We really look forward to our two-week retreat sitting in a housekeeping cabin on the shores of a picturesque lake. We sleep late, eat well, read, fish a bit and just relax without a television set or telephone in sight. After two weeks, it was time to head home.

We pulled the boat out of the lake and packed the car for the return trip on Sept. 8 figuring we would be back around 4 p.m. Just in time to wash clothes and grocery shop, I figured. It was not meant to be.

As we cruised southward on Highway 65, Dear Husband said, “The car just stopped running.”

As we slowed down, I desperately looked for a wide spot to pull over. The highway north of McGregor where we were is two lanes wide with cattail filled ditches and virtually no shoulder. I spotted the driveway of a house under construction. It was just wide enough to get our car and 17-foot boat off the road.

Dear Husband tried to restart the car with no success. I dug out the cell phone and plugged it into the car’s cigarette lighter for power. I called 911 but was told to call the auto club if I was a member.

It took two tries to get through to AAA, since my card still has the old 612 area code on it. When I got through to the road assistance person, I told her that our car had stopped running southbound on Highway 65.

“Where on Central Avenue are you?” she asked.

I tried to explain that we were not in the metro area, but in northern Minnesota north of McGregor.

“How do you spell that?” she asked.

Then she wanted to know what the closest highway was. I told her it was U.S. 2. How far were we from McGregor, she wanted to know. I guessed 10 miles but wasn’t sure. She then started to explain that we would be charged extra for the distance beyond three miles and for towing our boat since we just had basic service. However, if we upgraded our membership, it would be covered next time. Frantic that the phone might go dead before she confirmed that a tow truck would be sent, I said it didn’t matter.

“Just get someone out here to get us off the road,” I pleaded.

Fifty minutes later, two “angels” showed up with a flatbed truck. Don, the driver, diagnosed a dead alternator. Within five minutes he and his helper had us sitting in our non-functioning car on the top of the truck with our boat hitched behind.

Don swung onto McGregor’s main street and pulled into the parking lot of an auto repair shop, which was of course closed on Sunday afternoon. He directed us to a local motel three blocks from where he had deposited our car and even volunteered to drop us off. But we needed lunch first.

He suggested the School House, a local cafe just two blocks away, and left us to lock up the car. We walked in the restaurant about five minutes later, exhausted from the heat and stress. There sat Don and his assistant quenching their thirst with cold soda and iced tea.

Don insisted that we join them and we chatted pleasantly for the next 20 minutes relieved that we were safely off the highway. Don grinned with pleasure when I complimented his ability to turn his huge truck around on the two-lane road.

Later, in the 90-degree heat, we hiked five blocks from the restaurant to the Town and Country Motel. We explained our situation to the young man that checked us in.

Myrna, another “angel” who was managing the motel, said she would drive us back to our car to get what we needed. “No need to walk in the heat,” she insisted.

A few minutes later we picked up overnight bags and our cooler and tucked them into her small car. She promised to check on the car and boat when she went home that night to make sure that no one had tampered with it.

Back at the motel, Myrna put our frozen fish in her freezer for the night so that it would not thaw. She then volunteered to drive us somewhere for dinner later and she would pick us up when we were done.

Four hours later it had cooled enough for us to walk to the Buckhorn Bar to get a couple of burgers just 10 minutes before the kitchen closed for the night. We didn’t need Myrna’s taxi services, but her offer was sure nice.

The repair shop opened at 8 a.m. and we were there waiting. The “angels” at the shop were ready to work our ailing car into their already full schedule.

An hour later (after a leisurely breakfast) we learned the local auto parts store did not have the right alternator for our car and the right one would not come from Aitkin until noon. The car would probably be ready by 3 p.m. We trooped back to the motel to tell Myrna that we were stranded until mid-afternoon. She said that was not a problem, especially since it was Monday. Under the circumstances, we were welcome to stay until the car was ready.

“Just don’t forget your fish,” she reminded us.

After lunch we checked on the car again. The new alternator was in place and the battery was being charged. The woman at the repair shop said they wanted to make sure the battery was fully charged and would hold the charge before sending us on our way. She was an “angel” who was making sure we got home safely.

Well, it was 6:15 p.m. when we pulled up in front of the house. But we were home at long last. And, we have some special angels in McGregor to thank for making what could have been an awful experience just an extra day of vacation.

Lauri Winters is the Community Editor of the Brooklyn Center Sunpost. Reprinted with permission.

This article first appeared in the October 1, 2002 issue of the Voyageur Press.