If you missed the beginning of this saga, you’ll want to start here.

So there we were, fleeing for our lives in Wallace, NC, miles away from the world’s largest frying pan that we could’ve used as a weapon. We made our way into a Piggly Wiggly parking lot (attention non-Southerners: it’s a real thing. Shut up.) where we  assessed our situation: inadequate tire. Serial killer. Small town. Two hours from home. Extreme exhaustion. Indigestion from french fries.

Suddenly, we saw a cop pull up in the lot behind us. Seeing an opportunity to get a police escort to the nearest 24 hour tire shop, I jumped out of the van and walked over, just in time to see him cautiously approaching an old Jeep Cherokee. That cop was soon joined by two other cops, and there I stood 15 feet away, trying to make eye contact but not interfere with official police business and get tazed.

The cops were there for a guy who soon emerged from Hoggly Woggly with a child that I can only assume was his little girl that he had lovingly carried on a daddy-daughter date. Either that, or by the way the cops surrounded him he was a prime suspect in an Amber Alert. Regardless, before I walked off I noticed that he (a) had a spare tire in the back of his Jeep and (b) was wearing a shirt that said “_____’s Tire and Battery Repair.” Since I’m not educated on the propriety of a tire change just before the Miranda rights are read, I decided to let that one go.

The next 45 minutes were a bit of a blur as I started making phone calls back to Durham, advising people that I wouldn’t be there to execute my Campus Pastor duties (i.e.: try to make funny announcements and fail) the next morning. Most significant was a text to Spence Shelton, our Small Groups pastor: “Hey man, is it too late for me to call you?”

And Spence, dear sweet Spence. Community-building Spence. Let’s-do-life-together Spence. Discipleship-happens-in-relationships Spence. Life-as-we Spence. Yes, THAT Spence simply replied, “Yes.”  As in, “Yes, it’s too late for you to call me. Go back to your police crackdown in a Piggly Wiggly parking lot as you continue to evade the Unabomber. But hey – if you need a sermon-based study guide, I’m your guy!”

At this point, there were no other options. No hotels in Wallace. No open tire shops in Wallace. No rental cars in Wallace. No friends in Wallace. We finally realized that we were going to have to get really cozy with our AAA membership and find a driver that could haul our entire family as well as our van, but preferably not our entire family in the van, which I’ve heard is cool, but somewhat unsafe.

After several conversations with the AAA dispatcher as well as the local towing company owner, the calvary arrived in the form of Leslie and his 35 foot truck. The first thing I did after apologizing that he was about to drive us 110 miles to Durham was to ask about seat belts…you know, those things that keep you from flying through the windshield in case Leslie crashes because it’s 10:30 PM and he’s already driven to Fayetteville and Carolina Beach that day and is existing on 15 minutes of sleep and a box of No-Doz.

Fortunately, Leslie had seat belts. Unfortunately, Leslie didn’t have enough seat belts. Or seats. Which is how my wife ended up in the front seat with Leslie, my kids ended up in each other’s laps while sharing a belt in the back seat, and I ended up folded double in the floorboard like an embedded reporter in a tank in Fallujah, tweeting constant updates so that people would know I was in the truck whenever it crashed and I went through the windshield or was inextricably wedged under Leslie’s seat.

Which probably would have been more comfortable than having my 14 year old’s knees in my temple for 110 miles.

Gosh, there’s probably more to this story, but I’ve tired myself out just replaying it in my mind. I could tell you about Jeremy Pollard, our heroic children’s pastor who met us at the church to give us his van at 12:30 AM. I could tell you about driving Jeremy home and then realizing my keys and wallet were still in our van and we had to drive back to the church to get it. I could tell you about Merriem getting a Diet Coke craving and the post-midnight giggles and fortunately Cook Out stays open until 3 AM. I could tell you that I got four hours of sleep and was not a happy camper the next morning. But at this point, all of that is anticlimactic.

So that’s our weekend. That’s how we wrap up weddings at the beach. That’s how we roll on three working tires.

Do you have any horror road trip stories? I’d love to hear ’em. Comment below.

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