Now what happens next will forever be known as... "THE INCIDENT AT EXIT 88."
And it's a good one. Long, but good. And I swear, it's all true.
Part I: The Break-down
It all began at lunchtime on Friday, 6 days into our cross country trip. We had left Rapid City, gone through Deadwood, and crossed the border into Wyoming. We briefly drove up past Devils Tower, and then got back down on I-90, trying to make it to Cody by that night.
We stopped to get lunch at "Taco Johns," perhaps the WORST "Mexican" food I've ever encountered. They served our combo with "Ole Potatoes" which were flat tater tots with what tasted like Old Bay seasoning. Gross.
So after an hour after lunch, my stomach hurt, (obviously) and we stopped at a rest station at Exit 88. Just your basic State-run rest stop; just a bathroom, nothing more. We got on the entrance ramp back onto the freeway, and suddenly, the van immediately began acting weird- lights blinking, overheating, and battery light going crazy. I silently pleaded with the van to please not break down. I immediately remembered that I had seen a sign that said "Gas, Food, Lodging" that was over the hill beyond the rest stop. "If there's a mechanic there, maybe they can help! It's better than sitting on the side of I-90!"
I start the van back up, swing a U-turn across the freeway, exit back at the rest station, go past the rest station towards where the sign is. As we pull up and over the tiny hill into the parking lot, we realize...
The whole thing is abandoned. Tied up gas pumps, an old seedy motel with "FOR RENT" signs on it, not a car in sight. Meanwhile, Damon yells that black smoke is starting to POUR out of the back of the van.
We jump out the van, throw everything out of the trunk (the engine sits underneath), and suddenly this strange man runs up from out of nowhere.
"Do you need a room?" he asks? "No!" we answer. "Our van is broken down!" Radiator fluid is spewing everywhere, smoke is billowing from the engine, and I'm just freaking out. The man takes a look in the engine, and says, Oh! you just busted a belt. Let me go inside and see if any auto place nearby has a replacement one." He takes the belt and goes into this old abandoned Mini-Mart at the end of the stretch of motel.