continued from part 2...
Ha! I totally left you on a cliffhanger, didn't I?
The Auto Place
We get inside, and get the belt. The lady behind the counter tells us the broken belt might be from a busted water pump, but they don't have that part and won't get it until Tuesday. Tom gets really angry at the lady and storms out. Damon and I are a bit taken aback, thinking... "wait, did he just.. leave us? And why is he so angry?" The lady too, is a bit taken aback, as to why this guy is so argumentative, and asks us ... "is he a friend of yours?" Sort of in that "do you need help?" type of way... We explain, no, not really, we broke down and he offered to help us, and he gave us a lift from Exit 88. She comments, wow, that's a long way to drive from.
Yeah. We know.
The Ride Back
Anyway, we decide to buy the belt by itself and take our chances with not having a spare water pump. Plus, we don't want this guy to be angry at us for driving 140 miles roundtrip to not buy anything. And get back in the car for the hour ride back to our van. Of course, it's dark by this point, and raining. Dark and rainy night. In a strange car. I so wish I was making this up.
We're driving down the freeway in relative silence. First, Tom barely puts the windshield wipers on, so the visibility is horrid (and remember, this windshield is cracked to hell). Second, the speed limit is 75 mph, so not only are we barely able to see, in the dark, in the rain, but we're going pretty fast. Now, Damon saw this (thankfully I did not), but at one point, Tom starts clutching the steering wheel really tight and starts making the sign of the cross on himself. WTF??? Maybe he was fighting the voices in his head.
At one point, Tom decides he's going to smoke. He gets out a cigarette, and starts fishing around for a lighter in his jacket pocket. So, at this point, both hands are off the steering wheel, he's not really looking at the road, and he's busy fishing around in his pockets. Like that scene in "Planes Trains and Automobiles" where John Candy is trying to get his jacket off. Meanwhile, I'm sitting horrified in the back seat trying not to panic, because remember, we're going 80 mph on a dark and rainy highway, with nobody steering the car or paying attention at the moment.
He finally finds his lighter, and starts smoking. The whole car is full of smoke, and Damon and I are desperately trying not to hack and cough in the haze... Tom realizes we're suffocating, and puts down his window. All the way. So now we're windblown with wet and cold air. good times.
Back at Exit 88
We finally get back to the motel, and tell Tom we're not going to try and replace the belt at this point of night, because it's like 10pm at this point, and we don't really want him messing around in our car's engine. He offers that we can stay in the motel for the night, to which we ever so politely turn him down. We ask if there's some way we can roll our van down to this little campground that we saw over by the rest stop, and he says, oh, my brother's girlfriend is watching that place because he's back in jail after breaking parole again. (!) but she'll charge you $40 to stay there. You can just stay here for free tonight.
We decide to stay in our van for the night, but Tom opens up one of the motel rooms so we can use the bathroom and plug in our electric hook-up. He then says "if you need me, I'm over in that house over that way- just ask for Tom" and disappears into the night. Quite frazzled, Damon and I try to set up the van for the night. Ten minutes later, Tom re-appears, and asks "hey, do you have any food?" We offer up what we have, and he takes a jar of peanuts, and bounds back into the darkness.
So, anyway, we go into the motel room to go use the sink and bathroom. And this motel room is so questionable- everything's a little long in the tooth, the bed covers have cigarette burns all over them, and there's this weird 70s wood panel art thing hanging on the wall that has a cougar attacking a deer. We go to turn the faucet on in the bathroom, and first the water comes out muddy and brown, then stops and goes "KA-CHUNK KA CHUNK ka chunk." So obviously, the water's been turned off at some point.
The Morning After
Damon and I end up surviving the night (after seriously considering a. if we could take on Tom if need be, b. if Damon should sleep with a knife under his pillow, or c. if we should even pop the top of the camper (because it's canvas, vs hard-top). In the morning, it's drizzly and gray outside. We call the tow-truck and try to subtly pack up the van without attracting attention. Because we don' want Tom coming outside and getting angry at us for not wanting his help.
The tow truck finally arrives, and we're saved! Well, now we're worried whether or not we'll even be able to get the van up and running to make it the rest of the way home, because like we said, we weren't 100% is was just the belt that was broken. We get to the mechanic in Buffalo at 11:55am on a Saturday (they closed at noon), and mercy, they were angels. Totally took care of us and didn't rush us out the door.
The mechanics asked where we had spent the night, and we gave them a very brief "oh, that abandoned travel mart place on exit 88." They go... "oh, that place! That guy Ted owns it, but I thought he was in jail," to which we go, yes, yes he is, and his brother Tom is watching it for him. They totally know who we're talking about, and say "yeah, he's real squirrely. That whole family has had a lot of trouble with run-ins with the law and drugs."
So, it turns out it was just the belt that was broken, and they get us patched up and back on the road with assurances that the van should be fine for the rest of the trip. And so off towards Yellowstone we went!