This past June our motorhome suffered engine failure on Interstate-80 in Kearney, Nebraska. We were headed to Salt Lake City for a three-month work assignment, with summer long reservations at a KOA. This unexpected breakdown forced us to grope for arrangements, and left us dealing with emotional duress and financial hardship.
Due to national supply chain issues there was no guarantee we could procure a rebuilt V10 Triton E450 engine in a reasonable timeframe, which meant our life was in limbo for the foreseeable future. Little did we know this would become a situation that would require thoughts and prayers in flyover country.
Sparing the minutia, our October plans (and typical living arrangements, our home!) were held hostage by the delayed availability of the engine. A transmission/engine rebuild company called Jasper supposedly had one, but it would take two months to rebuild and deliver to our mechanics.
Well, the engine didn’t arrive as promised. Apparently September 1st was a “hypothetical” delivery date based on “projected” availability. It would have been nice if they told us that was the case.
They bumped back their projected delivery date to September 23rd, but couldn’t guarantee an engine would be available at that time either. We had no other options — Ford didn’t have any, no one did — so all we could do was pray for a miracle.
Everything from campground reservations and Balloon Fest tickets to employment plans that involved the coordination of a dozen VA employees were up in the air as we held out hope Jasper could deliver the rebuilt engine. Even in the best case scenario the timeline was cutting close. Contingency plans were made across the board — too nuanced to list — and this engine had far too many people awaiting the outcome.
Long story short, the engine was delivered four days later than anticipated, and the work was completed a few hours before we arrived in Kearney. It was truly a miracle. Two hours after we arrived in Kearney, we dropped the jacks, put out the awning, and bbq’d dinner in a campground. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, and I had to fight back tears at the same time.
We had prayed for three months that everything would work out, and had visited the Temple twice to gain perspective and understanding. We knew the Lord’s will would always supersede our plans, but we really liked our plans! More than anything we wanted to spend four weeks tooling through New Mexico and West Texas. At the very top of Monica’s bucket list was Balloon Fest in Albuquerque, and the thought of missing it was heartbreaking for her.
The road between Kearney, NE and Albuquerque, NM traverses 700 miles of the most rural countryside you will find in our nation. Flat, yellow farmland eventually gives way to flat, yellow wasteland… and eight hours later you’re in the mountains. I cannot imagine finding one’s self in a more remote part of the United States. Check out the screenshot below:
North West Kansas and South East Colorado are seldom mentioned in casual conversation because nobody goes there but farmers. To land in these parts takes more than getting lost: It takes engine failure and bucket-list plans — the peanut butter and pickles recipe for a ludicrous sandwich.
Nonetheless, driving through the countryside provides thoughtful hours behind the wheel.
For one, I felt tremendous gratitude rolling through these farming communities. After a while it is easy to see the farmland pattern — large farms strung along remote highways with small towns centered around processing plants. I’d never noticed how this repeats itself. The towns are very basic, with housing for maybe a couple of hundred folks.
These small town communities centered around the production of food are what feed our entire country. Without people like this, Americans struggle to feed themselves. What appears dull and simple to the eye is quite essential to our existence.
We arrived in Kearney, Nebraska to find a group of hardworking and frustrated auto mechanics. They weren’t hayseeds — they were smart, thoughtful people. I wasn’t happy to see any of them because our relationship had been contentious throughout the negotiation process. I felt they were overcharging me for the work, and one in particular came off as a slime ball. I’m quite certain they used choice words to describe me as well.
Nonetheless, we got acquainted in a few minutes and were chit-chatting before long. Things had changed in their world. The parts they need to complete their work had become difficult to find. Things typically delivered in two or three days were taking two or three months. Fuel expenses were up 60%; the operating cost to tow a vehicle (like mine) had gone up, and the insurance companies were paying peanuts for the service. The mechanic’s way of life was suffering and they knew exactly who to blame.
Tired of being told how to live their lives; tired of being an afterthought; tired of being demonized and accused of privilege. Each of them seethed their frustration with the direction of the country. It dripped from them like engine oil.
And as I rolled away from the hardworking folks at that Kearney, Nebraska auto repair shop, and found myself immersed in a crop-centered world, it brought my mind back to all the negative middle-America talk I’ve heard over the course of my lifetime.
Flyover country, they call it. Pampered celebrities and coastal elites… the university professors — the most overprivileged portion of society — derisively call this “flyover country”, as if it were a hunk of nothing that must be “leapt across” to land in a more important part of the nation.
And furthermore, our truckers, refiners, mechanics, steel workers, rail workers, and others who make our way of life go should be held in high esteem. Why would we not? Because they didn’t go to college?
A society that fails to value the blue collar workers, those with their hands on the tools, has lost all touch with reality. Life goes on without many white collar jobs, but without the farmers, truckers, and rail workers it grinds to a halt and people die. The country folk could probably survive just fine without the city folk, but could we survive without them?
Anyone that derides the good people of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, etc., as less worthy of representation, or as racist, uneducated “oppressors”, or by some other derogatory moniker has lost sight of very important things.
We should hold our middle-America citizens as saints. They are willing to live in less beautiful places, with fewer resources and very little moral support, and they do the jobs we are unwilling to do or are incapable of performing. Very few political leaders esteem their value, and many put them down because there is no repercussion for doing so.
These elitists are wrong. We owe our middle-America brothers and sisters our admiration. They are our lifeblood. They deserve to be fought over and treasured because they are productive despite their “victimhood”. We’ve esteemed the wrong brand of victim in this nation, and we’ve belittled those we cannot live without.
When do-nothing academics are given unfettered access to the minds of a nation’s future leaders our priorities and perceptions distort grotesque. Our nation suffers this malfeasance of vanity, further exacerbated with each passing generation.
It took about two hours of staring at corn to not just think these thoughts — I’ve entertained them before — but to feel the weight of their significance. These Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado farmers and mechanics live a hard, thankless life. My thoughts and prayers go out to those in flyover country. May God and America bless them to the fullest.
I recommend breaking down in Kearney, Nebraska to anyone.
Three months is a long, uncomfortable amount of time to wonder if an engine for your motorhome exists. It sounds kind of stupid to say it — first world problems and all — but its true. Living in limbo for such an extended period, and dragging others with us, was emotionally trying. We lived in Salt Lake City for three months and I don’t think we ever exhaled (figuratively).
We feel grateful more than ever for our motorhome — our road castle — and our itinerant lifestyle. We feel incredibly blessed that everything came together in the final moments.
God is good and He answers prayers, even if he makes us sweat a little.
Thanks for reading, y’all. If you’d like to read more of our blog posts feel free.
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