An Unforgettable Road Trip



We made the decision to take our first long road trip of our journey.  The trains from Basel to southern France were over $500, so renting a car and driving seemed like the better option.  We blindly followed the GPS through Switzerland and into France.

The drive through Switzerland was beautiful.  We drove through winding highways surrounded by tree covered hills with patches cleared for green grass, roaming cows and white homes with steep brown roofs.  The cool morning air brought fog and cloud covered mountain tops.  We were amazed with the views and Jon was loving the freedom of driving.

Views of Switzerland

Views of Switzerland

Of course what is a road trip, without some rain?  As we got closer to the French border the skies became ominous and we went through patches of heavy rain.

Ominous skies

Ominous skies

But thankfully it didn’t last long and we were welcomed into Provence with sunny, clear skies.

Sunny Skies of France

Sunny Skies of France

We were only about an hour from our destination of Toulon airport, to be picked up by our next host, when we finally had to fill the little car up with gas.  When we pulled into the station every lane for cars with tanks on the passenger side of the car were closed.  This sent Jon into a bit of a fit and he became very frustrated.  I have learned that in these situations it is best to keep quiet.  After waiting for other cars for about 5 minutes we pulled up to fill the car up with gas.  Jon asked me, “You think I should put gazole in right?”  “Yes, honey, that is what the lady told us, right, gas?”  Jon replied,”I am just not sure, but it says gazole, it means gas right.”  To which I replied, “I think so.”

All was well, we got back on the interstate and were about 5 minutes down the road, when everything changed.  Jon started looking down at the dashboard, “The car isn’t going.  I am pushing the gas but the car is dying!  What is happening?  What did I do wrong!?”  He immediately put on the flashers and tried to get us to a safe area, but the car flat out died.  There was no shoulder on the road, only a guard rail and the car died in the middle of the lane around a corner, so it was a blind spot for oncoming drivers.  “Quick, get out of the car now!!”  Jon yelled, as he pulled the brake and climbed out of the passenger side behind me.

Jon made me jump the guard rail so I would be safer from cars and starts waving at traffic to merge within feet of hitting us and the car.  The scariest part, was we have no cell phones.  So there was no way to call for help.  The feeling of helplessness washes over completely.  Jon makes the phone signal up by his ear to a semi driving by.  The driver blows his horn back, but we are unsure if it is because he only had seconds to merge or if he got the message.

Jon is running is hand through his hair, “I have no idea what to do.”  I was reminded that we saw orange SOS boxes along the road, so I decide to try and find one.  Since there was no shoulder to walk on, I walked on the few inches of land before the drop off 50 feet below, held on to the guard rail and made my way down the road in search for an SOS box.  All the while, terrified that someone would not see Jon and hit him and the car.  This is that moment when you start talking to God, Okay God, you want control?  You want me to surrender to you.  This is why I don’t like surrender.  But I have no other choice, you have to help us, we have no way to call for help.  We need you to get us out of this situation.  Above all else protect my husband.

I get down the road and see nothing, so I start making my way back, all the while signaling people to move over.  I am pretty sure at that point, they thought I was a drugged up, crazy lady, walking down the road…that was until they turned that last corner and saw the car.

I was so thankful to get back to Jon and see he was okay, but I had to keep going, keep searching.  So I started off in the other direction for an SOS box.  This time there was enough green space on the other side for me to run and not far ahead was the orange box.  Then the voices set in, What if I have to actually dial a number, I don’t have a single number to call.  What is the equivalent of 911 in France?  Dear God, they are only going to speak French, what am I going to do? At this point, I couldn’t hold it together any longer, the hot tears started burning down my face.

I reached the orange SOS box and there was a single red button, thank God for that!  I pushed it and there was a recording in French, then immediately after a man answers, “Oui.”  My shaking response flies out without even having to think, “Anglais, s’il vous plaît? (English, please)”  I hear a short “Oui” with the sound of cars flying by.  “Our car has broken down in a very dangerous spot.  We cannot pull over.  We need help.”  And he responded, “quatre mintes (four minutes).”  I yelled out, “merci (thank you)” and my voice was so shaky I didn’t even recognize it.

By this point my entire body was shaking and the adrenaline was rushing through so fast, I could hardly contain it.  I got back to Jon and he was waiting for me in a florescent green jacket.  There was now a huge truck with lights merging traffic around us at a safe distance.  Jon said they arrived before I even called, because he could see me at the SOS box.  Within a few minutes a tow-truck arrived and we jumped into the truck, having no idea where we were going.  At this point, no one spoke any English and we didn’t know enough French.

Through sign language and a few words we told him we think we put the wrong gas in the tank.  Once we get to his garage he checks and sure enough gazole means diesel, not gas or petrol.  Now the tears are falling, how are we ever going to pay for this?  We probably ruined the entire engine.  Not to mention we have hardly any way to communicate and we have no idea where we are at!

The first thing we did was call our host that was supposed to pick us up at the airport.  When I told him what happened his response was, “And you couldn’t call me sooner.  Good luck darling.”  Yeah, that pretty much resulted in more tears again.

Well you know those prayers I was praying and our blogs about angels along the way and blog posts about how amazing the French people are….ALL TRUE!  The lady at the front desk spoke some English and we asked how much it would cost…we of course didn’t take out extra insurance, although I don’t think this would be covered anyway.  She starts writing out the price for us..150 Euros.  As she was writing I was waiting for the next zero, because in my mind 1,500 was going to be a good deal.  Nope 150 to fix it and it would be ready by 9:30 in the morning.

The people at this garage called the rental car company for us, to say the car would be delayed, spent the extra time to help us at the end of their day before they closed and to top it off, one of the mechanics called the hotel down the street and got us a room for the night!  Words in English couldn’t express our gratitude and merci beaucoup, just didn’t seem like enough.  Hopefully the emotions in our eyes got the message across.

So thankful for answered prayers, the kindness of French strangers and the fact that we are safe & alive.  Although, still a bit shaky.  AND remember gazole is DIESEL not gas!!  And FYI the emergency number in France is 112.

I know this is the longest post ever!  Not sure how many are still reading, but Jon is totally beating himself up for this.  He is so upset that he put us in danger.  I keep telling him we both decided to put gazole in the car and all that matters is that we are safe!

Jon writes:  ” It is my responsibility to ensure we are safe during this journey, no matter the situation we are in. To know that my decision to put the wrong gas in the car caused us to be in a very dangerous spot is hard to swallow. I should have known. I am truly sorry to my wife for having to go through that day. As most of you know I am new to the church. The only explanation I can came come up with that got us out of that situation was divine intervention. It was on this day that I have decided to LET GO, and LET GOD!



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