Tracks of Fate
Lisco, Nebraska: August 12-13, 2004

Before we arrived in Lisco on the 12th, Gwen had asked if we wanted to stay the night. I had told her that we planned to visit and just leave early in the evening. Phoebe was waiting for us, and it should only take a few hours to get back to Golden. She reminded me to tell Mike to be careful going over the tracks because they had "gotten bad lately" but no one had been able to convince the railroad to fix the crossing.

Around 8 pm, we said goodbye to Jim and Gwen and headed off toward Lisco. Mike slowed down for the 4 sets of tracks, but as we hit the halfway point we felt the car jump a bit. As we turned onto the highway, the Jetta's oil light came on. Mike groaned and immediately pulled over. He knew he had busted the oil pan on the tracks.

Just before the trip, we had bought cell phones, because, I had reasoned, in this day and age with that sort of modern technology, it would be stupid to get stuck somewhere and not be able to call for help. Luckily, Verizon has coverage in Lisco, so I called Jim and Gwen. Jim came out with a flashlight and confirmed the pool of oil under the car. (I was happy to see the oil because that meant there had still been some oil in the engine when Mike shut it down....leaving hope that the Jetta could be fixed). We put our suitcases in the back of Jim's truck and towed the Jetta back to main street. Then, we spent the night at Jim and Gwen's.

The entirety of the morning of the 13th was spent trying to figure out what to do with the car. The local mechanic in Lisco was able to confirm that the oil pan had a big hole in it, but he had no suitable replacements. The closest place we could take the Jetta for repairs was Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the midst of driving around, Jim kept looking at the oil spot on the road and finally decided that we just needed some pictures to mark the day. In the pictures he took, you can see where the oil pan hit the angle iron sticking up in the crossing. He also found the chunk of oil pan that was busted off, and I took the picture below after we got home. (Yes, the story does end with us and the Jetta arriving in Golden!)

Jim offered to lend us one of his trucks so we could tow the Jetta back to Denver, where it would be easier to get it repaired. The next problem was finding something to tow it with. The Jetta's ground clearance was too low for any of the trailers Jim had, so we ended up driving ~40 minutes each way to another town, where the U-haul had a car dolly we could rent. By mid-afternoon, we were finally on our way home, with the suitcases in the back of the truck and the Jetta in tow. The drive was uneventful and I took the pictures below the following morning.

The end of the story is that the Jetta was repaired locally. Mike and his mom drove the truck to Cheyenne, where they met up with Jim, Gwen and Mariah for lunch. Per Gwen's request, I submitted a detailed report to Union Pacific with pictures and a request for reimbursement. Of course, the request was denied, but it did at least bring the crossing to the attention of the local Union Pacific management. Last I heard, they had made a second visit to the tracks in the fall. The oil stain was still on the road, and Jim stopped to make the case again that the crossing needs to be fixed.

The Sanders family tradition of car trouble on road trips remained intact and everyone lived happily ever after... ;>)