“My accelerator is stuck”
I was traveling about 50 mph and going downhill and was able to apply the brakes but my Jeep would continue to accelerate. My future wife started to panic and I surprisingly did not. I applied the brakes, shifted to 2nd gear and then to low gear. I was able to get the vehicle down to about 10 mph but it still wanted to (luckily this is the least scary part of the highway) accelerate. I pulled into a turnout and applied the brakes hard, pulled the emergency brake, and put my Jeep into park. The engine was still revving as I shut off the engine. The brakes let out a large plume of smoke and I even wondered if the engine was smoking.
We were now safe.
We were stopped on the side of the road with no cars, darkness approaching, and a large number of hungry mosquitoes.
I put on my emergency lights, and opened the hood. Using my flashlight I inspected the engine but was unable to figure out the problem. I comforted my girl and let her know that it would be okay. We had just come from camping in Yellowstone so worse case scenario we have a tent, a pop up tent, plenty of snacks, and even a 72 hour survival/first aid kit.
We will be fine.
We looked on our GPS and discovered Cooke City, Montana was the closest city. The plan was to wait till the brakes cooled down and attempt to drive back to the town for assistance. We waited, but when I turned on my Jeep the engine revved up to 5000 rpms and I shut it off. It still wanted to accelerate.
We were stranded.
I saw an approaching vehicle and used my flashlight to flag it down. A nice woman driving a grey Subaru stopped and offered to give us a ride back into town. On the way back to Cooke City, I asked the driver about the campground that does not allow tents. She explained that this was because a bear dragged a man from his tent and killed him. I later found the news article:
We were even more thankful for the kindness of a stranger to give us a ride back to town. We can handle a few mosqito bites but we certainly do not want to deal with a bear.
She dropped us off back in town and we offered to pay her for her time but she just insisted that we help someone else out in the future.
We carried our overnight bags, camera, laptop, and other items. We went from hotel to motel through the small town but no rooms were available.
I was beginning to worry a little.
Nothing was available in the whole town because of the Sturgis Motorcycle run and because it is a small town.
I made a stop at the local gas station (there are two) to inquire about a mechanic. The mechanic only works on atvs and snowmobiles and we would have to be towed to Cody, Wy, which is 77 miles away. I was told a tow could be arranged at 7am.
AAA was not really an option in this small town but I would attempt to contact them once we found a place to stay.
After trying several hotels we approached the Soda Butte Lodge (http://www.cookecity.com/) for a second time and pleaded with the nice lady behind the desk if there was anything she could do. We would even sleep in the lobby if needed. She did not want to see us stranded and offered to help and let us sleep in the lobby. She provided us with pillows and blankets and we made two couches in the lobby our new home for the night.
We settled in the lobby and I spent some time at the hotel bar. They do have a full bar and slot machines, although I did not gamble.
(below is my view from the lobby couch)
Eventually a tad after 11pm the bar closed and I settled back in the lobby. The lodge locked up the bar, front desk, front door, and access to the restrooms. This was not a problem at first but all of a sudden I really had to pee.
I stepped out side to see what my options were and encountered the night manager. He explained that he was unable to open the door to the restrooms but there was a bar down the street and I could go there but it would be polite to order a beer or some chips to use the restrooms. I walked the two blocks to the bar and entered. I hoped that my fiancee would not worry to much as I had no way to communicate with her. The bar was nice but as I entered there were only 3 people at the bar and a bartender. I sat down to order a beer but could not even see what beers were available as I did not have my contacts in. The bar patron next to me listed the beers available. I honestly did not even want a beer nor did I care which one as I only came to the bar to use the restroom. The patron kept listing all the beers.
“I will take a Becks”, I said to the bartender
You don't want that one it has no alcohol, How about a Rainier?
That is fine.
I asked “Do you take cards? Do you have Wifi?”
No and No
I was out of cash.
The bar patron paid for the beer (only $3) and I took a few sips and then used the bathroom.
I sat at the bar with the locals and talked with them. We talked about the local town, made jokes, and talked about the bears that frequent the area.
Apparently the bears, even walk down the main street in the middle of town.
It felt as if I was making friends but the the bartender abruptly told us that we were done.
I used the restroom one last time (probably my only option til morning), I finished my beer, and then thanked the bar patron for paying for my beer.
“I bought you a beer?”
Maybe this was the twilight zone.
I left the bar and made my way back to the lodge. I was on the lookout for bears because after hearing all these stories, as I assumed they were everywhere. I did not see any.
I made my way back into the lobby. I kissed my girl goodnight and settled in on my couch. Overall we were comfortable but a few mosquitoes managed to make their way inside and we woke up with mosquito bites.
The dealership explained that it may take several hours to determine what was wrong with it and it make take several days to fix. The dealership drove us into town and we visited the Buffalo Bill Center of the West Museum http://centerofthewest.org/ and ate lunch at a nice Chinese buffet (http://www.chinesefoodcody.com/).
We explored the museum, saw a baby deer, ate lunch, explored the museum, waited, saw a raptor show, and made our way back to the museum.
The last I heard is that my Jeep is fixed, it is of course still in Cody, WY and we will drive back on Sunday and return on Monday to pick it up.
I learned a few things from this experience:
Always carry cash. Don't panic or worry because most things can get better no matter how bad they may seem. I will be fine because I have my awesome fiancee Randi by my side. Life could always be worse, we are blessed to have each other and small town hospitality. Other than this, the road trip was incredible. We saw amazing scenery and Deer, Elk, Pronghorn, Bison, and even a Bear and of course a bunch of geysers in Yellowstone.
We made it back to Cody after staying in Casper, returned the rental car, and finally made the return trip to Denver. My Jeep is completely fixed and everything is back to normal. I am working extra hours to pay for everything but despite this setback it was a very amazing vacation.