As we were swiftly driving through the Rockies to our night hotel reservation in Billings, something terrible happened. Our P.T. Cruiser of 13 years, unbeknownst to us, began burning oil at such a rate that the one of the pistons froze from the extreme heat and lack of lubrication. The piston rod splintered under the duress and as the crankshaft continued to crank under the power of the 3 remaining pistons. The broken piston rod and piston head no longer working in unison were smashing into each other with each powerful turn of the crankshaft. The car immediately loss power, the entire motor began to shutter, shaking the entire car. We were at the mercy of whoever was at the next exit, which was the small town of Columbus, the county seat of Stillwater, Montana. At the exit, our parents/in-laws and a passerby were there to ask questions about the dire circumstances of our situation while gritting their teeth at the sound of the motor’s death throws.
Fortunately, a truck stop was only a block away with a convenience store that carried some oil to preserve what was left of the other three pistons. We limped over to a parking stall, and I set to work to diagnose the severity of our quagmire. The engine was gone, my small emergency tool bag kit was useless to me. My only hope was to find an auto mechanic who knew how to rebuild engines or replace the one I had. With a moment of quiet prayer amidst the nervous on looking of my family. I did a quick online search on my phone for engine repair shops in Columbus, MT. I found one within a variety of small town mechanics and proceeded to map the location. With my wife’s parents behind us, I drove through town with engine knocking until I found the place, Emmett’s Mechanical Service. I could have gone to few other places in town, but I wanted to be in a shop that could rebuild the engine if possible. Many shops do not specialize in this and will outsource the work to another shop and add a finder’s fee without telling you what they did, so I wanted to go straight to the source and avoid all that. Emmetts was the place.
My wife and I upon my decision unloaded the car and placed all our luggage into the back of my father-in-laws pickup. He admitted to me later how he was shocked I was leaving my car in such a small town at an auto mechanic I did not know that was closed on Sunday with a key and note in an envelope describing my situation dropped in their door’s mail slot. He suggested I use my towing insurance to get the car to Billings and search for an auto mechanic there. For some reason, I knew I was doing the right thing, and I left the vehicle right where it was in Columbus and what I did not know at the time was in very capable and honest hands.
That evening we arrived at the C’Mon Inn and settled in for the night. I began to decompress and allow my mind to take in the seriousness of the situation. That night as I slept I dreamt of each possible scenario and allowed my mind to create several plans.
My wife and I woke the next morning rested and prepared to tackle the daunting task before us to establish transportation, pricing of an engine for our car, and of course making the Medora Musical that evening since we had prepaid tickets with great seats. First my wife’s dad came to the rescue and spared us a car rental. We would all pile into the F-150 pickup and head for Medora and the AirBnB in Dickinson, ND. My responsibility was now limited to taking care of the car by determining if we would haul it home on an auto transport or get it fixed in Columbus, MT. The adventure had really just begun.