It takes a pretty big vehicle to transport a family of ten kids and a wheelchair (for my oldest brother). In addition to that, the vehicle needs to be operational for a number of years... at least until people start leaving the nest. Taking the family on vacations, road trips, and the weekly drive to church, the pre-described vehicle needs to have a lot of mileage, heavily contradicting its gas-guzzling behavior. With this in mind, my parents decided to go out and buy a nice, spacious BMW (Big Mormon Wagon) to fit their needs.
Enter Big Blue: the Olson family's fifteen passenger van. This monstrous, sixteen year old relic is a layover from Utah (my state of origin) and gets about twelve miles per gallon and has over 164,000 miles to its name. Nonetheless, this gigantic piece of azure metal continues to serve here in Storm Lake.
Since the head count has dwindled down to five kids (me included) and having a neat, sea-green Toyota Sienna to replace it as the primary mode of transportation, Big Blue had become the property of the eldest child. Therefore, since my older brother, Benjamin, left on a church mission almost a year ago, Big Blue has been left largely vacant...that is, until I got my driver's license three months ago. As the days got colder and since bicycling to and from school is not the ideal way to go during winter, Big Blue has been passed down in a very non-ritualistic fashion to yours-truly.
I have learned a couple of things since then. I have learned to avoid sharp turns and that parallel parking is simply not an option. Still, a vehicle the size of Big Blue is a lot to handle for an eighteen year-old college student and I'm thankful that I haven't had a problem with it yet. Enter the night of Wednesday January 23rd.
It was 9:30 and I was coming home from a night class at the college. It was a bitterly cold night and the wind didn't help any. The van is equipped with a heater of course; but it is my experience that it takes around sixteen minutes to actually get to temperature, leaving me in an ice box until then. Needless to say, I was reveling for the moment when I could get home from the twelve minute drive so I could get warm- properly.
I had scarcely taken a right through the intersection connecting Oneida with Milwaukee when the engine suddenly stopped and the dashboard went dark. Thinking quickly, I hurriedly pulled off to the side of the road and (not so hurriedly) leaned my head back with exasperation: for the diagnosis was clear. I had run out of gas.
It was general knowledge in my family that Big Blue would run until the gauge was below empty. Following this, I knew I'd be okay, just as long as I filled 'er up when I got home. Turns out I didn't take into account that Big Blue burns gas more than ever in cold weather, leaving me out of gas right when it hit empty. I was to suffer for my carelessness: I had no cell phone and Fareway was closed. Thankfully however, not a minute later, a policeman pulled behind me. I guess I did a pretty good job pulling off to the side of the road because his intent was not to rescue me of my unfortunate predicament, but to see if I had run into a pole.
Using the man's cell, I contacted my dad, who came to the rescue with some gas. Alas, after putting the gas in, it still wouldn't start. I knew why. Due to my inexperience in such situations, while I was waiting for Dad, I had futility tried the ignition multiple times and (in my own ignorance) killed the battery.
Now we had a problem. By that time, another policeman had showed up and, with Dad in the driver's seat, we pushed that hunk of metal across the street and into the Fareway parking lot. There we used the Toyota to jump the van. Then, finally, did Big Blue turn over.
After thanking the officers, I was delegated to drive the Toyota home, which I accepted gladly. For after thirty minutes in the cold, despite the comical circumstance, I was finally able to get warm.
Reflecting on this memory, I will say that I learned my lesson. But, after recalling my Dad and I laughing about it when we got home, adding another bond to our father/son relationship, I can't help but think that it was worth it.
* Jacob Olson is an Iowa Central Community College student from Storm Lake. He contributes a weekly column for the Pilot-Tribune