May 11, 2022

The Saga Continues (National Parks Trip #3)

This post represents another installment in the series documenting our West Coast National Parks trip in the summer of 2017.  Alan and I, along with our 18 year old daughter, Kyra, logged a total of 8,513 memorable miles of adventure over the course of five and a half weeks during the months of July and August.

Alan, Kyra and I were stuck in the customer waiting area of the GMC dealership in DuBois, Pennsylvania.  It was Day #2 of our 39 day cross-country trip, and we were waiting for a mechanic to change the transmission fluid in our 2013 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck.  The truck’s transmission was failing.  We found ourselves with a truck that would get us home (if we drove carefully and didn’t tax it), a travel trailer that wouldn’t be coming with us, and five weeks of camping reservations ahead of us.  Sprinkle in a fair amount of stress and a whole lot of disappointment and, at that moment in time, life was not a pretty picture.  It was time for some creative thinking.

While the transmission fluid was being changed, Alan and I walked the lot at the DuBois GMC dealership.  We had intended to replace our 1500 with a new GMC Sierra 2500 late in 2017, so it didn’t make sense to look at anything smaller simply to bridge the gap and get us home.  Although the inventory at DuBois GMC included a reasonable number of trucks, there were no 2500s.  One of our possible solutions was eliminated, but I wasn’t ready to cancel the five weeks of reservations just yet.

On a whim, I called our local GMC dealership from which we had purchased our current Sierra, our previous Sierra and the small SUV that Kyra drove.  This was a small, family-run dealership that had been in business for generations.  One brother headed up the Sales Department; the other brother ran the Service Department.  In addition to Eric in Sales, there was just one full-time salesperson (Carlos) and an administrative assistant (Debbie).  When I called, Carlos picked up and I shared with him our tale of woe.  Then I asked him if he, by chance, had any new four wheel drive 2500s on the lot that were prepped for towing.  Despite the fact that this is a small town dealership with a limited inventory, they generally have a decent selection of trucks in stock.  Pickups are popular due to the rural and rugged area in which we live, and the staff knows its customers well.  Even so, if you knew exactly how small this dealership was, you’d understand that the chances of such a specific vehicle sitting on the lot were slim to none.  Carlos put me on hold to check, and we all waited with bated breath.  Somewhere around 10:00 a. m. on Day #2, Carlos uttered the words that were music to our ears: They had one 2500 4x4 on the lot and, yes, it had the max trailering package.  Plus, Carlos added, “It’s that dark red color that you like so much.”   Amazing!  No, not just amazing - nothing less than MIRACULOUS!  I asked Carlos to give Alan and me a chance to think it through and promised to call him back as soon as possible.  Suddenly, there was hope, and just the slightest chance that our West Coast National Parks trip might be salvaged!

Alan and I started brainstorming.  Before long we felt we had a viable plan in place, and we called Carlos back.  It was mid-morning on Day #2, a Thursday.  We told Carlos we wanted the truck, and asked him if there was any possibility that they could have it ready to go the following morning at 8:00 a.m. when the dealership opened.  He hesitated, imagining, I’m sure, the paperwork to be completed, the financing to be arranged, and the registration that would need to be processed over at the County Clerk’s office by the end of the business day.  And then he promised us the truck would be ready.  Small town businesses understand the importance of excellent customer service like most humongous corporations never will.  We had dropped an extraordinary challenge in the lap of this tiny dealership, and the staff rose to the occasion.

What followed next was an almost comical flurry of phone calls between Carlos and me while Alan and I worked our plan from the customer waiting area at DuBois GMC.  Without the ability to schedule a same-day transfer of the funds needed for the truck, we asked Carlos to just finance the entire purchase.  When he needed our licenses to process the transaction, Kyra sent the images via her smartphone.  Once we had the VIN, we contacted our insurance company for the binder and they sent it on to Carlos.  It seemed like both Carlos and I kept coming up with questions we forgot to ask the other.  Once when I called, Eric answered the phone.  As soon as I identified myself, he said, “I’ll get Carlos!” before I got another word out.  At some point, Debbie, their office assistant, zipped over to the County Clerk’s office to register the truck.  Amid the frenzy of paperwork, someone on staff washed the truck and installed the new license plates.

While our local GMC dealership was putting forth their best efforts on our behalf, we started searching for the nearest campground to the dealership in DuBois.  Luckily, we found a private campground just outside of town with sites available, so our travel trailer would have a safe place to wait for our return.

About the time we finished buying a new truck over the phone, sight unseen (YIKES!), our current truck was ready to roll out of the service bay.  I cannot shower the staff of DuBois GMC with enough compliments.  Not only did they squeeze us into a packed schedule, but they were exceptionally patient with our many questions, and everyone treated us warmly.  We thanked them profusely, and followed up with yet another thank you after we had returned home.  Their customer waiting area had almost started to feel like home.  We settled our bill, and the Service Manager sent us on our way wishing us the best of luck in executing our plan.  Interstate 80 is a convenient route west for us, and not a time goes by that we don’t offer the DuBois GMC a salute of gratitude as we drive past.

We hitched up our travel trailer, which had been sitting on the dealership’s lot all morning, and very s-l-o-w-l-y and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y made our way to the campground outside of town.  The owner discounted his rate since we wouldn’t have need of any hookups and promised he’d keep an eye on our rig.  It wasn’t long before we were on the road back home – for the second time in two days.  The following morning, Day #3 of our West Coast National Parks trip, Alan was at our local dealership when it opened at 8:00 a.m.  As promised, the new truck was ready to go.  Alan signed the paperwork and was on his way home in about 15 minutes.  The old truck, taken in as a trade-in, would be repaired under the GMC warranty and, presumably, either sold off the lot or at auction.

A rainy morning drop off and pick up - new truck on the left, old truck on the right

While Alan was picking up the new truck, I was re-working our travel schedule to make up for our lost days on the road.  As it turned out, we lost only two full days – the layover day I had scheduled at the Army COE campground in Illinois, and a day of exploration we had planned for Oklahoma City.  We had left on a Wednesday - twice.  Back home by Thursday evening.  Left home again on Friday morning – third time’s a charm.  By Sunday night, after three full days of driving, we arrived in Oklahoma City, already back on track.

Collecting the Jayco at the campground outside of DuBois, Pennsylvania

The staff at the GMC dealership in DuBois, Pennsylvania, went way out of their way to help us out, and couldn’t have been nicer about it.  The staff at our small, local dealership came through for us in a way that we believe most dealerships couldn’t – or wouldn’t – by processing our entire transaction from start to finish in less than seven hours.  They were thrilled to send Alan on his way Friday morning, and happy to hear about our travels when we returned weeks later to visit.  I’m pretty sure the postcard we sent to Carlos from Lake Carlos State Park is still posted on their bulletin board. 

On the road again - HURRAY!

With two strikes against us, and the help of two wonderful GMC dealerships, we were able to remain in the game.  Strike Three would nail us, but not until after we had experienced many, many miles of magnificent adventures.  I hope you’ll tag along.



  1. Another engaging adventure (misadventure?). I can hardly believe I read the whole thing without consciously looking for some little writing misstep. I must be going soft in my old age--or your proofreading has attained new heights. I'm not going back to look; it was too good.

    1. I can't imagine that you would ever go soft, my friend; it must be that my proofreading skills have, indeed, attained new heights. Happy to hear that you enjoyed the recounting of our misadventure! Thank heaven THAT'S in our rear view mirror!

  2. You have an excellent way with words. I’m hanging onto my seat! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Aw, Charlene, thank you for your kind words - and for taking the time to comment! I can assure you that we, too, were hanging onto our seats. It was one heck of a roller coaster ride and a real life lesson in resiliency for our daughter.

  3. Laurel ( 10:50 PM

    That is a wild story!! I'm so impressed at how creative and flexible and resilient you all were in dealing with such a challenging situation. And how wonderful that you had such kind and caring people to help you at both of the dealerships. I trust at this point that the rest of your trip goes smoothly!

    1. Considering all of our travels, I'd have to say this was our most trying expedition. After we got through the first few days, it was a magnificent trip - except for one more major glitch at the end. I will admit that this third cross-country National Parks trip was a little bittersweet since we were all missing Ryan. Kyra held up fairly well, but having her big brother there probably would have made all of the angst a little easier to bear. Nevertheless, it turned into a grand adventure!

  4. So, I NEVER heard this story, and it was a CRAZY couple of days! Not sure if I could live through all that - without tears and giving up! Perhaps I am NOT made for traveling - especially with cars, trucks, RV's, and motorized anything. I better stay home...but I am looking forward to the next chapter! Thanks Mary

    1. Well, for the life of me, I can't figure out how you escaped a recounting of this excruciatingly painful situation, but I'm glad we have rectified that problem! While difficulties on the road are never fun to deal with, for us, our many amazing travel experiences have always outweighed the bad. Besides, Alan and I were very aware that this was a teachable moment for an 18 year old on the cusp of adulthood. We wanted Kyra to absorb lessons in resiliency and coping skills - not how to fall apart in a crisis. Joan, I have no doubt at all that you would have met that challenge, too.


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