North of Grant’s Pass, the Manzanita rest area could be a tough place to run into car trouble, especially if there was no one around to help. The terrain is steep and mountainous, and the city of Grant’s Pass is just far enough away that it would be a difficult hike back to help.
Fortunately for Rebecca and Mitch Milburn, someone was there when their throttle cable snapped just as they pulled in from I-5 to use the restrooms.
Oregon Travel Experience Assistant Rest Area Supervisor Kevin Smolich was on duty and saw the Milburn’s standing in front of their pick-up truck with the hood open. Manzanita is not exactly balmy at this time of year, so Smolich got them warming up with hot coffee while he helped the couple decide how to handle the breakdown.
Since the Milburn’s had no towing insurance, Smolich used his personal Triple A card to help them out. Oregon Travel Experience does not provide towing coverage for their employees, so this “above and beyond” the call of duty was Smolich’s creative way of helping a pair of honest motorists who really needed it.
“Kevin was friendly and professional in his conduct,” said Rebecca Milburn. “He even helped us work on the truck.”
“He was very helpful and we really appreciated him,” agreed her husband Mitch. “He used his own Triple A membership to help us out. Unbelievable!”
When Santiam Assistant Rest Area Supervisor Nancy Tatum says she has a busy day, she’s not kidding. In addition to her regular duties, Tatum often finds herself in the middle of both north and southbound I-5 driver dilemmas. During one of her most recent shifts, Tatum helped two women make it to their destinations safe and sound.
“Right at the start of my day, I helped a woman from Portland who ran out of gas. She was on her way to Medford and had forgotten to check her gas gauge. She was totally ashamed. I gave her a gallon of gas and she tried to pay me, but I gave her one of my business cards and told her to remember us instead.
“I had just driven over to the southbound side when another woman from Portland flagged me down. She and her kids were waiting to meet the rest of their family traveling in another car when the youngest child got overly rambunctious and locked the family out. Of course, the keys, cell-phone, and purse were all locked inside. I unlocked the door, and the mom was so happy that she hugged me! She also swore she would never lock herself out of the car again!”
Tatum takes pride in her ability to serve the motoring public.
“Being able to help folks is the biggest reason I love my job. Giving and helping means a lot to me, and if I can reach out and leave someone with a positive feeling then I feel good about myself and the agency I represent.”
OTE’s rest area supervisor teams recognize that it is the motorist and commercial driver who benefit from supervised rest areas. Cleanliness, safety and convenience are what the public expect.
Rest area heroism however, is a bonus supported by the personalities and values of those who work for Oregon Travel Experience. And that’s something we’ll never take for granted.
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