Long Version: Our van left from the Centre at 9:30 in the morning for a 7 or so hour drive. We had three drivers (the other van had two), just in case Tuija, who is five months pregnant, had problems driving and couldn't. Admittedly, our other two drivers, including me, didn't particularly like driving and Tuija did. Just as well, in the end.
The morning was happily unexciting. We stopped for lunch and later for ice cream. We were just outside Flint, MI, driving along in the middle lane, around 3pm. A truck looked like it wanted to move into our lane, so Jessie sped up to move into the passing lane and get out of its way. In the process of speeding and turning a bit, a wheel blew. We were going fast and turned, and the van went fishtailing badly into the grassy median. We skidded halfway through the passing lane of the opposite direction of traffic (luckily blocked off for construction) and came to rest in the middle of median. Both front tires had blown at this point. The only reason we were able to come to such a relatively gentle stop under the circumstances was all the mud. It had been raining heavily earlier in the day. That, and our driver, Jessie, kept her wits about her enough that she kept us from other traffic. No other vehicles were involved. We were stopped and we were all alive and well, if very shaken.
Within the next 10 minutes, four different vehicles stopped for us, to see if we were alright, or to offer help. One woman loaned us her mobile to call for help. (7 young people in their 20s and 30s and not a cell phone among us.) Within 10 minutes, a police officer was there to look after us. Everyone was really good to us. It took an hour and a half for the tow truck to come. The rain held off, fortunately. I took lots of pictures of our rather spectacular skid marks and the damage to the car. We found the front license plate which had fallen off.
The tow truck could only take two of us, so the policeman very nicely made two trips to ferry us to the nearby Dodge dealership where we were all going. It was novel to ride in the back of a police car, with places to hook up handcuffs and all hard plastic for easy washing down. The Dodge dealership was closing in 45 minutes, but they generously let us make some long distance phone calls - to the van rental agency, for example. Thrifty said they would send us a replacement vehicle, that it would be about an hour. We told them we'd be waiting at the Chili's across the street, where we could have dinner. The dealership repair place said it looked like most of the damage was to the tires and, other than the alignment being out of whack, the van was basically sound. They helped out by driving our luggage across the (very wide and very busy) street.
So we had dinner. Most people had drinks. As backup driver, I stuck with water. It was also a good chance to call home and report on the incident. Two hours passed. No vehicle had turned up, so we called back. None had been sent and they hadn't thought to call us back. (Chili's was very generous about answering the phone and letting us use them as our contact.) We waited and eventually they called us back, with instructions to take a taxi to Detroit (effectively backtracking) to pick up the replacement vehicle. They'd pay us back for the taxi. This was the point at which tempers slowly started to fray. Generally, everyone had been really good and relatively calm and very supportive after all we had been through together.
The taxi company said they took cash only, and yes, they would send something for seven people plus luggage. We had enough cash between all of us to cover the ride, so skipped the extra trip to the atm. 45 minutes later, no taxi. We call back. It's on its way. Another 15 minutes and it arrives. The taxi van would have held five people with no luggage comfortably. The taxi driver wanted to fit us all in and we just wanted to be on our way at this point, after 6 hours in Flint. So we crammed in, luggage, people and all. It was awful and smelled rather of carbon monoxide in the back. We opened what windows we could. The ride took an hour and a quarter. We found the Detroit airport, we found the strip with the rental agencies. No Thrifty. We stopped at a gas station and they directed us off in a slightly different if nearby direction to find it.
By 11pm, we had the new van, this time with a CD player. Tuija, our de facto leader, was ready to drive. I was her backup and navigator. Everyone else was tired. It was a quiet trip from the back seats. Since it was late and dark, however, I felt it was my duty to keep Tuija awake and she concurred, so I spent the next almost two hours both conversing with her and just generally making inane remarks to keep her awake. We made the normally 2 and a half hour trip in under 2 hours, arriving around 1 am. There's not too much traffic that time of night, except for all the trucks.
So that's how we made it to Kalamazoo. Thrifty still assures us we'll get reimbursed for some portion - or all - of that night, but they can't do it just yet. Evidently the van is lost and they can't do anything until it's found again. It's no longer at the dealership where we left it, and no one (yet) seems to know why.