Well, the car problem turned out to be quite a bit more serious than a broken serpentine belt. The air-conditioning unit and the clutch were both burned out. The small town garage in western Nebraska to which the car was towed on Monday didn't have the parts on hand until this morning. So, I arranged to rent a car, but that was in the next town, 50 miles away. Someone came from there to get me, thankfully, so I drove back to the first town, transferred my stuff into the rental car, and then headed on south to visit my folks in southern Colorado. And, I'm happy to report that despite all, I did arrive here in time to be taken out to a very nice dinner for my 49th birthday (the beginning of my 50th year!) by my parents and my brother and his girlfriend.
Alas, I'm going to have to cut my visit short by one day in order to get back to Nebraska in time to return the rental car and get my newly-repaired car back before I head on to an 8-day retreat in Kansas. One thing I'm thankful for: I was in some pretty remote (and quite beautiful) areas of South Dakota and Nebraska for most of Monday, but the meltdown didn't occur till I was back on the interstate and in an actual town with a cell-phone signal. The situation wasn't ideal, but it could have been a lot hairier, and I had a lot of help from very friendly and hospitable people throughout.
I'll be heading back to Nebraska on Friday, and have a 3-hour window in which to return the rental car in the next town, get a ride back to the town where my car is, (I'm getting really well-acquainted with that one 50-mile stretch of I-80) and pick up the car from the garage before they close at noon.
My brother thinks the serpentine belt may have broken because I drove down a rocky road to look at those concrete pelicans. Perhaps a rock flew up into the engine and broke it, and that's what led to the other breakdowns. Remind me to stay away from concrete lawn sculptures from now on, ok?