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Road trips

Have you ever noticed that the most memorable trips are those where things go wrong? At the time it seems awful, but later you laugh about it. For some reason, nearly all of my driving misadventures involve California.

The first one that comes to mind was a few months after The Engineer and I were married. We took a weekend trip from Tucson to San Diego. A mini, belated honeymoon of sorts to one of my favorite cities. We drove my Acura (of the now infamous aftermarket cruise control), which was at this point nine years old and driven to death.

On the morning we were due to leave San Diego, the car battery died and my husband pushed the car back and forth in the parking lot of the hotel while I tried to pop the clutch to get it started. Poor guy. It finally worked, and since it was too early in the morning to get the battery replaced, we drove to El Centro (about three hours or so) and stopped for lunch while the guys at Sears replaced the battery.

That would have been enough, but this is where I must mention that it was July. In the desert. At midday. Not an hour after we left El Centro, we heard an ominous thump as the air conditioning belt flew off and sailed behind us. Now, I know that when my dad was a kid, he took the same trip many times and just roasted with the windows down.

But, hah, we’re better than that. We improvised in the 100+ degree heat. I’m not sure whose idea it was, so I’ll take joint credit with The Engineer, but we tied up the sleeves of my long-sleeved shirt (hey, the beach doesn’t warm up until fall) and stuffed them with ice cubes which we spent the remainder of the drive rubbing on our face and arms to stay cool.

I hardly remember anything else about that trip, but it’s precisely the things that went wrong—and the knowledge that we were able to handle them, and did so together—that make it a fun memory.

Got any misadventures to share?

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  1. Reply

    When I was 16 my parents took my 2 younger siblings and I on a road trip across the country. We drove from Philadelphia to the Grand Canyon, up to Yellowstone, and back home. We saw 30 states, dozens of national parks, canyons, and other attractions, and were in the car for pretty much a month straight.

    I remember it as an odd mix of pure hell and a lot of fun. It was wonderful to be able to see so many places, and I’m really glad that they are a part of my life experiences. At the same time, I think it should be a criminal act to keep a 16 year old, a 14 year old, and an 8 year old in the car for a month.

    Still, I can’t think of any other way to see that much of the country, and I expect someday I’ll repeat the journey with my own children. I feel certain I’ll do it in smaller sections, though. I’m not nearly crazy enough to do it all at once again.

    • Reply

      That’s great, Mary, but I could see how hellish it would be, especially before all the gadgets my kids have now. My parents did something similar after we moved back to the States from Germany.

      My kids have now been to about 35 States, but we’ve definitely spread it out. Thanks for sharing!

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