Somewhat inspired by Write ALM’s March Prompt-a-Day for today and a friend’s Facebook post about her car difficulties, today’s post is all about driving.
I’ve long had a love affair with driving. I’ve written about it here quite a bit in the past. I made my first cross-country (actually half cross-country – Missouri to Nevada) by myself when I was 16 and hadn’t had my license very long at all. And when I say not very long at all, I mean like a month.
One of my worst nightmares is the car experiencing some kind of mechanical difficulty. I’ve made enough long-distance, multi-day trips through sparsely populated areas to know that sometimes that can happen and when it does, you might not have cell service.
The first time I had car troubles on a trip was that first trip. I’d bought a Ford Escort (1986? I can’t remember now) from Grandma’s cousin, who was a mechanic and owned a used car lot. He made sure it was mechanically sound and I took it and had new tires put on it, oil changed, etc. Driving it across the Utah salt flats was more than it could handle, though, and it over-heated at the rest area just before you get into Wendover. This trip was made in the days before cellphones. I had a calling card, though, and I called the Sner, who happened to be a truck driver. Her advice was to let the thing cool off and ease on into Wendover to one of the truck stops where I could add some coolant to the radiator and be on my merry way. Which I did.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve made that drive across Interstate 80 from Reno through Wyoming and Nebraska before dropping down to Missouri. I’ve also gone south from Reno to Mississippi more times than I can count. North out of Mississippi to Missouri and westward to Colorado or east to Kentucky.
In all of those trips, I’ve been lucky. There have only been a very few times that I’ve had problems with my vehicles. The Sner always stressed taking care of your car – if you did the routine and regular maintenance on your car, it would serve you well, and she has been right. That first trip was an exception.
Another exception happened with Josie (the Jeep I have inherited) on a trip back from Missouri. I’d been in Missouri for my father’s funeral and it had been a long, taxing week. The drive back was through hellish weather. With the headwinds that changed to crosswinds, I could barely get out of fourth gear and crept across Nebraska and Wyoming at around 35-40 mph. The trip took much, much longer than it should have. I was dead tired and had been driving for 20 hours straight when the check engine light on Josie came on outside of Winnemucca, NV. Two hours from home. (It turned out to be time to replace the oxygen sensor) I might have had a little break-down.
The Sweet Potato (my beloved 87 Honda Accord) also had a moment outside of Las Vegas. One of the reasons I decided it was time to let the Sweet Potato go was that she had a drop in gas mileage and every once in awhile she’d completely lose power. Everything would quit. Instead of calling the Sner that time, I called the husbands of my best friends – who both happened to be mechanics. One of them was willing to come get me (because he lived in Reno). After letting the car cool off for a bit and deciding to run without the AC for the remainder of a trip in August in NV heat, I was able to make it home without further incident – although the pit in my stomach never quite left.
The last time I had a car incident was around Christmas with Josie. Poor Josie. She’s starting to show her age. That time, the Sner was flying in to New Orleans so she was there to lend her expert skills, the Husband was on his way from the Coast, and we wound up calling AAA (an excellent investment. Not that I’m shilling for them, but seriously. Worth the money).
All of this reminds me that I need to take Josie in to have the tires rotated and balanced and the oil changed. She’s been a good vehicle for 22 years, I think she’s got a lot more years left in her (she’s a straight 6 Jeep engine – extremely difficult to kill).
As much as I enjoy flying and as much as I love the fact that a flight can get you where you want to be very quickly, there’s something about hitting the open road. I don’t mind the hour between the Coast and Hattiesburg (although I can’t do it every day for financial reasons). I like the time to think and to process and to listen to music or NPR. I like it even more when I don’t have to worry that something is going to go wrong with the car!
Are you a fan of the open road and cars? Or do you find them merely a way to get from point A to point B?