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Ever Had a Road Trip from Hell?

If so, we want to hear about it! (If you can bear to recount the sordid details, that is.)

For the next few weeks, we’ll be gathering your favorite or, rather, least-favorite tales of road trips gone by. Stories of 2,000 miles spent with a brutish Mother-in-Law ordering you to slow down, every single mile. Tales of roadkill in the grille, engine fires, and vacation days spent in lonely backwaters, waiting for that new fan belt.

You can post your roadtrip from hell stories right here. We’ll pick a few of our favorites, and share them with our listeners in a few weeks.

And, as always – thanks!

Tom and Ray Magliozzi
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers

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One of the most memorable road trips was taken with my parents. My dad is an avid listener. We were in PA and my mom was backing the car with the boat attached down the boat ramp. My brother and I had just gotten out of the car, we were about 8 and 10 at the time. I remember my dad saying, do not step on the brake until I tell you and my mom stomping on the brake and saying “WHAT?, I CAN’T hear you!” My brother and I were then mortified that at that moment the boat (which was blue) decided to dislodge itself from the trailer and slide off onto the cement. It was a steep boat ramp!
Was my dad mad!! “I told you NOT to step on the brake” he yelled at my mom. Then they proceeded to get into some sort of argument.
My brother and I stood there stunned that now the car and trailer were on the hill and so was the boat, nowhere near the water. We figured at that point in time someone was going to get in trouble so we stayed quiet (not usually the first choice we made). We also made a bet at that point if we would ever get home and if it would be with both parents.
So, my dad who was really mad and my mom who felt really bad both stood there deciding what to do. In the end my dad ended up winching the boat back onto the trailer. I think he was so mad that he made it look easy. Neither one was talking to the other which was not a good thing.
After the boat finally got into the water we did go boating.
The same trip was the camping that it rained and the tents were flooded for most of our trip.
This was one of the very memorable trips taken with my parents, a boat, camping and rain!

My parents have many very funny car things. That also include the time my mom lost the brand new muffler from the 65 mustang on the freeway and refused to go pick it up because of all the traffic. My dad was mad because he had just put it on a few weeks before and it was new!
Or the time the hood of the car flew up, broke the front window (I was about 5 in the front seat at the time), and then flew off and she went back and picked it up and stuffed it in trunk of the car so my dad would not be mad that she did not pick up the parts that fell off the car! My dad was so shocked that she could lift up the hood. She is about 5’4" and 100lbs but she said it is easy when you are mad enough!

Not sure what happened to my original posting, as I clicked the “preview” button and saw someone else’s post below mine, then mine disappeared. I am possibly resubmitting my story, “Thirteen People in a Chevy Nova for 4 1/2 Hours.”

It was a dark and stormy night. No, really, it was! An older brother of mine and I were headed to the lake from Chicago to western Michigan. We were going to help trim some trees at my future Father in Laws weekend cabin. Not only was it dark and stormy, it was freezing cold, November in the upper midwest… My car died on the interstate and we pulled over. There were no apparent service stations near and no means of finding one. (This was 40 years ago…no cell phones) I spotted a semi tractor trailer rig a few hundred feet ahead, pulled over and the 2 guys were picking up the road flares and reflectors. I told my brother, why don’t you stay with the car, I’ll catch a ride with these guys and bring help. He said “go for it”. I ran up to the truck and spoke to the two men, explained our circumstances and asked if I could ride with them to the next exit. They said “sure” and went back to work for another 10 minutes. They climbed in the truck and didn’t say anything to me, so, young and foolish fellow that I was, I hopped on the running board/step on the right side of the cab. I assumed they knew I was there, on the outside of their cab and were going to drive slowly to the exit and allow me to hop off. Pretty soon we were doing, maybe, 60 miles per hour and it was clear that they had forgotten about me altogether. I started pounding on the window and the rider rolls down the window with schock on his face and expressed that sentiment with his exclamations. They immediately slowed down and pulled over, apologizing all the time, and dropped me off at what was now a few exits up the highway. I found a service station at the exit, it was closed. I called the emergency number on the door from the pay phone, they owner came out, replaced my fuel filter and we were on our way. The 2 hour drive became a 4 hour drive, but I lived through it and we arrived safely at our destination… So, do YOU think they knew I was “out there”?

Dear Tom & Ray,
Dang, I have always wanted to tell this tale to the world, and you guys are the ones!
When I was about 12 years old, living at Holloman AFB, N.M., my 10 year old sister and 14 year old brother and I took a short vacation with our mom and stepdad. We went to all the Old West tourist places, Tombstone,AZ, etc.
At one point, I was sitting in the right rear passenger seat, my sister in the middle and my brother on the left. We had stopped to visit some amazing (I’m sure)attraction, and my mom and stepdad were (as usual) arguing about wether to get out of the car or not…I understood we were getting out, so I opened the door. As we began backing out! OPPS! The door hung on a telephone pole, bending it almost all the way forward. This was my first experience with “suicide doors”.
Oh, did I mention this was in 1965 and we were in a BRAND NEW Buick station wagon? The fan was hit with you know what, and my brother and sister and I spent the rest of the vacation with a rope tied from the left door, across the front of us, and tied to the right!
A VERY quiet ride home, to say the least.
Thanks for all the fun you guys,

My memorable road trip was when I helped my friend move from Atlanta Georgia to San Jose California via Los Angeles. We rented the largest Ryder truck they had. Loaded all of his furniture and his Nissan truck in the back of the Ryder. We were also pulling a 19foot boat. We wanted to go thru Los Angeles because we had never been to the Pacific coast. We were sitting right in front of Beverly Hills Hotel, waiting on the light to turn green. We were trying to turn right onto Sunset Blvd and had to make a really wide turn to avoid taking out the corner signs with the boat trailer. During the wide turn…a Jeep thought he would squeeze between us and the corner…and my buddy ended up hitting his front left fender with the right side boat trailer fender. The boat trailer fender was pushed into the tire and was rubbing…so we stopped right there on Sunset Blvd. The Jeep’s driver, got out all mad. Me and my buddy, being from Georgia, have strong southern accents. The only thing I could figure was that Californians have heard stories about Rednecks…because as soon as we began to speak, he changed his tune and said everything was fine and jumped back in his Jeep and drove off. We must have held up traffic for at least 30 minutes trying to bang out the trailer fender from the tire. People in Beverly Hills aren’t very patient. I’ve still got the photo I took of the Beverly Hills Hotel…right before we made the turn. The trip has left me with many good memories.

My mother-in-law was a good sport. She didn?t complain about my driving, or my husband?s for that matter. She was just happy to go along for the ride. And she was pretty good about being on the receiving end of a good prank. We used to have some adventures?one was the ?errand from hell.? It was a cold winter day?I think it was in 1998. My mother-in-law had some serious health problems, and one of her challenges was living with diabetes. She lost part of her left leg, and the disease affected her eyesight. So that day, I took her to the eye doctor for a check. The temperature dropped, so after her appointment, I took her to lunch. When we were done, a bad snowstorm was underway.

We live in Washington, D.C. Now, everyone knows that Washingtonians aren?t always the most proficient drivers in the snow (unless you?re a Midwestern transplant, and then you are obliged to openly mock us). Basically, we panic, strip the grocery store shelves of the holy trinity of supplies to necessary ride out a snowstorm?bread, milk, and toilet paper. But I digress.

So Eleanor (my mother-in-law) and I hop into my husband?s 1987 Chevy Blazer and start the arduous journey home (icy and snowy streets, no snow plow or treatment). We?re about a ? of a mile into our journey, and the truck dies. Oy. So I get out of the car, look under the hood?like I know what I?m doing (although I am a firm believer in sexual equality, there are certain household responsibilities that fall under the purview of gender?car maintenance is my husband?s kingdom). Enter the good Samaritan.

The good Samaritan tells me that he?s a mechanic, and he wants to help the stranded women on the side of the road. He pokes around under the hood, and finds out that my husband has a can of ?Engine Start? in the truck. Let?s just say that I found out later that ?Engine Start? is highly flammable when applied and the carburetor backfires. But I?m ahead of the story.

Mr. Samaritan asks me to start the truck while he applies the ?Engine Start.? Next, the engine combusts and there?s a raging fire. Mr. Samaritan begins to use a rag to try and smother the fire, but ?Engine Start? is on the rag. So, it?s ?Rag Start? too, eh? Panicking, I get out of the truck, take off my snappy winter cap and try to pound out the flames. Then I notice my mother-in-law, still strapped in the passenger?s seat, trying to get out of the truck. I drop my cap (which is now also on fire), and haul tail over to the passenger side, rip open the door, take off her seat belt, and proceed to carry her (hopefully) a safe distance from the truck. But wait! Her wheelchair?s in the truck and threatened by the inferno. So I hightail it back to the truck, pull out the wheelchair, slap her in it, and race up the street!

By the time I can refocus on the truck, Mr. Samaritan doused the fire. I guess he gave up on the rag technique. I was pretty happy that all?s well that ended well. My husband? Not so much. Lessons learned?

  1. Before letting a Samaritan work on your car, always ask if he is a shade tree mechanic or a licensed mechanic (and not by Budweiser).

  2. ?Engine Start? bad.

  3. Mr. Samaritan, well meaning, but not so much.

Picture if you will. Orlando Florida, 1986. I just bought a 1979 MG Midget from my landlord. The coolest little car ever. I decided to take a 30 mile solo trip to the beach to celebrate my new purchase. I drove it to Canaveral National Seashore, my favorite spot. Beautiful clear day, top down. I was in heaven. While at the beach, I decided to take a walk and left my belongings unattended. Upon my return, I was horrified to find that someone had gone off with my stuff. Everything! My flip flops, t-shirt, Heineken beach umbrella, my shorts, (I was wearing a lime green Speedo swimsuit; which was allowed, because I was in shape and in my early 20’s, and it was the 1980’s.) Luckily, I had my wallet & car keys in my car and was able to drive home. But here is where the nightmare begins. Half way home, on busy highway 50, I got a flat. I had a spare, but the road was unbearably hot. I had no flip flops, no beach towel, no shorts or shirt. Just me & my lime green Speedos. I had to do something. Searching around, I found a pair of Shiny black cowboy boots behind the passenger seat. (probably belonging to the previous owner, my landlord.) I put them on and began changing the tire. (Front driver’s side facing the road, of course!) People were honking horns and slowing down. Nobody stopped to help! I looked like a freak. Thank God it was in a time before cell phone cameras and the internet. I know it would have been a huge hit on YouTube to see a guy in lime green Speedos and black cowboy boots changing a tire on a busy highway.
To this day, every time I go to the beach, I keep a complete outfit in the trunk of my car and I no longer wear Speedos. I have surpassed the “Speedo limit”, if you will, which, in my opinion is 25.

Orlando from Orwell, VT

My dad was in the service so, my family traveled quite a bit between postings. We had plenty of bad road trip experiences, but probably the worst occurred while en route to Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Dad was driving our Ambassador station wagon, packed with many belongings, Mom, the three boys, our dog – and the damn cat. We’d made it from Mississippi to the middle of the Arizona desert virtually crisis free, when a monsoon-like rainstorm opened up. Sheets of rain pelted the car, making it almost impossible to see.

Then, the cat began to howl. At first, we thought he was just scared. But, on closer examination, his body language made it clear that he had to go – and the launch window was going to be measured in seconds, not the several minutes that it would obviously take for the storm to pass.

There was only one solution: Someone would have to hold a litter box while Thomas took care of business. Guess who? Why, Mom, of course! She quickly snatched a box, filled it with litter and positioned it under the cat as he made his deposit.

I have no idea what that cat had been eating, but what he produced could easily be classified as a weapon of mass destruction. And, there we were, trapped in the Ambassador, a torrent raging outside. Of course, our discomfort was only collateral damage. Mom took the bullet.

At the time I was going to school in Erie, PA where we get lake effect snow and ice from October to April and everybody knew how to drive in bad weather. Two alumni from the school were getting married and a bunch of us were bridesmaids/groomsmen in the wedding and we had to drive to Oklahoma where all of this was taking place. It was January of 2007, and if you recall, a major ice storm was sweeping through Midwest.
We were an hour away from our destination when we got a call from the bride. “Turn around.” she said, “the pastor’s flight is canceled, the resort for the wedding is closing down and we’re just going to get married in the courthouse today.” We were already so close we told her we’d meet them at the courthouse, so we got there just before they closed for bad weather and our friends got married in jeans and printed tshirts that said “Joe the Groom” and "Macy the Bride"
All of that was great fun and exciting, we ate the rehearsal dinner and used it as the reception, we dressed up in our wedding finery and went driving around looking for a restaurant that was still open, and played Air Soft in the hotel hallways all night. In the morning we packed up and headed back for PA, counting the cars that were stopped on the side of the road. We were number 32.
In all of our laughing and mocking of the Midwesterners who knew nothing about driving in ice, the hood of our ancient Mercedes Benz froze over and blew the head gasket and we were stuck on the side of the road in Missouri. Go figure.
We got towed to a Pep Boys in Springfield where we combed the phone books for churches who might take us in considering that we had no money. Then one of the cashiers said she went to a college there and we could stay in the dorms there.
We spent the entire next day in the cafeteria trying to find the parts to fix the car, but nobody had them or if they did it would take weeks to get them. We even tried calling around to see if anyone would buy the car for scraps to get us money to take a bus home. The real problem was that even if we had money, they were declaring a National emergency and nothing was going in or out of Springfield at all. We finally got another friend to drive the whole way down from St. Louis and take us to Erie, I think the guy that owned the car had his dad go get it from Michigan. All in all, it was the most memorable wedding I’ve ever been to and absolutely the craziest road trip I’ve ever been on!

Beth from Gettysburg, PA

My husband, my 18 month old son and I were on the way home, home was Wyoming at the time, from his grandfather’s funeral in New Mexico. Our car at the time was a '77 Chevy Malibu, this beast was older than I was. We were students at UW and we were as broke as only married students can be. We have enough money to drive our gas guzzler down there and back. We were following my father in law, in a (slightly) newer car that had A/C, since it was August and I don’t do well in the heat, my son and I rode with him. My father in law is a true Wyoming cowboy and to pass the time on this long HOT drive, he was listening to his favorite music, yodeling. I tried to fake sleep, hoping he would turn it off, but nope, he started singing along with it. So I gave up on the fake sleep and tried to engage him in conversation. I was following our route on a map because at Moab, Utah, we were going to head back across Colorado, and he was going to go north to his home. We only had an inch on the map before I could escape the yodeling and get back to my own, quiet, sweltering car. As we continue on the road, Route 666 South, I swear I am not making that up, I notice that outside is getting drier and we have not yet hit a sign that says “Welcome to Utah.” I kept saying to my F-I-L, “We really should be there by now, we only had about 50 miles and we aren’t there, shouldn’t we stop and see where we are?” My father in law is just happy to have someone to listen to how much he has been practicing his yodeling. We finally, 3 hours later get to a town, and it isn’t Moab. We had missed a turn off and the ONLY reason we stopped was because the car got a flat. He would have been happy to continue, soon we would have needed passports. We stopped at a mechanic shop and heard the mechanic trying to explain to a customer that the alternator needed to be replaced because it was making too much electricity. So we finally get out of the car and my F-I-L notices that we were too far south, huh, maybe we missed the turn off. I am trying to control myself, when he says, “oh good! you can hear the other tapes I have!”, all yodeling. So not only do we have to continue listening, we took a 6 hour detour. We finally get to Moab, by this time we have been driving for 12 hours and we have another 10 to go. My poor son is about to lose his mind and we don’t have money for a hotel. My F-I-L waves goodbye and rides off into the sunset, literally singing, and we try to make it back home. We had to stop at about 2 AM because neither one of us could see straight anymore and we slept for about and hour and finally got home. It took almost a week before we could get my son to get back into the car, and I truly believe that there will be yodeling in hell.

Hi: I have many road trips from hell but this one is by far the worst. In June 08, I took my Rav4 to the dealer to get a tuneup for a road trip to Pa. I live in Tennessee. At this time, they removed the passenger side air filter from behind the glove box and found 3 small baby mice and a mother mouse. I must add that when I was driving to the dealer, I looked down and saw a mouse walking on the floor passenger side. I screeched to the side of the road but, of course, I could not find the mouse. So they put the baby mice in the field and literally tore my car apart trying to find mom. They assured me that they had. Yea, right. I arrived in PA and the weather was cool. In one day it was in the 90’s. I opened the car door and the smell was absolutely awful. I took apart the filter but could not find the mouse. My sister and I had many trips planned so we had to ride with the windows down in the heat with her holding a burning incense stick. This went on for a week. I have a carcazized skeleton in my cooling and heating system that someday maybe found by auto archeologists.

Submitting my story: 30 Hours of Hell, the tale of how, 14 years ago, I drove from South Carolina to New York City on a moment’s whim, alone and without true directions.

It was… an interesting journey.

My wife and I, and our three young children, were taking a trip through West Virginia in our 1973 Volvo pulling a small tent trailer. The mountains were not steep, so the road was straight down the mountain and straight up the next mountain. I coasted down the mountain, then at the bottom of the valley, I shifted into a lower hear and floored the accelerator to start our long path up the mountain in front of us. I soon noticed that there was no resistance when pressing on the accelerator. In fact, when I put my shoe beneath the accelerator, I could lift it, and then it would flop back to the floorboard. What? How could this be?! I tried that again, with the same results. Obviously the accelerator was not attached to the engine. Oh oh. The engine was at full throttle, so I couldn?t put in the clutch to shift, or the engine would blow up. Luckily for us, the steepness of the mountain was perfect, so the car neither gained speed nor slowed down. Here we were, in the middle of nowhere, riding in a run-away car. Now what? I knew that when we finally stopped, I had to shut off the engine and coast to a stop, without shifting gears and without being able to restart the engine if we stopped with part of the car or trailer on the roadway.

God was with us. As we were going up the mountain wondering where we could pull off the road, a road-side fruit and vegetable stand appeared on our side of the road. I tried hard to gage the speed and momentum of the car and trailer, and then at the appropriate time, I turned off the engine and coasted into the small space in front of the fruit stand, where, fortunately, there were no other cars.

The only toilet was an outhouse, and there was no running water. After my wife and children used the outhouse, my wife bought bananas, thinking that by peeling the bananas, this would be the cleanest fruit at the stand.

When I looked under the hood, and then under the dashboard, I found the accelerator cable had broken where it entered a metal tube through the firewall. The broken end of the multi-strand cable was frayed, so it stuck in the metal tube. We were in the middle of nowhere, so the monkey was on my back to fix this problem. I looked in the trunk, where I keep tools and some items in case of an emergency (this incident qualified). I found a new roll of picture hanging multi-strand wire that happened to be about the same diameter as the accelerator cable. I pulled out the broken cable and inserted the picture hanging cable into the metal tube and through the firewall. I tied the new cable around the appropriate link beneath the air cleaner, and the other end was tied to a hole at the back of the accelerator pedal.

It worked! The engine started and the speed could be controlled. After thanking the owners of the fruit and vegetable stand for the use of their facilities, we continued up the mountain. The next day we passed a Volvo dealer where I purchased a new cable. The Volvo dealer?s service department couldn?t install our new cable until a week later, so we drove home to Minnesota with my fix, and then I installed the Volvo cable.

Keep a roll of picture hanging multi-strand wire in your car?s trunk!

Talk about a road trip gone bad, I have one for you.

We had arranged to spend some time in the Smokey Mountains and hike to a lodge at the top of Mount LaConte for an over night stay. It was probably the hottest day of the summer when we left on our trip from Kalamazoo, Michigan. We were driving a full size wagon and pulling a pop up camper. We were half way between Fort Wayne, IN and Lima, OH when the first incident happened. Steam start pouring out of the engine compartment. Fortunately we were coming up on a rest area so I pulled in. I knew immediately what was wrong and was mentally kicking myself in the posterior. I knew we had a weak radiator hose and had meant to replace it before the trip. But I got busy and forgot about it. There was a pin hole leak in the hose right next to the connection. I was able to cut the hose and re-clamp it. After filling the radiator with water we were on our way again. We stopped in Lima, OH to purchase a new hose and radiator fluid.

The second incident happened when we had just gotten on the express way in Lima. A car pulled up next to us and mouthed the words “flat tire” and pointed to the trailer. Fortunately we were just coming up on an exit so I pulled off the express way and into a vacant parking lot. Sure enough the tire was flat. I don’t think the tires had ever been off the camper so I struggled for a long time loosening the lug nuts. Did I mention that the temperature was about 105 degrees in the shade. After much struggling and some appropriate language I was able to replace the tire. By now I was hot, and dirty and tired. I asked my wife to drive so that I could get a little rest.

We had just past Dayton, OH when the third incident occurred. I was dozing off when I felt a jolt that was more than just a bump in the road. My wife yelled that we had been hit. In a split second I realized that we were already spinning out of control so I yelled back “Hit the brakes”. The car and trailer jack knifed, spun out of control and down a grassy embankment. We were fortunate in that we did not hit anything on our way down the embankment and that the car stayed upright. The only injury that occurred was when my wife’s legs hit the steering wheel. The trailer came loose from the hitch and was lying on its side. It had been totaled. The person who had caused the accident had stopped by the side of the road. He was drunk. He had fallen asleep while driving and hit the corner of the trailer.

Even though a lot of bad things happened that day, the good news was that no one (my wife, nor our two boys nor me) suffered any serious injury. We managed to settle the insurance claim on the trailer, get the wheels on the car repaired and continue on our journey to the Smoky Mountains. We made good on our reservations at the lodge on Mount LaConte but had to forego the rest of the vacation.

That’s the story of our road trip gone bad.
Dave Barry

When we were little New York kids, we drove from Long Island to St. Petersburg, FL every year. Both parents are from the south, and my Dad has an invisible friend named “Y’all.” We figured it was the stress of his job as an FBI man. Someone had evidently threatened his life just before this particular trip (circa 1963) and he took the threat very seriously. We were unaware of this, of course.
We were driving through the farm country- I think it was Pennsylvania, and the folks had given us each an egg of Silly Putty to keep us quiet (there were four of us kids.) Having copied comics, made funny shapes, we searched for a new use for the goop. We decided to blow bubbles with it. You flattened the gob over your mouth, and slowly blew on it trying to make a bubble. My sister was the first one to be successful. The sound that it made when it popped sounded exactly like the ricochet of a bullet. “BEEEEEUW!” It was loud.
Thinking that someone was shooting at our non-air-conditioned, 1958 Ford Station Wagon (IN AUGUST!) my father screeched “Y’all get down!” With that, he pulled off the road, and started barrelling through somebody’s field at about 90 miles per hour. My father had never raised his voice, and never broken the law that says you must keep your car out of fields. We were shocked. Once again, he screamed, “Y’all get down!” With that second demand, we figured that if Y’all was supposed to get down, we’d better get down, too. We all dropped down, and got in the bottom of the car, in front of the backseat. We were terrified, and figured that he had gone insane because of the pressures of the job. My mother was hollering, we were screaming, yet, Y’all had said nothing. One more bit of proof that Daddy REALLY needed this vacation.
Eventually, after barrelling through the field, which was like driving over a large washboard, we emerged on another road. Daddy had escaped the hail of bullets that he evidently expected.
It wasn’t until 30 years later that he found out that it was Silly Putty. By this time, we’d lived in Florida since 1967. We knew who y’all was. When we told him, his incredulous response was, "That was Y’ALL???"
I think that the trip marked him…

First year after college my car was a 1970 VW Bus purchased in the rust belt Finger Lakes Region of NY state. How rusty was it? I got in one morning and it wouldn’t start. I walked to the back to look at the engine and saw the battery hanging from one wire having fallen through the rusted out compartment. Solution? A board. It taught me how to work on engines (what was that book? How to keep your VW alive, a guide for the complete idiot?) and to use a pop riveter.

I was working at WGVA AM doing the morning news. I had to work a half day Christmas eve and got off Christmas day. My folks lived in Wilmington, DE - usually a six hour drive. I left at 1pm and arrived in Wilmington at 11:30pm.

I drove through a blinding snow and ice storm. The bus actually was a great snow car in terms of traction, but I had a hole in the floor by the brake and gas and the fan moved hardly any air. I remember taking off my winter coat and putting my feet through the arms to try and keep them warmer and until I got south of Scranton/Wilkes Barre I had to lean forward and peer out of the only section of windsheild I had - a softball sized clearing just above the defroster.

It was nice to see the fam for Christmas morning but had to leave in the afternoon of Christmas day to get back north and go to work the following morning. The drive back was far easier but concentration required during the trip down was exhausting.

It was a hot July weekend in North Platte, Nebraska. I was scheduled to attend my Army Reserve Drill the second weekend in July, 2000 in Omaha, NE 278 miles away. My two youngest children, ages 7 and 12 accompanied me as we left North Platte Thursday evening headed for the Missouri River near Yankton, SD, for a mini camp -out vacation in my 1985 VW Vanagon before driving to Omaha for my weekend drill on Friday.
We left North Platte early afternoon on Thursday and arrived at our campground near the beach at the Gavins Point Dam, 275 miles down the road, late that evening.
Waking the next morning, I noticed some fluid on the asphalt under the engine compartment that concerned me, however after enjoying the morning playing in the water on the banks of the Missouri river; we left for Vermillion, SD, about 25 miles away where I had attended college.25 years ago.
We were lucky to make it that 25 miles to Vermillion as I heard the familiar sound of my water pump going bad in my Vanagon. Stuck in Vermillion, SD until I could get the water pump replaced I proceeded to retrieve my spare pump out of the back of the van and began to replace it. Unfortunately, the first bolt head on the pump broke and my DIY water pump project was history.
The nearest VW dealer was 60 miles away in Sioux Falls, SD where I had the Van towed with my children and me in the tow truck. Since I wasn?t going to make it to my weekend Army Reserve training, and had 3 days find a way home for myself and two young children. A one-way car rental across state lines was not allowed, the ?Greyhound Bus? option was a multi-day event.
Then, I remembered the 57 Chevy on E-bay that had looked at the previous week that was located in Mankato, Minn. There were no bids and I inquired about the vehicle and the beautiful ?Dusk pearl?, 4-dr that was built in Wisconsin. They seemed to be willing to deal a little on the reserve price listed on E-bay so I thought to myself, this was our ride home.
Now, how do I get myself and two children to Mankato by Saturday to test drive the car and pay for the car. Complaining to a substitute Taxi Driver in Sioux Falls after dropping off my Vanagon at the VW dealer, about the rental car restrictions he said, he?d call dispatch and see if he could take us to Mankato, Minnesota, 175 miles away. Dispatch said no problem as long as I paid cash and I gave him the $175.00 cash (nearly everything I had) for the one-way fare and we were off on another adventure
Arriving in Mankato, late that night and while en-route finding a motel room next to the dealership with only one room left due to a local softball tournament. The room was over $100 but it was one of the last left in town and we were exhausted from all of the traveling that day; I gave the motel my credit card number just as my cell phone battery died in the Taxi en route to Mankato, Minn.
The next morning I inspected and test drove the 57 chevy while the kids slept in the Motel across the street. The car was much nicer than the pictures on E-bay revealed, all stock, matching numbers and better than I wanted for my ?daily driver?. But, it was our only ticket home that weekend.
By 11 am the paperwork at the dealership was done and I drove the car across the street to the motel. The kids were still sleeping. I woke them up and by noon we were on our way back home, a two-day drive
The kids saw the car as we walked out to the parking lot. They exclaimed, ?Dad, look at the cool car over there?, not knowing that it was the car we were using to get home that weekend. We walked over to the car, I opened the door, put the key in the ignition and said, ?lets go, it?s our ?cool car?
Never having owned a 57 Chevrolet, I encountered my first dilemma at the gas station across the street where I decided to fill up before leaving Mankato. Embarrassed at not being able to find the gas cap, I asked my 12 year old to get the original owners manual out of the glove box and find out where the ?gas? goes. The problem was solved by the owner?s manual. We were on our way home.
That was nine years ago and nearly 55,000 miles later and my 12 year-old son is now the primary driver of the vehicle that gets used every week and has never seen the inside of a garage, even while I spent most of 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq, interrupting my garage building project that is almost finished. Our highway adventure will come full circle in 2010 when I drive the 57 Chevy into a garage for the first time.

My husband and I took a trip to the Southwest in 1978 in a 72 Chevy Impala that had about 84,000 miles on it. Before the trip we had the car serviced for the trip and bought four new tires for it. All went well until we arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In pulling into the motel, the muffler fell off. Next day it was replaced. We arrived in Albuquerque ane the air conditioner had to be fixed. One of the tires developed a bulge in Gallop, NM requiring a new tire. We toured the canyons and had started to return to Pittsburgh via Colorado. In Pueblo the engine quit due to a rocker arm failure. It was replaced. In the middle of Iowa on a Saturday late afternoon two more rocker arms blew. A great mechanic came in on Sunday and replaced them just so we could continue our trip. In Dayton, Ohio another tire blew…it seems that all the new tires were defective. We were lucky in many ways because service places were all around when the trouble happened and not in the desolate canyon environs.

I’ve taken 3 road trips from Indiana heading west. The idea was to take state roads to see the country. Each had their issues:
#1) Passengers were mother and 2 boys (9 and 11). I did not have a DVD player and each had to have their own seat so they couldn’t “touch each other”. My suburban has a 42 gallon gas tank and both boys panicked in the desert when the gas tank was under 1/4 tank. I just laughed. I was pointing out the mountains and splended scenary and the boys just talked about trucks on the highway. After a while the boys needed to get their “energy” released. A small park was found and I stopped and told them to run it out. Apparently their energy was gone because they didn’t want to. I needed time away from them.
#2) Moral…do not travel 5000 miles with a 16 year old boy when his girl friend is still in Indiana. Luckily a cell phone was available and the bill had 2 sheets of logged calls. Secondly, when the air conditioner compressor freezes when it is engaged, removed the power so when a rain storm creates fog on the windows turning the defroster on, the fan belt is not burnt up by the air conditioner compressor while parked in a rest area in the middle of the only 2 towns in North Dakota.
#3 Thinking a Jeep Wrangler would be nice to drive west, not thinking much about the 12 gallon gas tank. There is a highway 12 in Idaho where a sign indicates that the next gas station is 72 miles down the road. I looked at the gas gage and quessed that there would be enough gas, I went on. 72 miles and winding mountainous roads later caused a panick on the gas supply front. Finally, a town appeared and gas was purchased at the mountain lion and bear check station. Highway 101 down the Oregon coast is beautiful, until someone pulls out into your lane and waiting (which seemed like an eternity) for the sound of vehicles touching. 25 foot skid marks later the nerves are gone. The Jeep was not touched…dinner was needed.

There are no more road trips planned at this time!!!