Well now, it just wouldn’t be a road trip if something didn’t go slightly awry, would it?
First there was the car. I’m currently driving (and have been for the past six years) a Chrysler mini-van with roughly 80,000 miles on it. It’s a car that, up until a few months ago, I really liked because 1) it can haul all of our stuff, 2) it had a pretty nice ride, and 3) it was a just fine way to get around town. As you can tell, I’m not so much into my car—it’s your basic transportation and that’s pretty much all I need.
But just before driving to Wisconsin to pick up Maggie, we had some “issues.” These weren’t just hiccups in the car--they were loud, obnoxious burps that I just could not put up with.
First, the shocks and struts went out (I say that like someone who knows these things, but I only know this because the car guy told me). One day B and I were driving along, happy as any couple could be. We stopped at a 4-way stop and then . . . “clunk” . . . something happened. The car literally “clunked!” We started driving and “squeak, rattle, screech” something was terribly wrong with our car. Shocks and struts.
Then something went wrong with the fuel injector—on, like, the very same day the thing with the shocks and struts happened. Whenever we’d try to accelerate, the car hiccupped and hesitated until it shifted into the next gear and then it was fine. Very frustrating for someone like me who spends a lot of time driving around town, doing a lot of stop-and-go driving.
So for the past few weeks I’ve been lurching around town in my crippled car, hoping I wouldn’t have to drive an adult anywhere because that would be embarrassing. According to the car guy, these things weren’t “dangerous” but probably needed to be fixed.
Well, before driving 400 miles to camp I had them fixed. To the tune of $1500! But at least we’d have a back-to-new-like car that didn’t go “squeak, rattle, screech” and didn’t hiccup and hesitate every time we asked it to do something.
Not three hours into our trip, as we got off the highway to stop for lunch, we heard a “clunk” and B and I looked at each other in horror. It couldn’t possibly be. But, alas, it was. The bumping, clunking, squeak-rattle-screeching was back. The SAME EXACT PROBLEM that we just had fixed to the tune of $750 was back! To say the least, we were mad.
But at least the fuel injector was still working.
Until we got to Rhinelander.
Yep, the hiccupping and hesitating was back too. So now, our complete $1500 investment into our car was a complete bust. (Now, before you write to me and tell me to call the mechanic, let me just say that I’m writing this on a Sunday and you can betcha that I will be on the phone first thing tomorrow letting him know just how great I feel about giving him all of that money for NOTHING!)
But at least we were able to get to Maggie and enjoy a lovely day with her at camp. That evening, we had to drive 45 minutes back the way we came because there was literally not a hotel room to be found in either of the two towns closest to the camp. And I made reservations back in March!
If I were smart, I’d start a hotel in Northern Wisconsin—there seems to be a great need for them up there.
After Family Day the families leave the kids at camp for one more night. A kind of bonding time during which most of the kids are already thinking about going home to their families, some even wishing they could be sleeping in the hotel with their parents instead of sitting around a stinky, smoky campfire one more time eating yet another mouthful of S’mores and still others dreaming about the video games and T.V. shows from which they had been deprived for two weeks. But it’s bonding time, and bonding is good.
The next morning, we were supposed to pick up our little charges at 7 a.m. SEVEN A.M.! Who is up then? And who wants to drive 45 minutes out of their way to go get these precious little ones?
I guess I do, because I was given the duty while B and the other two girls slept soundly in their beds.
So I left the hotel at 6:15 a.m. and headed up to camp. The idea was that I would be back around 8, B and the girls would be packed up and ready to go. We would eat some of the hotel’s “gourmet” breakfast and hit the road around 8:30, which would bring us home again sometime in the early afternoon which was perfect since Kate had to work at 6 p.m. and Abby had a babysitting job at 6:30. Time was of the essence.
As planned, Maggie and I arrived at the hotel for breakfast. As we were getting out of the car, Maggie wanted to show me something she had made at camp. “It’s in my . . .” and her eyes grew wide as she realized that she had left her string bag back at camp.
“Mom, we have to go back and get it!”
“No way, Maggie. It’s just too far. We’ll have to call the camp when we get home and ask them to send it. Hopefully they will find it.” I had HAD it with the drive to camp and I was NOT going to do it again.
“But MOM!” And the tears started.
She was still crying when we walked into the breakfast room.
“What’s wrong, Maggie?” her dad asked when he saw her.
“I left my string bag at camp and Mom won’t go back to get it!” Another fresh burst of tears.
“What was in it?” he asked calmly, something I had not even thought to ask.
“Some money, the letters you sent me, my Bible and my journal.”
“Well, that’s important stuff. We’ll just have to go back and get it,” said B, much to my dismay. I did not, under any circumstances, want to make that trip again.
But he was right. The stuff was important. Too important to a ten-year-old girl to risk losing it.
So, we quickly grabbed some breakfast to take in the car with us and we headed back, 45 minutes out of our way in one direction, to pick up the bag which, thankfully, was still there where she left it—underneath a big blue and white tent, right next to the bench she had been sitting on while she waited for me.
An hour and a half of extra driving, but we still got home in time to get Kate to work. An hour and a half to let this youngest member of our family know that her stuff was just as important as our time.
It was definitely worth it.