Road Trip: Deeper Into America (Part 2)

Mis-adventures. Car break downs. Crawling along the Interstate.

Dear Adventurous Reader,

Maybe “Misadventure” is a misnomer. Unplanned or Unexpected Adventure. Maybe Misunderstood Adventure. I think a different name would be more fitting. Because while adventure can be an unpleasant experience, we certainly had an adventure on our journey from Canada to North Carolina.

Catch up... You can read the first part of our adventure.

Sun setting against small McDonalds

The Car Was Fixed

Broken down in Jane Lew, a slow crawl back to Clarksberg and a small time at the dealership had our car fixed - or so we thought.

The car was fixed enough to pass a test and a allow us to drive away. Which was great, because we travelled an hour before the car plummeted into Limp Mode and would not shift above second gear. Again.

Had we paid, we would have been far enough down the road to feel ripped off.

This time, the third time, I was beyond caring. I rolled the window down, and listened to the cars buzz past, honking horns as we enjoyed an afternoon of crawling down the Interstate.

Limp Mode

Limp mode is a terrible mode to drive the Interstate. Back when I was young I drove an 1982 Carola. It was a terrible car, but when I look back on it, there was nothing better for a first car. Small, good on gas, and easy to fix. There were no computers, nothing that could fail, except the car itself.

Driving a hulking Suburban, although it makes us feel as if we are members of the secret police, is not exactly a stress-free experience. If something breaks, or something fails, I cannot fix it (not that I can fix any car). It would seem, that even with tools made from the manufacturer, that mechanics cannot fix it.

So far, the mechanics have all been fantastic. The mechanic in Jane Lew didn’t charge for a morning of inspecting the car and feeling sorry for us. The dealership mechanic simply smiled when he looked into the car - six children crammed in amongst all of our luggage, with the sun shining and heating up. “Don’t worry about it.” He said about the fee, with a slow Southern drawl. “You’re the one in the car.” And he smiled.

Slow and Steady: Frustrated Dad

The mountains in Virginia stretch into the sky. Lined by trees, a brilliant green colour of foliage, against the deep grey rocks behind. The trees are tall, only to be matched by the billboards. The majesty of nature fighting against the might of advertising.

Never far from nature and never far from civilisation.

We are in the middle of two large towns, a long stretch of road winds before us, and the advertising for the next town has already begun. McDonald’s in 13 miles. Chik Fil’a is in 12 miles. New tires in 10 miles. Our choice of gas, 5 miles.

Hot on the outside - cool in the view

The turnpike pulls off after a long climb, our truck creeps up the long hill, struggling to keep up with the trucks. We roll around a wide bend and onto the next interstate; a change of numbers. Even numbers now as we head eastward for a while.

We pull into a Walmart parking lot. So many spaces for cars, the store is in the middle of the mountains, somewhere along an Interstate in Virginia. Obviously, everyone passing through needs to stop at a Walmart.

The night falls around us. The sun is shining a deep orange, cast behind small clouds, with a yellow glow that stretches across the sky. The trees shine vibrant green; there is a fullness that only spring can bring back to the woods. It feels so alive.

The seasons seem to feel “more” in North America. It could be the colours, or the way that everyone seems to embrace the seasons and change, but there is something tangible about the way the seasons change. Where we are from, the seasons seem “flat” compared to here.

Night falls. The truck continues to crawl. Dusk had a wonderful sunset, among the Appalachians and now bright lights rocket past our slow moving vehicle. The glow of truck lights fill the rear-view mirror before weaving past us. We watch the trucks struggling under their load as they climb the gradients faster than us.

How much longer?

Long road

“How much longer?” Such an indeterminable question to answer.

“We’ll probably get there tomorrow.”

Down, and down, a long descent that leaves the Appalachians behind us. It is still dark. My eyes are burning tired, and my shoulders are knotted and tight. The next stop will be for us. Rest.

The next stop was another rest stop. The boys moan, “Not another rest stop…”. Exhausted we pull in, upset about the fact that we will be spending another night in the car.

Somewhere uncomfortable we find some rest. Some of us try and sleep outside, but the cold and damp bring us back into the car. Tired eyes falling under the spell of a fitful and difficult sleep.

Onward and Promises

The next day dawns. Yellow glow stretching over the sky, golden streams pressing in long shafts through the trees. Not a cloud in the sky. There is a coldness in the air that will quickly fade into warm and comforting. A beautiful day outside the car.

Inside the car I stretch. My neck is sore, my eyes sting when they are open. I smell. I smell like my clothes are three days old, and I slept in a car two nights in a row. A camp of teenage boys, who refuse to shower, would not smell this bad.

Rest stops along the Interstate are wonderful. Large buildings, with toilets undercover. Rooms and air-conditioning. Outside a grove of trees create a canopy of shade. There are so many car parks that it could be seven times as busy and it would feel just right.

The car was not as happy inside as the day was outside. Exhausted from long days of driving, and tired of not being somewhere fun, everyone woke with a groan.

Elijah bounced out of the car and asked for cake. Zeke grumbled out of the car and refused the nutritious breakfast (note: pound-cake is not nutritious). We are a few hours away from our destination, and the excitement of being so close make a battle-weary feel a little happier.

We shared pound-cake for breakfast as we looked over the maps to find our way.

Greensboro

We arrive into Greensboro before lunch. We roll out of the car, yellow lines of stink pouring out of the car like an old cartoon. The small and quite neighbourhood doesn’t know what has come upon them. Quiet streets filled, with yelling and noise, as our children make themselves at home.

parked car

Little did I know that our car would make it. Travel is often filled with mis-adventure, but that creates the stories that we will later tell. Maybe “Misadventure” is a misnomer, unplanned or unexpected adventure, maybe misunderstood adventure -a different name is more fitting. Because while it was an unpleasant experience, we certainly had an adventure.

Driving at 40 miles and hour, travelling from West Viginia to North Carolina, is one adventure I’d rather not repeat. It is an adventure that we couldn’t avoid - after all being told that a car is “mechanically sound” while it cannot move out of second gear, is a confusing problem to have.

Spring time is upon us. The birds are singing, the trees are green, and the days are getting longer. And, for a while we don’t have to be on the road. All this, mixed with spending time with family, is making up for a difficult drive. Maybe, misadventure is worth it…