The trip from hell

The kids and I went down with Geoff to Florida a couple of weeks ago for a last minute gig before we had moved into our house.  We were still in the cabin. I thought about letting him go alone, but then he wouldn’t know where he was going, couldn’t contact the lady who planned the event and I was going to drive so that he could sleep. When I woke up that morning, I knew something was going to happen. I could feel it. I didn’t want to go, but I knew we had to. We didn’t want to bother Me-Maw and Pa-Paw with the animals, so we took our corgi and the last remaining guinea pig with us in the van. (One passed away in August.)

Everything was fine. We made it south of Atlanta and all was good. We stopped at the bank, got gas and ate at Chick-Fil-A, which is tasty but nasty. We made it to Dothan and everything was still good.

River had to stop somewhere at 2:00 pm CDT to have a stimg_0526udent council meeting, where she was giving a speech to be elected. We stopped at the truck stop below I-10 in Cottondale about 1:40 pm. We were making decent travel time. I could get to Santa Rosa Beach, go to the UPS Store and get his medicine from the pharmacy before he had to be at the venue. I put gas in the van and Geoff was cleaning the windows. I went inside to get her settled with the Internet in McDonald’s.

Zoë comes in and tells me the van’s battery died. Luckily, we were at a truck stop and there are employees there that can help you. They brought their truck over and tried to jump off the van. Nothing. It wouldn’t hold a charge. The alternator was dying. One of the employees took the battery to the shop behind the store to charge for about 45 minutes so that we could get to Panama City Beach, which is about 45 minutes from where we needed to be. I didn’t have the event planner’s phone number so I couldn’t get in touch with her. I called our old mechanic in Santa Rosa Beach and talked to him, knowing that once we left the truck stop, we were on our own.

img_0533On a side note, I got to meet part of the “Vaxxed” team in the last place I would ever expect them to be.  It was really cool to talk to him.  I also suggested International Connections Academy to him as an alternative for school that would not require vaccinations in California.
So, we had a choice to make. We had about 85 miles to go. We could head straight south to Panama City Beach and then hit stoplights or take Hwy 20 over towards Freeport and get as far west as we could because there are only 3 stoplights. There’s no one out that way, but we didn’t have cell service even when our phones were on either way. We sped down Hwy 20.

Brake lights, blinkers, radio, A/C and much more run on battery power. We had to keep as much of those off as possible. I couldn’t come to a stop because I knew that the car would die on us, so it was a crazy, spastic drive.

We made it about 65-70 miles of that drive before the van died. It just slowly shut down. As we rolled past the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, I pondered our next move to get Geoff there. IF someone was able to get us, we could still get him there on time.

The only call I could make was a 911 call. So I called as asked for a Walton County Sheriff’s Deputy to come help. While he was on his way, a few people stopped, so I tried their cell phones to call friends. None answered because they didn’t recognize the numbers. I didn’t leave messages. The Deputy arrived and he called a couple more numbers. One of our closest friends answered. She had a dog, her daughter and another teen in the car she’d have to drop off, but she’d be there. Let’s just say she’s always late.

By the time she got there, other people had checked on us, which was heartwarming. We prepared the car to shove everything we could into her much smaller car. When she got there, somehow we got everything into her hatchback, all kids, dog and guinea pig into the backseat and Geoff and I in the passenger side. We were off.I had her drop me and the girls off at the local grocery store that we always went to because everyone knows us there and it has WiFi. She took Geoff down to the event, where he was an hour late, but played and extra hour and a half, so everyone was happy.

I had her drop me and the girls off at the local grocery store that we always went to because everyone knows us there and it has WiFi. She took Geoff down to the event, where he was an hour late, but played and extra hour and a half, so everyone was happy.

I emailed and called (she had since called my Google Voice number) the event planner. We ran into people we knew from Alpharetta, GA that sang with Geoff. No one recognized me with my short, salt and pepper hair. The girls and I picked up some random stuff and then went outside to contact more people. A couple of friends offered for us to stay at their places, but one said, “I’m coming to get you.” She got there about the time our other friend got back to the grocery store with Hunter. We took all of our remaining stuff over to her 2 bedroom apartment and hung out until Geoff was done. We all lived in the same neighborhood for 4 years, so it was fun to hang out. And I am so appreciative of friends who were willing to let us stay if we needed to.

While telling stories of our adventures over the summer, they laughed and said we needed our own TV show. We just needed GoPro cameras attached to our heads. It was so good catching up with them!

The next morning, we rented a mid-size SUV with the help of both friends and we hit the road fimg_0548inally at about 1 pm, knowing that Geoff was going to be late to work. (Hint: If you have to go one way, don’t use Enterprise. Alamo is cheaper and we still used an Enterprise vehicle.) We had no snags at all. Atlanta traffic was still pure hell at 9:30 pm at night. Geez, I don’t miss that insanity. We got back to the cabin around 12:30 at night and Geoff headed to work.

I met him at work in the morning so we could return the SUV to the Asheville Airport and brought Zuri with me. We took the scenic route home on the Blueridge Parkway. I know that parts of it add time to your trip, but that added an hour and a half. It was gorgeous and we needed it, but the kids were freaking out when we got back to the cabin. Luckily, we brought gifts of apples and apple juice from the local apple farm along the way.  That made them a little happier, except for the fact that they wanted to go.

Glad that trip is over, but very happy that we have flexible kids who try to make the best of everything.

Update: This isn’t the last story about the van…

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