The Longest Ride

When my kids were very young, we made the long drive to my parents house for Thanksgiving. It was a 5-hour drive on a good day and we made it there in exactly that. We had an awesome dinner and then the weather turned. It was rain in Milwaukee so I packed the four kids into the car and we got off to a good start going home. Then the rain turned to frozen rain and a layer of ice began to pile onto the freeway. We slowed down considerably.

As we drove along at about 30 miles per hour on the building ice, I noticed the car seemed to be getting sluggish. I immediately assumed ice was collecting in the wheel-wells but still felt a little uneasy. When the frozen rain began to turn into snow, I felt better about driving, but the car still felt sluggish. After a while, I was unable to get the car to go over 40 miles per hour even when pushing the gas pedal to the floor. Then it became 35 mph, then 30 mph, and finally 25 mph. Now I was driving on the shoulder with my flashers on and I was pretty stressed out both because of the weather and the car. We had about 30 miles to go until we hit the next sizeable town.

After about an hour and a half, we finally made the 30 miles and I pulled the car into a mechanics shop that was closed for the evening. Across the street from the shop was a motel and I checked us in. For the kids, it was just another adventure.

YOUNGEST: Is this our new home?

2ND YOUNGEST: No, just a motel.

YOUNGEST: Why can’t we live here?

2ND YOUNGEST: Cause Dad would kill us if we all had to share the same room.

YOUNGEST: No he wouldn’t!

ME: Yes, I would.

Anyway, we had a fun night watching movies and eating vending machine snacks.

The next morning, I went over to the mechanic shop and gave them the keys to check out our car. I went back a couple hours later and got the news…catalytic converter was kaput. They would need to keep the car for a couple days until they got the part and installed it.

There was no way I could afford a couple more nights in the motel so I called a friend to come pick us up. While we were waiting (of course it was snowing again) the kids pestered me about the car.

OLDEST: I didn’t think we had a Cadillac.

ME: We don’t.

2ND OLDEST: Did it convert to something else?

ME: Huh?

2ND OLDEST: You said the Cadillac converter was broke.

ME: Oh, it’s called a catalytic converter, not a Cadillac converter.

OLDEST: So our car is a catalytic?

ME: Um, no. It’s a Buick.

2ND OLDEST: Did it convert?

ME: No, it’s always been a Buick.

2ND YOUNGEST: I thought it was a Regal?

ME: It is.

2ND OLDEST: So it did convert! But I thought it was broke?

2ND YOUNGEST: So it didn’t convert right?

YOUNGEST: Can we go swimming?

OLDEST: No, you dummy. The pool has snow all over it!

2ND YOUNGEST: I’m hungry! (I threw a package of vending machine cookies his way).

ME: Eat those.

2ND YOUNGEST: I want a hamburger.

ME: Pretend the cookie parts are the bun and the frosting is the burger.

YOUNGEST: French fries? (I threw a bag of Cheetos his way).

ME: Tada! Cheese fries!

The conversation kept along the same lines until my friend picked us up. There’s nothing better than listening to four kids discuss a broken car. By the time we were finished talking about it, we were all wanting a real hamburger and fries. I never thought the kids would ever tire of junk food, but they did.


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