A few years ago, I decided to embark on a “grand adventure” and take my kids cross country for a summer family road trip. We covered 8000 miles and 14 states in 4 weeks- and it was an amazing experience! This post is part of the series of Road Trip Diaries from that Great American Road Trip!
My husband and I left New York with the kids on a Friday afternoon, battled traffic on our way out to an overnight stay in Pennsylvania- before heading on to Ann Arbor, Michigan on Saturday to attend a cousin's wedding. The wedding was gorgeous, the reception was lots of fun- and when else do I get the chance to see my kids all dressed up like this?
On Sunday we spent the morning hanging out at the pool at our hotel and visiting with our extended family for a little while, before heading out to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch.
And on the way to lunch, I started to feel this huge sense of anxiety about whether this road trip was something I should really even be doing. All of the bravery, all of the reasons why I wanted to take this trip completely exited my mind and was replaced by this by this voice that kept saying, “What the heck are you thinking? Why are you going to attempt this massive trip on your own? Why wouldn't you just take a week's vacation with your husband like everybody else does?”
Quite frankly- I started to feel afraid. And unsure of whether I could handle all of this- the kids, the driving, the itinerary, not to mention- the commitment I made to the travel site Trekaroo. I was quaking inside. And didn't want to go.
But the time came to say goodbye to Steve and my in-laws and get behind the wheel and drive.
The first couple of hours were spent with me having a little internal dialogue-trying to convince myself that this trip was really going to be great, and my kids were really going to get to see the Western United States, and everything would be fine. And by the time we arrived at our destination in Illinois, I was feeling a bit more optimistic.
The kids swam in the hotel pool, I got everyone settled into beds (in spite of their rambunctious tendencies), and we all got a good night's sleep. I set the alarm for 4 am so that we could be on the road by 5 AM- and on our way to Grand Island, Nebraska.
On Monday morning, all was going well. It was a beautiful blue-sky morning as I was driving along on Interstate-80 in Illinois.
But around 7am I started to feel a little shimmy with my van, so I slowed down thinking that maybe it had just gotten a little windy on the road (sometimes gusts shake the top of my tall van). And then I saw a light pop up on my dashboard “ESP”.
I didn't know what that meant, so I reached over and grabbed the owner's manual out of my glove box, and quickly flipped through to see what this message indicated, and I read that it was related to the tires and that I should “adjust my driving to fit the current road conditions”.
That sounded strange- I was on a highway. But I knew that something was wrong, so I slowed down the van, intending to stop at the next exit which was only a a few miles away.
All of a sudden- BOOM!- there was a huge noise and my kids started screaming- “Mom! The wheel just flew off of the van!”
I could see smoke on the highway behind me, so I gently braked and brought the car over to the side of the road. As it turns out, the smoke was coming from me dragging the metal axle of the car along the roadway- because the wheel HAD come completely off of my car- and crossed three lanes of traffic before heading out into a cornfield.
Now how exactly- does an entire wheel fly off of a car while driving?
Well- I took my car in to have my tires rotated in preparation for this trip, and evidently the mechanic who worked on my car did not tighten down the lug-nuts properly. Over the week's worth of driving that we had done- the bolts must have loosened until finally- they just worked themselves out. Scary.
But the situation could have been much worse- fortunately, I had already slowed down, was able to maintain control over my car, and there were no other drivers nearby who could have gotten into an accident with my rolling wheel. We were very lucky.
And I have to say- it did give us the opportunity to meet some very good people.
Like the state trooper, who stayed with me for 1 1/2 hours. The person at Geico who worked to find both a towing company and additional transportation for my family (7 people won't fit in the tow truck!). The DOT driver who found my wheel in the cornfield and brought it to us. The tow truck driver and his parents who came in their personal minivan and entertained my kiddos while he worked on my car and gave me his advice on how to handle the damage.
The people at the Moline, IL car dealership who made us their full priority- knowing that we were shaken up by what had happened, and stuck in a town where we knew no one. They worked quickly to make sure that my car was safe and road-worthy again. (And of course, triple checked that all of the lug-nuts on all 4 wheels were properly tightened down!)
And also my kids- who were amazing all day long throughout this whole mishap. They were awesome!
By 3 pm- we were back on our way again. But I will admit- that this experience made me shaky again. Any little bump in the road, any bit of shimmy in the van made me feel that something bad was about to happen again. I felt vulnerable. And scared again.
But I knew the only way to get past how I was feeling was to keep putting one foot in front of the other (or in this case, one mile in front of the other) and keep going. And that time and distance would prove to me that everything would be okay. And by the time we rolled into Colorado the next day- my optimism had returned.
If you enjoyed reading about our “Great American Road Trip” covering 8000 miles, 14 states in 4 weeks- you can see more of our “Road Trip Diaries” posts here!