Most times, a road trip evokes fond memories. For me, my road trip from Colorado to Florida does the exact opposite.
I had decided it was time to move back to Florida. After over 10 years of being away, it was time to go back. Some of you may know that I was in the military, so that took me away from home for a few years. I was stationed in Georgia, Germany, and then Texas. Afterwards, I moved to Colorado to try something new. I made great friends. Even tried my hand at hiking (I climbed two 14ers!). But in the end, something was missing. I wanted to see palm trees again.
So I packed up my 1 bedroom apartment, put it all in a container to have it shipped to me in Florida, and then packed my car with the clothes and other essentials I’d need until the container arrived.
I left early on a Friday morning. The plan was to drive until I got to Nashville (about 16 hours), spend the night at a friend’s house, and then continue the next 11+ hours the next morning. I was making really good time and I made it through Kansas and Missouri just fine. Then I got to Illinois. And that’s when Betsy died.
Betsy was my Jetta. We’d been to a lot of places together. But that Friday night, in the middle of BFE Illinois, Betsy decided she’d had enough. I was riding along the two lane highway, when all of a sudden I started slowing down. I pumped the gas pedal and nothing happened. Luckily I was able to pull over before she came to a complete stop. I called for a tow truck and waited. I was frustrated. And I was scared. It was pitch black.
When the tow truck came, the driver couldn’t figure out what the problem was. He said he’d take me to the nearest town… Metropolis.
Metropolis? As in… Superman’s Metropolis?
Yup. Well alright then. Since it was late, he dropped me off at a motel and took the car to a recommended shop. When I awoke the next morning and called the shop they told me there was a problem with the fuel pump. Great. And they didn’t have any parts for Volkswagens in town so they were going to have to order the fuel pump from another city and have it delivered. It would arrive the next day. Awesome. So I decided to make the most of the situation and explore Metropolis (more on that here).
Sunday morning came and I went over to the shop. The car wasn’t ready. It wasn’t the right fuel pump. They were going to have to order another one. I started crying. Right there in the middle of the shop. “I just want to go home” I was able to blubber out. The men were noticeably uncomfortable. They made some calls and were able to get someone to bring the right fuel pump from a few towns over.
I was finally on my way that afternoon. The first time I stopped to get gas a few hours later (in Kentucky), all hell broke loose again. Betsy peed herself. Literally, gas poured out from under her. Are you fucking kidding me?? I started crying again.
Once I calmed down, I called one of my guy friends and he told me to very slowly drive to the nearest shop. According to Google Maps, there was one just down the road. I pulled up just as they were closing. With my voice cracking, I quickly explained what had happened over the last couple of days. It was a family run shop, and the wife took one look at me and told her husband to take a look at the car. She then sat me down and offered me some water.
It turned out that when the new fuel pump was put in, an old rubber ring (I don’t remember what it was called, I’m mechanically impaired) was reused instead of a new one being used. That caused the cover to not seal properly so when I filled my tank the gas overflowed. This mechanic was able to seal everything properly, and after thanking the family profusely, I hit the road once again. At that point, I was no longer going to stop in Nashville. I was going to drive through to Florida if it killed me. I finally crossed into Florida that Monday at 3:15am. As I passed the “Welcome to Florida” sign, it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen in days.
I continued on my way and arrived in Melbourne at around 7:30am. Exhausted, but oh so happy, I slipped into a mini coma at a friend’s house. I eventually made my way to Miami after a pit stop to visit another friend in Port St. Lucie.
I will never ever forget this road trip from hell. I thought I had prepared for it. I’d gotten my oil changed. I had checked the air pressure in my tires. But some things you just can’t prepare for. In the end though, I made it back to Florida, and that’s all that mattered.
Have you ever had a bad road trip experience?