The first leg of my journey started in my home state of Minnesota, and led me and my closest friend on a road trip to the East Coast. The GPS told us that this trip (specifically, for me, from Saint Paul in Minnesota to Maryland) would take us an upwards of 15 hours to drive. More, if we wanted to avoid tolls (which we did).
We decided to take the trip in more than one segment. We didn’t split it up evenly – but we decided that we would stay overnight with a friend in Janesville, Wisconsin on our way. This was about a three hour trip from where we started in Rochester, Minnesota – which is another hour and a half from where I had been staying in Saint Paul.
We ended up running a bunch of errands during the day, right up until evening, on the day we were supposed to leave. They just started piling on top of each other, one after the other, until suddenly it was 4 hours later than we’d planned to leave, and we were rushing to pack and start driving. By the time we hit the road, it was pushing night time, so we didn’t arrive in Janesville until nearly midnight.
The next morning, we planned to get up around 4 AM and hit the road by 5. That way, we could do the rest of the trip (roughly 13 hours without tolls) in one day. Well, first off, my alarm doesn’t go off. So road trip companion Jackie wakes me up at around 5:15 when she gets out of the shower. That’s all right, though. I shower and we’re in the car ready to go by 5:40, easy. From there, it was smooth sailing, we thought. Right?
Except when we turn on the car we have a ‘check engine’ light.
There was some swearing. We go to a coffee shop, get our coffee, and try and sort out our options. We do a bunch of googling, try everything possible to make sure that the light wasn’t a fluke. We checked all of the caps on the gas, windshield wiper fluid, oil, etc. Tighten everything. Clean what we can. Check the oil. Anything that we know how to do, and that various chatrooms told us could cause the light to come on.
But the light stays on.
So there’s more swearing and more weighing of options. I drive a hybrid, so we didn’t want to go to just any auto repair shop. But the Toyota dealership in Janesville didn’t open until 8 – and that was still over an hour and a half away. We didn’t want to lose all of that time, so we did a little mapping and planning. Since the light was solid and hadn’t been on the day before, we decided to take a risk and drive around an hour and fifteen minutes in the right direction. That would bring us to Racine, Wisconsin, which had a Toyota dealership that would be open at the time we got there (a little before 8 AM). And that’s precisely what we did.
If I had known what was wrong with my car, I wouldn’t have risked the trip. But we didn’t, so we did. And we made it all the way there without even a hiccup.
So finally we get there and the people at the dealership were amazingly nice about the whole thing. We explained that we were on the way to the East Coast and that we didn’t have an appointment, and they squeezed us right in.
So we go into the dealership and sit and wait. And wait. And wait. An hour and a half passes and we were already bored, and that’s when they finally approach us and tell us the bad news.
The coolant tank was punctured and was completely empty. The whole thing needed to be replaced. There was yet more swearing, sighing, and weighing of options. We told them to go ahead with the repair (because no way in hell was we driving 12 hours with no coolant), and they give us an estimate of two hours for the repair. It was around 9:30 am at the time. So that would have gotten us out of Racine at noon, which was still a doable time. We could’ve made that work.
But then there technical problems. They couldn’t get their computers to work to verify that the fix had worked. So we ended up sitting in that Toyota dealership for a total of 6 hours, just waiting. I was so antsy that I wanted to scream. My skin was crawling. My feet tapped uncontrollably. I couldn’t focus on anything – not even a game on my phone. Which was almost completely dead, anyway. I just wanted to get on the road. Every second that ticked by pushed out estimated time of arrival later and later.
Finally, they give us the go-ahead. We paid a wince-inducing amount of money to the Toyota dealership, and hit the road again. The GPS put our estimated arrival time at 3:30 am, local time. And being the crazy people that we were, we decided we’d try to make it.
I’m sure you can imagine, but we did not make it the whole way that day. We were already exhausted from the stress of worrying about my car and the money involved with the repair. That, and because of the delay, we still hit Chicago at a bad time – though it wasn’t quite rush hour yet.
Jackie drove from Racine to Chicago – despite just having gotten her driver’s license the day before. In fact, she drove all the way to Indianapolis – which is one hell of a distance, if anyone is counting. It’s longer than I can drive in one sitting. Though, of course, we did stop for gas in there somewhere.
Now, Jackie had her heart set on stopping in Indianapolis – partially because she’d never been there before, and partially because she really wanted to see the Funky Bones exhibit at Indianapolis Museum of Art. Unfortunately, because of our delay in Wisconsin, we didn’t hit Indiana until 8:15, and by the time we finished eating dinner, it was nearly nine.
We did still hit IMA, but we didn’t get admission. We walked around outside, and saw some of the sculpture gallery outside of the fence. Our favorite was a fountain right outside the museum. Hopefully we can stop by again and see the exhibit Jackie wanted to see so badly.
From there, we drove until a little before midnight, and stopped in Columbus, Ohio overnight. It was an exhausting day – I had to talk for the entire 3+ hours we drove to Columbus because I felt like I was going to fall asleep. Not a good sign when you’re driving. We were still about 6 hours away from our destination, and we were definitely not going to be able to make it all in one night.
We were so tired that by the time we got to the hotel, we just went straight to bed and slept all night. We didn’t allow ourselves to sleep in the next day – that would’ve been a mistake – but got up at 7 and had breakfast before hitting the road.
The next morning was absolutely beautiful. Nearly cloudless, blue skies welcoming us into our last day of traveling. Columbus is such a clean, classic city – and it was early enough that there were few people around – it was incredibly picturesque.
And on top of that, we drove through the mountains for almost the rest of the day. The roads were pretty clear, the sky stayed that beautiful blue, and our trip was smooth sailing from then on.
We stopped in the mountains for lunch, then drove the rest of the way and arrived in Maryland at exactly 4pm. While it was quite a long trip, it was also a lot of fun. We listened to a lot of music, as well as podcasts, and an audiobook. We also took a lot of pictures, and spent a lot of time just talking. All in all, I would do it again. Which is good, because I’m going to have to at some point!