Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Last Road Trip of My Mom's... Car Part I: Let us Pray

It all began long ago on a dark and stormy night in March. No it didn't. I decided to buy a new car. An all electric car. It only took three months to actually get said car, and a whopping six days of ownership to wreck it. But that's not the point of this story. I talked with Artist Nephew about my old car. I asked if he wanted it. He had been driving my mom's old car, an Infinity, ever since she had her first surgery on the tumor in her arm. After she passed, my dad transferred ownership of the Infinity to Artist Nephew. So he's had this car for over three years now. But it is old (2001), is a land yacht by millennial standards, even Gen-X standards for what it's worth (or a Grandma car), and takes premium gas. So it's expensive. My old car, on the other hand, is still old (2004), is an economy, compact, stripped down, nothing fancy, cheap gas, and most importantly stick shift, Saturn Ion. Which means, it is cheaper to maintain and fun to drive. Artist Nephew weighed the pro's and con's of both vehicles, and chose to accept my gift. Now Artist Nephew does not need two cars AND two motorcycles. So, what to do with the Infinity? Flying Squirrel Nephew piped up and asked if he could have it. Flying Squirrel Nephew is in the Army. He jumps out of planes and hopes his shoot opens. He's also stationed in North Carolina. We're all in California! And so the planning began. Mostly during Christmas when Flying Squirrel Nephew got leave to come home for the holidays. Our options were to sell the Infinity, and give money to Flying Squirrel Nephew to buy a cheap car in North Carolina or drive the Infinity out to him and fly home. But would it make it out there? Can we get it there... in winter? Do we want to spend more money than the car is worth to get it up to shape and out there to him? The answer: hell yeah. Let's do this!

But first a little background on the Infinity:
Back when it was time for mom and dad to get a new car (almost two decades ago), the only requirement from my mother was that it needed to be comfortable and a good road trip car. Color? Didn’t care. Make and model? Didn’t care. New or used? Didn’t care. Now to be a good road trip car, it needed comfy seats, cruise control, and a good stereo system. And so, the 2001 Infinity was purchased. Mom took that car on countless trips. It went to Wyoming and back who knows how many times. Arkansas and back at least twice. Up and down the west coast, and even to the east coast and back once. She loved that car. She made many a road trip CD. After she had her elbow replacement surgery from the tumor, she was looking forward to being able to drive again. She never did get enough use out of that arm, and so was never able to drive again. She hated that. She loved to drive, and drive, and drive. That was a freedom painfully lost. And so the Infinity sat in the driveway. As her cancer worsened, getting in and out of the car became more and more difficult. And so it sat even more in the driveway. Trips to the hospital and doctors were done in the truck. So that the car would get used, she asked her grandson (Artist Nephew) if he wanted to drive it. He gladly took it on. He called it his grandma car, when his friends would make fun of it. He was proud of it. It’s a great car! Now that Artist Nephew has my old Saturn Ion, it was time to take the last road trip of moms Infinity. The last great road trip car.

Let us begin.

Day 1:
Engine Mileage: 219655
Trip Mileage: 0.0

Dad did his normal routine of checking everything twice. Clean this, check that, fix this, did I pack that routine. Steering wheel cover, and seat covers were installed (because the car is old and the leather interior is decomposing), all while I gave my kitty's a last scratch behind the ears and snuggles, and washed my sheets for Artist Nephew who will be taking care of said kitty's while dad and I are away.
We finally start down the road at 11:30, after I figure out how to take a selfie.
I need more practice obviously. Dad starts us off down the road. We don't get very far before we need to pull off to check one more thing.
Then it's, "where are my sunglasses"? I plug my ipod nano into the cassette tape adapter player and begin the road trip with Jack Johnson... a very static-y Jack Johnson. We continue down the road. Highway 152, over Pacheco Pass and past San Luis Reservoir, and onto I-5.
We trade off after a glamorous lunch at MacDonald's. Continue on over the Grapevine to the 210 Freeway to the slow crawl of traffic. Once past San Bernardino, on to surface streets around and about and up the mountain to Oak Glen steeped in fog. We make it to our first layover stop of the trip. As I put the Infinity into park, it revs its engine. Hmmm. Dad is concerned. I turn it off and turn it back on, just like you do with computers. It seemed to work. It idled at a normal RPM. Phew.

Day 2: At Shiny Happy People's
You may remember Shiny Happy People (SHP) from the previous road trip blog in Tallulah Mae, the RV. We've known and been great friends with SHP since before I was born. They are the type of friends that you may not see for years, yet when you do actually get to see each other again, it's like no time has passed. And if something bad happens, they are the first to respond and be there for you. The day mom passed away, they got in their car and drove up to see her and be with us. They were with us when she took her last breathe. But on to this visit. Dad and I slept in (8:30am) which is really late for SHP. They normally get up at 5am. Yeah, they're insane. I get a cup of coffee. Ahh. Dad and I bring in the gifts Artist Nephew made. They had commissioned Artist Nephew while on the maiden voyage of Tallulah Mae, for six more mugs. He had made and given them two mugs while on that road trip. Artist Nephew got to work and made six new mugs. He didn't like how they turned out (typical artist) and made six more. These he liked. He had also made a vase, a beautiful vase, and wanted to give it to them as a gift.

Well they were a HUGE hit. Lady SHP was almost moved to tears. We then show them the two bags full of oranges Sis picked from her tree for them. That didn't warrant a picture. They then take us to Riley's Farm for breakfast.

We forget that it's a Friday and the place is loaded with school buses and elementary school kids getting educated about colonial America. Our waiter is dressed in colonial garb, and we watch the school kids learn how to march and shoot rifles (long sticks) from the window.
We chat, and chat, and chat. After the third refill of coffee, we decide it's probably time to leave. We head off down the mountain to Kaiser where gentleman SHP needs to get a shot and pick up his prescription. While the men wait at Kaiser, lady SHP and I head over to Toys R' Us to try and find Rook cards.
We were unsuccessful, but did find her favorite store, Tuesday Mornings, and walked the isles, and picked up a few things.
We decided we'd better go pick up the guys, and so went back to Kaiser. Found them sitting in the waiting room, still waiting to get his shot. Apparently they close that station for lunch. So we sat. Didn't take long once they were open again, so back up the mountain we went.
We ate snacks and played cards (plain ole playing cards since our hunt for Rook cards was unsuccessful). Soon it was time for dinner. We went to the local Mexican restaurant, and on the way watched the sun set.
It wasn't bad, but I get better Chili Relleno's back home at our favorite place. Of course our stay wasn't long enough. SHP's place is like staying at a retreat. Relaxing, comfortable, and never long enough.

Day 3:
Engine Mileage: 220051
Trip Mileage:  396.9
SHP make us breakfast. And we chat for as long as possible. We decide we have to leave by 11:30am. We have SHP take a picture with the Infinity. We have to document with whom and where it went on it's last road trip.

The lady in my phone navigates us to the I-10, and away we go to Phoenix, Arizona. I forget to get a picture of the Arizona State line. So here's the picture I took of it from Tallulah Mae last year.
Just imagine it being 20 degrees cooler. We stopped at a Love's Travel Center for lunch (they had a Subway Sandwich inside). We are such gastric adventurers. Dad took over driving, and away we continued.
We had traveled this route before with Tallulah Mae. And just like before, we missed the on-ramp to the 202. The lady in my phone told us the wrong lane. No matter, just like before, we turn around and get it right the second time. Arrive in Queen Creek at Big Bro's gate at 6:00pm. I text him for the code to get into his "community". We wait, and wait. Someone finally pulls up behind us and uses their fancy gate clicker, and we drive on in. We pull up to the house just in time for my brother to finally text me the gate code. The Lover of Derivatives Nephew and Sis'n'law were the only ones home. Big Bro was out shopping, and Big Red Nephew was at the mall with friends ( he got his license recently and just like every other 16 year old on the planet just has to drive somewhere because he can). Apparently Big Bro thought that when I told him we'd be there by 6pm, figured I didn't calculate for the time change. Silly Big Bro, such a doofus. I spent 9 years in college, I think I can calculate arrival times in the correct time zones (also, the lady in my phone told me). Anyway, Lover of Derivatives Nephew made us all dinner. Yeah for 20 year old males knowing how to cook a meal! After dinner he showed us how to play his favorite game, The Sheriff of Nottingham. We chatted some more, watched some mind numbing tv, then went to bed.

Day 4: At Big Bro's
We lounged about.
Dad fussed about the car, so Big Bro and dad drove it around a bit and went and got transmission fluid and filled it up. It was having some high idle issues. I went with them to Home Depot for grass seed and fertilizer. Big Bro fertilized his backyard and spread seed around in his dead spots. I watched from the comfort of their lounge chairs on their patio. We went for a walk around the neighborhood (the loop he takes the dogs on).
Dad's not doing Tai Chi, he's just talking with his hands. We sat around some more. Big Bro called in to work and got someone to cover his shift (he works nights), so we got to spend more time with him. Aww. We all went to dinner at a place called Oregano’s. Came back and hung out around the fire pit in the backyard.
Then we played cards. Big Bro won. Bastard. But maybe justice was served, since I sat on my ass and watched him tend his yard earlier.
We completely forgot to get a picture of them with the Infinity. Sis'n'law was already in bed asleep because she was sick (always sick when you work with preschool kids) and had to get up early and go to work the next day. It was dark, so excuse their rabid racoon eyes.
We said our goodbyes to Big Red Nephew that night too because he had to go to school early the next morning. Big Bro and I ate our dinner leftovers and chatted and watched more mind numbing tv.

Day 5:
Engine Mileage: 220411
Trip Mileage: 756.9
Dad and I get up, Big Bro and Lover of Derivatives Nephew get up long enough to feed the animals and see us off. They both probably went back to bed after safely seeing us depart at 10:30am. The lady in my phone told us how to get to I-40 from Queen Creek, Arizona. She got a bit upset when we turned right into a gas station instead of left where she wanted us to go. She got persistent about following her route. She can get quite the attitude.
We tootled along northeast up to I-40. We climbed and climbed up into pine forests and snow!
Our first glimpse that it's actually winter. We drove through Navajo land. Got depressed.
Since I was driving, dad was in charge of using my phone to take the picture of the New Mexico state sign as we crossed the border. He fretted about it, but he did get a picture taken of the sign. Five, in fact. Two of which were actually decent, so go dad!
We stopped in Gallup for lunch and gas. Maybe this was the day we ate Subway... I can't remember. We switched, and dad drove us the rest of the way to Albuquerque. We crossed the continental divide along the way.
Sure didn't feel like we were that high. I turned the lady in my phone back on, and she got us to the hotel for the night. Sis had made the hotel reservation, and she got us two rooms. I was expecting to share with dad. He said, when he travels with sis that they get separate rooms, so okay. That was an unexpected pleasant surprise. Go sis! We settled a bit in our rooms then headed out for dinner. We live it up a little and eat at Applebee's (yeah 2 for $20 dinners). Our waitress thought we were nuts to drive all the way to North Carolina. She said, she'd pray for us. She must have, because we did make it obviously. I was able to connect to the hotel wifi with my phone, but not my laptop. 😞 Dad didn’t have any problems. Why me? So I used the wifi in my phone to get on the internet with my laptop and quickly downloaded the phone photo’s I sent myself and the portion of the blog I had already written so I could work on it offline. I didn't figure out the airdrop function till much later. I guess me and technology still have some issues we have to work out. I slept good. Dad did not.
The end.
Just kidding. Who plans a trip to Albuquerque? We aren't even half way through the country yet.

Part II coming to you soon... I hope.

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