Saturday, July 6, 2013

Road Trip

Our first glimpse of the mountains

We went on vacation to one of my most favorite places ever--Smokey Mountains National Park.  My parents have a time share at a resort near the park and were very nice in offering to take us with them on their vacation.  Which is great, because there's nothing I like better than a mostly free vacation.  Especially to see my beloved mountains.

We spent a week packing for the trip, making up lists of food to take, last minute items to buy, loaded up the car at 5:30 am and were on the road at 6:00 am.  I admit that I was a little leery of our trip due to our last experience driving through the Poconos Mountains to New Jersey for my brother's wedding two years ago.  We hit the mountains mid afternoon on Memorial Day.  The traffic was horrendous, the temperature was almost 100 degrees, and our check engine light came on.  Quickly followed by our engine temperature gauge going into the red zone of death.  We pressed through, because we had little choice, but we took our car to a garage as soon as we got to our destination.  The garage said our car was fine, just low on engine coolant.  They topped us off and sent us on our way.

Our van drove fine through the rest of the trip.  The day after we got back, I took the car for a drive and didn't even make it out of our subdivision before the temperature gauge went back into the red.  We had the car checked out and ended up needing a $2000 engine repair.

Needless to say, I had reservations about taking our van to the mountains again.  I bought new tires, I had the oil changed.  I got the brakes checked.  And I had the car shop look over the car and make sure all was running fine.  They all gave me the all clear and said we'd be just fine.

Getting our van checked over at Auto Zone

Two hours into our trip, five minutes after I took over the driving, the check engine light came on.  My heart dropped.  And my dream from the night before came rushing back--the one where God told me to trust Him.  NOOOOO!!!!!!  Whenever that happens, it means something bad is going to happen where I'll actually need to trust God.

I tried not to panic.  I prayed.  I watched my gauges more than the road.  Hubby told me to keep on driving for another half hour until we'd hit a city with an Auto Zone where we could get our computer read for free.  A very nice man came out to our car and told us it was one of our oxygen sensors, the better one to go, and that we'd be fine to keep on driving.  The worst that would happen is we'd get a little worse gas mileage.  Which would be fine except for the fact that our gas gauge is broken and we fill up based on mileage, not the gauge.  But the car wasn't about to implode, so I was happy.  After another five hours of driving, the light turned off.

The kids were great in the car considering it took us 10.5 hours to get to our destination, including stops for gas and lunch.  We played Twenty Questions, the License Plate game (we found 45 States on our trip), other random games, listened to loud music, put on a movie for the kids, ate a bunch of snacks, and ogled the mountains as we neared our destination.

The bridge over the Ohio River taking us from Ohio to Kentucky

As we neared Knoxville, I checked our GPS and saw that the traffic was awful the whole way to Gatlinburg, so I used the "alternate route" feature.  We ended up taking the most convoluted, back way, twisty, two-laned mountain roads ever.  It was awesome.  I have no idea how we got to our destination, but it shaved off an hour and led to a whole lot of laughing as we saw parts of Tennessee that only the locals would ever see.  Hubby and I are big fans of the GPS feature on our phones.  We decided that our kids were never going to learn how to get anywhere the "right way" because we are always taking back roads to avoid traffic jams.

Just one of the awesome road names we saw along the way

While I'm not about to take a road trip just for the heck of it, we did end up having a lot of fun driving to our destination.  Life is so much better now that all of our kids are beyond the diaper phase.  And the whiny phase.  And the "I've been in the car too long" melt down phase.  Traveling is actually almost okay with them now.

And in keeping with tradition, on the way home, two hours from our house, the check engine light came back on.  Because that's how we roll when it comes to vacation.  Looks like my van is going to be seeing the car doctor next week to get an Oxygen Sensor repair.  Yeah.

Stay tuned for more posts from our trip where I will share about all the fun things we saw and did.  One of our adventures involves a Comedy Barn Theater show, Hubby, and an actor pulling him up on stage.  And we have it all on DVD.  Can't wait to watch it again.  And again.  And again...

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