The Drive

Yup, there we are — red-faced and miserable but trying to make the best of things. Although let me point out to you, El Centro 7-11, that the red cherry Slurpee — contrary to the light indicating its readiness — was NOT icy enough.

Writer’s note: Heeeeyyyy! So, I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who’s still subscribing and reading, and I know I’ve been very hit or miss lately with posting. Sorry. Some of it is lack of energy in triple-digit heat, some of it is because I can’t seem to stay at home for more than 26 hours before the next basketball roadtrip. Either way, I just paid a $70.18 WordPress bill for the privilege of owning my own online name and writing what I want when I want. This makes me feel like I need to get my money’s worth, and so I expect to get back into the swing of posting more often, maybe I’ll be as regular as an elephant on a high-fiber diet. We can hope. But first, I’m going to be traveling and then recuperating from knee surgery. I like the idea of posting while loopy on painkillers, so maybe I’ll be back before you know it. Cheers. And now on with the show…

Only one thing is worse than a summertime, 7-hour-plus road trip through California and Arizona: making that road trip WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING. 

I think anyone who believes global warming is hooey, ought to try driving in the pitch black of the desert at 9 p.m. with the windows rolled up tight because the outside temp is still 105 degrees. I should add, however, that this is absolutely not recommended if you have a delicate constitution and don’t like gunning it above 47 mph when you can’t see more than 10 feet in front of you in inky blackness. Or, if you, just in general, don’t like driving. Which is me.

But I’m a mom and so I sucked it up and did it anyway because sometimes we do scary, anxiety-inducing things for our kids*.  

Let me back up and say, this was actually my second, angst-producing road trip to California in two weeks for basketball purposes**. No. 3 wants, more than anything, to nab a scholarship to play basketball in college. He’s smart and has the GPA and SAT scores to let him get nerdier financial assistance, but he’s a baller (he would fine me $1 for trying to sound hip and cool, but I am confident that he definitely owes me at this point). It’s my job to facilitate that. So, I drove him to San Diego for a day and a half basketball camp. Was I a bit of a wreck driving through that rocky pass on I-8 or I-5 or whatever godawful stretch of interstate that is? YES. HELL YES. Was I still a wreck when we hit the mountainous Alpine area? Yup. But I did it. The trip back was even worse because I knew what was ahead. But again, I did it. 

So, when it fell on me to drive him to LA for a tournament piggybacked with a second basketball camp in front of college coaches, I again did what needed to be done. I was in a much better mood because even though it’s a longer drive, it’s nice and flat. And at this point, at least I’ve gotten over my angst about driving on California freeways. Phoenix is soooo much scarier.

We had an uneventful drive out, watched and/or played a lot of basketball and then we were due to drive back, six days later, in the late afternoon. 

It’s fine, I’ll be fine, I told myself that entire day of the road trip home. It’ll be light until 8 p.m. and by then I’ll be on the familiar, boring stretch of I-10. This drive is so much easier  than going through San Diego, it’ll be fine, I’ll be fine.

Except…

Map App or MapQuest or whatever the heck it is, sent me straight through San Diego. By the time I realized it, it was too late. We’d stopped to grab food — a necessity every three hours for a teenage boy — and No. 3 called his dad to chat about the camp when I looked closer at our directions and it dawned on me that we were headed back through my personal danger zone. 

“Ask your dad if I-5 goes through San Diego?!” 

You know the answer.

I let loose a stream of terrible expletives and am banned from the San Clemente Chick-fil-A at some fancy outlet mall. Which is fine. I’m not driving there ever again. Or anywhere actually. 

Not long after we got back in the car, we hit the traditional wall of California rush-hour traffic. It was then that I noticed a distinct lack of cool air blowing out the vents. 

“That feels hot. Does that feel hot?” I waved my hand in front of the vents.

No. 3 turned up the fan and cranked down the temperature. 

“Definitely hot.”

And, because the drive wasn’t painful enough, now we would be doing it without a/c. 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

We tried rolling down the windows. We tried drinking water. No. 3 pulled off his shirt, which he would have done anyway. We detoured off the road and grabbed Slurpees from the 7-11, which melted the instant we shut the car doors. 

And because that wasn’t bad enough, a flash-flood warning flickered on the screen and we were rerouted. It added an hour to our arrival time. AND THEN because it wasn’t bad enough that we were being cooked from the inside out, we were on the most desolate stretch of interstate ever. I’m talking no other cars for miles or even hours. 

“I don’t think this is right,” I said.

No. 3, who was alternating between streaming the TV show “Community” and taking the exact same wide-eyed pic of his face for his Snap Chat streaks, was unconcerned. I finally told him that I wouldn’t make it unless he talked to me.

“I can drive,” he offered, obviously preferring our limited, what-fast-food-do-you-want interactions.

I flashed back to our trip, mere days before, when I let him take the wheel as we left a Gila Bend rest stop. Whereas I prefer the white-knuckled, steering wheel death grip, he opted for the nonchalant, one handed, forefinger-plus-thumb-triangle-not-even-a-grip grip on the wheel.

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?!”

He reluctantly held it with his whole hand.

So, needless to say, I kept control of the wheel. I mean, there was really no choice at this point — my hands had actually melted and fused to the leather steering wheel. Did I mention it was wicked hot in the car?

It got to the point that I couldn’t look at the directions on the display screen anymore because the idea of more hours in the hot darkness was unbearable. That 11:36 p.m. expected arrival was so very far away.

But finally, lights twinkled in the distance that indicated we were about to encounter a more well-traveled stretch and merge onto 1-10. No. 3 cranked up the volume and dutifully blasted my favorite tunes and spoiler alert: We did actually roll up the driveway, One Direction blasting loud enough to be heard in California and our clothes as damp as if we’d jumped into the ocean, at 11:36 p.m.

Epilogue: Naturally, one of the first orders of business in the week we had at home before DRIVING TO LAS VEGAS FOR ANOTHER TOURNAMENT, was taking the Subaru to the shop to get the air conditioning checked. So, turns out that the air was blowing cold and working just fine for the folks at Tucson Subaru.

Chris, the friendly service advisor: “We’ll run some more diagnostics, of course, but you’re sure you turned it on?”

Uhhhh … Wait. Whuuuuuuuut?

Ummmmm …

Do NOT tell No. 3.

*Like that time I rode the big-faced Mickey Mouse roller coaster at California Adventureland three times in a row because even though I hate coasters, wee No. 3 needed a parent to go with him and loved it so, so much. 

**There was also a road trip to Phoenix, but I only had to drive one way and while very, very boring, the stretch of I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson isn’t particularly angsty. 

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