Dispatches from a Kia, Part IV: The Long Road Home

Our time in Michigan was short-lived but valuable nonetheless. Although we felt a bit rushed overall, it was definitely nice to hit up rural America and escape for a few days. After a quick oil change, lots of leftovers and some quality family time, it was time to get back on that long road towards Austin. 

We left around 6am on Saturday morning with Little Rock on our minds. A 16-hour drive, it would be the longest day of driving for us yet. But the hotel reservation had been made and nothing could stop us now!

Not even the brakes going out. Yea, that's right. Upon entering the crossroads of America, Indiana, we heard an unsettling clunk from the back of the car. The rear brakes went out - which also includes the emergency brake. Scary, but we kept on truckin'. After all, it wasn't even 8am yet, so we'd have to wait for a repair shop to open anyway. 

By 9am, we were approaching Fort Wayne, Indiana, where we decided it was time to get the brakes checked out. Pete knew his back brakes were a problem. He had tried to replace them in the past, but the drums were rusted on and impossible to take off on his own. 

As we suspected, the mechanic told us that we needed the rear shoes, drums and hardware replaced. But unbeknownst to us, our front brakes were also grinding, so in addition, they also gave us new front pads and rotors. And by "gave us," I mean that we paid for them. 

$560 and 4 hours later, we were ready to get our car back. We spent an asinine amount of time at the nearby Meijer and when we just couldn't take it anymore, we headed to the shop's waiting room and engaged in age-appropriate activities. 

Sure, the brakes added an ass-ton amount of money to our total trip cost. But it was a fix that we've been needing for more than a few months now. And when we did the math for fixing the brakes ourselves, the price was actually pretty reasonable. It was more of a time investment than anything else. And we knew we would get tired. 

It was 1:30pm and we still had 11 more hours of driving to complete. We debated changing our hotel to one that would be closer, but in the end, we just decided to go for it. Tea and NoDoz. They work magic. 

Then, the rain started. And never ceased. It was pouring all through Illinois. It felt unsafe. Semi trucks were zooming by with no care. Visibility was low and it was quickly becoming dark. 

And then I experienced the most frightening 13.42 minutes of my life. Our windshield wipers stopped working. The motor busted. Holy God. Now we can't see shit. I'm holding on to the car for dear life. Pete's a nervous wreck. The trucks are still whipping by, their water back splash totally blinding us. There were no exits for miles. No where to safely pull off. 

Pete tried to put his head out of the window to see, but unfortunately, his glasses also don't have windshield wipers. Our tactic was to keep visible the white lines on the road, which was rather difficult. It was pitch black dark and water was flying everywhere. My heart was pounding. Pete came to terms with the surely imminent crash we would face. We were certain it was over.

Finally, what seemed like a lifetime later, we passed a sign for an exit. Only a mile further to go. We pulled into the small-town gas station and felt as though our threat of demise had not quite diminished yet. Still anxious and pumped full of adrenaline, it was time to prepare the windshield for a coat of Rain-X, our only hope of making it to Little Rock that night. We blast the defroster on high heat and heavily clean both sides of the window so we limit the amount of glare we receive from headlights. 

I had never used Rain-X before, so I wasn't really aware of its capabilities. Honestly, I didn't even know what it was. I had doubts about the effectiveness of the technique, but I should always know that it's better to trust Pete than my own instincts.

We get back on the road and, I'll be damned, that stuff works miracles! I couldn't even tell it was raining, let alone pouring. I felt safer with the Rain-X on the windshield than with the wipers going full speed. 

I was so mesmerized by the stuff, that I shot a video. While listening the most obvious musical choices, Ke$ha:


With our nerves restored, we completed the remainder of our evening's drive rather painlessly. With the time change, we arrived in downtown Little Rock around 11:30pm - better timing than we had anticipated considering the two vehicle malfunctions we encountered. 

Because of the arduous journey we had just endured, we decided it was appropriate to go out for a beer. We quickly freshened up at the hotel and headed in the direction of people. There weren't many. We realized that a majority of the bars had just let out at midnight, so we were beginning to think we missed the party.

But then we found the only spot that seemed to still be rocking: Ernie Bigg's Chicago Style Dueling Piano Bar. We were greasy, smelly and exhausted, but the people watching was entertaining and the beers, refreshing. 

Smoking is still legal in Little Rock bars, so we came home reeking of cigarettes. When we got home, I practically passed out. Pete stayed up and watched shows about greedy boy-band managers and African poop-throwing rituals. We slept peacefully, grateful that we hadn't died. 

In the morning, we ate our free continental breakfast, asked for a late check-out, and went back to the room to relax and shower up. We grabbed a tasty lunch at the Flying Saucer where we had a couple local brews and then it was off to Austin. Can you tell we were excited?

Shockingly, the rest of our trip was drama-free. But, my God, what a trip! In the end, I don't think flying would have been the best choice for us. Even with our pricey brake repair, I think we still would have spent more. We would have had to buy last minute holiday tickets (because everything we do is last minute), so the cost would have been extraordinary. 

I suppose the road trip was beneficial in more than one way. We're off on another epic road trip this Monday, and we're gonna need all the practice we can get...


TRAVEL EXPENSES (or "Should We Have Flown?")

Sun 11/20: $21.18
Mon 11/21: $62.07
Tue 11/22: $46.07
Wed 11/23: $38.96
Thu 11/24: None
Fri 11/25: None
Sat 11/26: $89.86
Sun 11/27: $44.07

Sun 11/20: Free
Mon 11/21: $32.19
Tue 11/22: None
Wed 11/23: None
Thu 11/24: None
Fri 11/25: None
Sat 11/26: $32.19 
Sun 11/27: Free

Sun 11/20: None
Mon 11/21: $34.60
Tue 11/22: $44.73
Wed 11/23: $25.92
Thu 11/24: Free
Fri 11/25: Free
Sat 11/26: $12.25
Sun 11/27: $35.13

Sun 11/20: None
Mon 11/21: None
Tue 11/22: None
Wed 11/23: $19.49 (motor oil)
Thu 11/24: None
Fri 11/25: None
Sat 11/26: $573.18 (brakes; Rain-X)
Sun 11/27: None

TRIP TOTAL: $1111.89

(because it needed to happen anyway...)