My husband and I are beginning another epic journey. This Thursday we drive fifteen hours to Florida to rent a car to drive to an airport to fly to Alaska to take a bus to Denali for our month of work in Alaska. My husband and I have traveled a lot. A ridiculous amount really. Besides doing a national tour, we drive cross country on our own a few times a year. And so in honor of our impending travels, I will share with you the story of the worst road trip ever.
My husband and I were working for a theatre company that owns a theatre in Florida and owned one in Arizona. We were moving the show from Florida to Arizona, closing in FL on Saturday night and starting rehearsal in AZ at noon on Tuesday. Most of the cast flew on Sunday and had a lovely Monday off. But not us. We wanted our car with us in Arizona. So, we decided to drive.
We’re tough! We would have no problem driving thirty-six hours in 2-ish days. We left the theatre in Florida right after the show to get a few hours of driving in before we found a hotel for the night. As I inevitably took longer to get ready to leave than my husband, he took the last of my show stuff to the car. As soon as the fake eyelashes were off, I jumped in the passenger seat, and we hit the road. Everything was going well for about the first hour-and-a-half until the car stopped. Yep, it stopped. Didn’t smoke or make a noise. It just stopped. We were out of gas.
I laughed, and we huddled in the car, grateful for the free roadside assistance as we waited for our gas delivery. The gas man came with the two gallons we were promised. We palled around as he put the precious gas in the car, said our goodbyes, and tried to drive off into the night. But the car still wouldn’t start. The nice gas man said maybe our sensor wasn’t picking up the gas because it wasn’t on level ground and took my husband to a station down the road to buy more. They got back twenty minutes later and put the gas in. But the car wouldn’t start… So we had to a call a tow truck. You see, gas man came in a car that wouldn’t tow a kayak, let alone a car stuffed with all our worldly possessions. As we waited for the tow truck, I crept along the roadside risking death by alligator to pee. Things were not going well.
The tow truck came an hour later. But there were no garages open at 3 in the morning. In fact, there was only one garage that would open the next day since it would be Sunday. Luckily we were within towing distance. Luck at last! The driver left us in the parking lot at 4ish, but the garage didn’t open till 7:30, and there were no hotels in sight. So we tried to curl up in our car seats. But February nights are actually really cold in Florida! So we shivered sleeplessly until 6 when the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street opened, and we ran in like the homeless hobos we were. We sipped coffee until the garage opened.
Our fuel injector had died. Six hours and nine hundred dollars later we were back on the road. Until I asked my husband where my show binder was. I was the dance captain for the show, and my show binder was my life. My life he had left in Florida. I had given it to him when he had taken things to the car, but he had left it on his dressing room station. So after a near divorce experience and an hour-and-a-half trip back to the theatre, we were finally back on the road with forty hours left to make a thirty-six hour drive…
So we drove straight through. Through thunderstorms we drove. We took turns sleeping and crying as we drove. My breaking point came when I had to turn my underwear inside out at a gas station. We didn’t have the time to find the bag of clean clothes in the car. Finally, a Harry Potter book-and-a-half later, with enough five hour energy in our systems to get most people through college, we arrived at cast housing at 2am Tuesday morning. I hadn’t showered in days, and all I wanted was to sleep in a bed. Our roommates had hidden a key for us, but no one had mentioned that there was a gate with a code we had to get through to get to the condo. And all of our roommates were asleep.
As my husband found a corner of the wall to pee on, I climbed the gate and wandered around trying to find the condo. Half an hour later I had the key but no way to get the car through the gate. I think this is that part where the heavens opened and the universe provided two drunk airline pilots trying to drive home. They opened the gate, and we tailed them in and fell onto our bare mattress stinky and travel-worn, but alive. And sometimes surviving a roadtrip is all you can hope for.