Not everything goes perfectly on the road. While we may set off for the idealized adventure of picturesque road tripping - from the sun on our backs to confidences around a campfire - sometimes the road gets bumpy in between. Such was our case on the beautiful morning we wound through the breakneck elevations of the Gila Mountains in southeast New Mexico. Our Truth or Consequences hot springs and camping high was quickly dashed as our car welcomed the new day with a terribly pessimistic grinding noise.
Nothing quite raises the haunches of worry like car troubles - especially when you are 2,200 miles away from home - but these are the chances we take when we road trip. This isn't my first bout of car troubles while on a car-reliant vacation, and I doubt it will be my last. But the important thing about facing the potential loss of time and money on the road is to 1. be prepared and to 2. stay calm. These two maxims have always helped me turn my travel frowns upside down.
1. Be prepared for car troubles
Duh, right? Hopefully we are all prepared for car troubles on the daily with a reliable car, an active subscription to AAA, and a savings buffer that can cover repair costs. But when you are miles away from home, it's also important to have the necessary supplies in your car to help you survive your location comfortably and the extra time to play the waiting game.
For example, the grinding noise in our car that morning intensified as we tried to take it over the Gila Mountains toward Silver City, where the promise of a "city-like atmosphere" would provide choices for auto repair. Up in the mountains, we found ourselves predictably without cell service on an isolated stretch of 75 hairpin miles. Luckily, we had all our camping gear, so spending a spontaneous night in the car while waiting for help wouldn't have been a big deal. However, we were running low on food and water. If you are heading off to extreme areas, always have enough supplies to support your party through a night or so of accidental isolation.
Don't forget that if you have to wait for repairs on your car, you will most likely have to find additional and last minute lodging in the area that can also run you a few extra and unplanned for bucks.
Which also leads me to the ever-so-important budget of time. I, for one, and hopelessly guilty of over scheduling my trips, which leads to the heartbreak of losing precious travel time and having to give up much anticipated activities. Even simple car repairs in remote regions can take up to three days, not including weekends.This is not good news for the busy traveler.
2. Stay calm
It's not always easy, right? Especially when faced with budget woes and time loss. And believe me, I am not always one to hold true to this little nugget of advice. I barely remember anything about the Gila's beauty because I was so focused on the grinding noise and all possible, terrible outcomes. Not fun. But I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend by my side who balanced out the yin of my over-the-top worries with the yang of his zen. He had to nicely keep reminding me that mechanics exist for a reason.
And never forget that unscheduled delays may be the most exciting things to happen to us on our trips. In Silver City, we had our lunch paid for us by a friendly patron who took sympathy on our car woes and then we ended up biking around the city on free rentals a friendly bicycle shop owner loaned out to us! When my car broke down in Arkansas, where we ended up stranded for three days, I ended up meeting wonderful friends, hanging at a motorcycle club, and experiencing Hot Springs, Arkansas, in a way I never intended. I still consider that "layover" as one of the most fortuitous moments of traveling I have ever had!
Truthfully, unless you are traveling in a beater who on its best day is on its last legs, car repairs should not be too surprising. Some repairs are just the predictable maintenance and responsibilities of car ownsership. When we finally got my car checked out in Silver City, the problem was a simple broken pulley that took no more than three hours to repair. Anderson was completely right to stay calm. Some cases may require more due alarm, but we shouldn't let a little bump in the road prevent us from being aware of our surroundings.
There is magic in traveling; some of the best experiences lurk in the unscheduled ether. Embrace travel interruptions and let the road guide you! Besides, there isn't much a car rental agency can't fix!