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Tuesday, June 29, 2010  

Road Tripped Up

After we nixed the idea of an RV road trip, here were some alternatives we considered and rejected for hitting our whole itinerary anyway:

1): Take My Car. Now this is old-school. As long-time readers may or may not recall, I drive a 1999 Saturn SW-2 station wagon. One of the last station wagons to be built in this country (which is part of the reason I still drive it), it has over a hundred thousand miles on it. Why not load up the Family Truckster and see the country Griswold-style? Well, as I already mentioned, it's got over a hundred thousand miles on it. A hundred and thirteen, actually. From what I understand, the alternator's living on borrowed time as it is, and I'd much rather it crap out during the two-mile drive to M. Edium's school than on some forsaken pair of wagon-ruts in Wazoo, Alabama.

2): Take Trash's Car. True, the Ion isn't exactly blessed with TARDIS-like volumes of cargo space, but we've taken it on long weekend camping trips before. All it takes is judicious packing and the use of a rooftop luggage carrier.

It's actually that second bit that's the deal-breaker. Because neither of our cars has a luggage rack, it has to be attached using these straps that go over the top of it and then clip on the edge of the roof. Which feels pretty precarious in our neighborhood, let alone interstate speeds for extended periods. Plus you have to pack it when it's already on the roof, which is better than packing it on the ground and then heaving 200 pounds of camping crap up on the roof without breaking the windshield, but not by much. Because after it's full -- in an almost completely different shape than it was the last time you packed it because it's really just a big canvas bladder -- you have to tighten and loosen and balance eight different heavy-duty straps in a tedious process that recalls nothing so much as tuning a giant eight-string guitar that lacks tuning pegs and instead has those maddening clips you find on backpacks. I wasn't about to do that at every stop. And I was pretty sure Trash would put her foot down every time we got to a new city and I said, "No, I'm not digging that crap out of the luggage carrier. We can sleep on a bare mattress just fine again tonight, princess." Or, "You need your Epi-pen now? Come on, I bet we're within ninety minutes of a CVS."

3: Take both cars. I hate to admit it, but we've done this too. Only once or twice, before M. Edium's second birthday. But we also had Trash's mom with us, so it made a little more sense. They all rode ahead in Trash's passenger car while I followed in the pack horse, which meant I got to listen to The Who a lot. There was plenty of space for everything, to the point where I could even use my rearview mirror, and it was only a two-hour drive.

The problem on this trip is not so much the amount of gas we'd consume (which I suspect would still be less than in a rented RV) is the fact that the only way to reliably communicate on the road is by walkie-talkie, which went like this:

Trash: bleep "GRRSHHSHKKRR KRKRKGBRDTF LRRGR RGHTRMNLT?

Me: [turns down The Who, picks up walkie-talkie from center console] "What?"

Trash bleep "[something funny about a sign we just passed that I hadn't even noticed]"

Me: "What are you talking about?"

Trash: bleep"[Explains sign, then joke, which takes all the funny out of it.]"

Me: [lying] "That's funny."

Trash: bleep "Oh, never mind."

Me: [turns up The Who]

Trash: [thirty seconds later] bleep "GRRSHHSHKKRR KRKRKGBRDTF LRRGR RGHTRMNLT?

Plus M. Edium would want to switch off between cars, which is a sure recipe for both of us thinking the other has him and thus driving off and leaving him at some feed station next to a pair of wagon-ruts in Wazoo, Alabama.

4): Flying. Again, given the number of destinations we plan to visit, this seems untenable in terms of both cost and carbon footprint. But then compared to what we almost put up with on both of those metrics with an RV, it might not have been much worse.

The trouble, of course, is that flying necessitates traveling light. We don't bring anything on a flight that we can't carry on. I haven't checked a bag in this millennium, aside from when I flew with the radio show and the rules required us to carry on the laptops that belonged to the production because if anyone lost any luggage on these trips, it damn well better be our own personal stuff.

But limiting ourselves to carry-on luggage isn't practical either, given the primitive lodgings we're expecting to make use of. Flying is for when you have a hotel at the end of your route, not the equivalent of an unfurnished tent made of wood.

Of course, we could always just fall back on the old rooftop carrier. Sure, even I probably couldn't jam a four-foot, two-hundred-pound canvas cube into the overhead luggage compartment, and when I called the airline to ask, they said I couldn't even check it. And when I suggested strapping it to the outside of the plane, just like I've done on my car, they started asking me a lot of questions and then hung up.

Anyway, we're still figuring it out. But I have to go now, because it looks like someone at 24. has decided to throw me a belated farewell party. There's like a whole SWAT team at my front door! How thoughtful!

posted by M. Giant 8:21 PM 5 comments

5 Comments:

You could always rent a minivan. They have schloads of space and are more fuel efficient than the RV would've been.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 30, 2010 at 5:22 AM  

I second the minivan suggestion. You can sometimes get really good deals in the summer on rentals, too. I've had good luck sometimes with http://www.rentalcarmomma.com/.

By Blogger Sheryl, at June 30, 2010 at 9:52 AM  

I third the minivan. And if you have a discover card, you can use your cash back bonus for car rental gift cards.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 30, 2010 at 10:50 AM  

I fourth or fifth or whatever it is now on renting a minivan. Still cheaper than your other options.

But more importantly: You still alive dude? Kind of need to know how the SWAT thing went down...

Betty

By Anonymous Anonymous, at June 30, 2010 at 11:20 AM  

Could you rent or buy a new car carrier? My friend has one that comes off the back of their car and is fairly easy to load/unload.

By Blogger DuchessKitty, at June 30, 2010 at 3:53 PM  

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