Most articles at Hilton Mom Voyage are positive ones that accurately describe the fun that families can have on vacation. However, sometimes things go awry. I want to share an example of problems that make me laugh in retrospect.

C.S. Lewis wrote that, “The safest road…is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” So it was when I started a four day Spring Break Road Trip with my girls.

Our destination was a visit to Grandmother in Montreal, about a six hour ride from our home in Stamford, Connecticut. My wife Michele was attending a Girl’s Weekend Birthday Party in Manchester, Vermont on Friday and Saturday. Consequently, I left with my two daughters on Sunday with the intention of picking up Michele and driving on to Montreal. The trip began smoothly with the girls relieved that they no longer had to eat Dad’s home cooked chicken stew and could finally enjoy good American fast food on our road trip.

We arrived in Manchester, a beautiful New England ski town next to Stratton Resort, after a four hour drive. Michele and her three girlfriends joined me and my two girls for lunch at a fun Mexican Restaurant called Gringo Jacks. Any man who has six attractive female companions for a good lunch should know that it is all downhill afterwards.

We finished lunch and returned to the parking lot. We got into our 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan and turned the key. The motor started, coughed and died. The battery was fine as the accessories worked but there was absolute silence now when I turned the key again. I called AAA for the first time in about eight years and their road service arrived quickly.

Unfortunately, however, no Manchester garage is open on Sunday. The car was towed to a garage to wait for the mechanic on Monday morning. If you have to break down, do so in a ski resort where at least there is good food and accommodation. On Monday, my girls went outlet shopping while the mechanic replaced a fuse for the starter.  After my own economic stimulus package for the shopkeepers of Vermont, we were off to Montreal. (My daughters claim that we “got really good deals, Dad.”)

On Tuesday morning, we visited Le Bilboquet Ice Cream factory to observe ice cream manufacturing as part of Shannon’s Grade 8 Research Project. Le Bilboquet ice cream and sorbet are among the world’s best and are a Montreal restaurant favorite. I should have recognized the devil’s work as I ate the ice cream samples in spite of my diet.

We walked to our minivan and turned the key. The motor started, coughed and died. Déjà vu all over again! I called AAA for the second time in two days. My wife and girls went to a friend’s home. I ate the remaining ice cream and sorbet samples. Then I went with the tow truck to the AAA recommended Montreal garage. It was another short circuit and a much bigger bill to replace the car’s fuse box.

Losing two days out of a four day road trip is frustrating and tiring. Two garages in two days are costly. However, there are lessons to be learned from a road trip gone wrong:

  1. The devil has a thing about diets as both times, the car broke down immediately after eating.
  2. The garage mechanics of the Northeast are friendly, but I prefer to plan to take my car to the local Shell.
  3. AAA Road Service is a great investment.
  4. A husband should listen better to his wife’s suggestions about when to replace a 2005 vehicle.

Our family arrived safe at home late Thursday evening. The trip through Vermont and Quebec was pretty despite the problems. Family memories are made as much in adversity as in laughter. Indeed, this road trip will likely be better remembered than others as our Tour of the Garages of the Northeast. Keep smiling.

This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.

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