Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 17, 2022
Making a memory
I view driving as a necessity and not something I enjoy. In contrast, husband Art loves driving, so when we travel, he's the one
behind the wheel.
On our recent trip to Wales, daughter Katie and husband Matt wanted to do some adventuring on their own and that meant having a second vehicle - a right-hand drive on roads traveled on the left. Neither had done that before, so my anxiety was raised a degree.
Art has told a "horror story" many times that did nothing to calm my concerns. On his very first trip to England, his friend Bill, who had driven in the UK before, and family were in another car. The rental agency gave Art a Talbot - a model he had never heard of. But the young woman at the counter assured him it was a "wonderful little car."
He got into trouble just outside the rental agency at a roundabout. He knew the "rules of the road" in navigating one, including that vehicles traveling to a further exit were to stay closer to the center. So with Art concentrating on following Bill and the vehicle approaching hugging the outside edge, Art didn't stop as he assumed the truck would surely exit at the same point.
Big trucks, like the one bearing down on him, must have their front near the outside to negotiate the turn. This one was traveling to the next exit.
Art entered the roundabout with the truck�s trailer directly in front of him. It slowed as the driver began his exit, so Art drifted left to buy time. When the truck cleared, Art discovered he was pointed directly at the small concrete island at the left-hand exit at a speed too high to stop. The "wonderful little car" straddled it with a crunch. Art said he never saw so many dash warning lights all come on at the same time. The engine stopped instantly.
What to do?
Looking up, he saw Bill's car disappearing down the motorway.
A police car soon arrived and Art figured he'd get a ticket, but the officers told him it was not a crime to destroy your own car. They were there to make sure no other problems developed until the car was removed.
Eventually, Bill inquired of his son, who had been charged with watching Art, why he no longer could see Art's car in his mirror. Bill Jr. answered, "I don�t know, but something happened at that first roundabout."
Bill returned, picked up Art, and took him to the rental agency. Art told the counter woman, "You know that 'wonderful little car' you rented me? I just crashed it!"
"You didn�t," she responded.
"Yes I did," he said.
In a cheery tone that quite startled him, she replied, "Well, I guess we'll just have to get you another."
Art said he has always wondered how many vehicles you could go through before they say, "That�s enough for you, buddy!"
To avoid any similar event this trip, we picked up Katie and Matt, and daughter Mariya and wife Miriam at Manchester airport and took them to our place. That way, Katie and Matt could have a good night's sleep before renting the additional car.
Fate smiled on us ... I think! Matt took to the car easily and Katie did as well. So when they took off on their first solo trip, we were only mildly concerned. Mariya, Miriam, Art and I set off on our own adventure to the slate-mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.
In much of Wales, there is no cell service. So on our way "home," it wasn't until we reached Penybontfawr, three miles from our place, that Mariya's phone connected. We figured Katie and Matt would more than likely be headed home by then too, but the message on Mariya's phone said they had had a flat tire on the same road we were on. Matt had hitchhiked to the village of Llangynog and used the local pub's wifi to send the message.
We obviously had passed by them. They had pulled into a "lay-by" - a small area where vehicles can pull off the road - and we had gone by, oblivious to their situation. Katie would later tell us she had seen us zip past.
We turned around and picked up Matt along the way walking back to the car. We left him at the car, and took Katie to where there was cell service. She then called the rental agency's emergency number.
Even after she supplied the geographical coordinates, the village's name, the distance from it, and the road number, it was obvious the guy on the phone was clueless. He kept asking for local landmarks "like a nearby hotel." Katie kept explaining the only landmarks were green grass, trees, and sheep. Still, he insisted he knew where the car was and help would be there by 9 p.m.
We returned to the car at 10 p.m. to find Matt reading a book. No one had come.
Art drove us all to our place, leaving the car to fend for itself.
In the morning, Katie called again. It was the complete opposite of the previous night's experience. The fellow knew where the car was instantly and said he would call us when service was 10 minutes out. He was spot on. The roadside assistance fellow put on a spare, guided Matt to a shop where they put on a new tire, and all was well in about 90 minutes.
After, we were contemplating whether that episode qualified as a vacation highlight. It certainly wasn't something anyone wanted to happen. Still, like Art's experience almost 40 years earlier, it's probably something Matt and Katie will share more often than many of their intended vacation adventures.
As they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger ... and makes memories!
Top-left: a selfie taken by Matt after pulling into the lay-by. It is obvious that this undesired event did not significantly dampen either his or Katie's mood; top-right: Art tries unsuccessfully to inflate the tire while Katie prepares to remove some of her items from the car; bottom-left: the man from the Automobile Association arrives the next morning; bottom-right: he gives instructions to disengage the traction system before traveling to the repair station.