Keep Calm and Drive On


This summer I decided to take the kids to visit my sister and their cousins in Phoenix, Arizona, for one last getaway before they headed back to school. Naturally, I chose Arizona in August. And rather than fly, I thought a road trip would be the best way to travel. My husband recently started a new position and didn’t have the same luxury of time off as I did. So I did this on my own.


I planned every detail using Pinterest as my guide. I made road trip books, with games and puzzles and a snack box full of nutritious goodies. Listing towns along the route, I made a paper chain so they would know how far along we were. I downloaded books and had plenty of DVDs for the 12-hour journey. It was going to be epic.

Four hours into my epic road trip, my transmission failed on I-25 going 85 mph. I pulled off the interstate into the “village” of Pecos, New Mexico. There was one gas station (also the local restaurant), a dollar store, one bar (I was told), and Sam’s Auto Repair. I puttered into Sam’s, left my apprehensive children in the truck and ventured into a dark and virtually empty auto repair shop to seek help.


Sam kindly accompanied me to my vehicle and looked at the engine. He told me he needed to take it “for a spin” and nodded for me to get in the passenger seat. With two kids in the back, I apprehensively obliged, as Sam drove us down the desolate main street of Pecos. OMG. Is this man going to kidnap us? was all that was running through my mind, as I looked back at my kids and their eyes as big as saucers. Breathe, I told myself.

Meanwhile, Sam confirmed that my transmission was shot, but not to worry because he could fix it in two to three weeks. Four letter words ran through my head. I’m stranded. With my two children. In the middle-of-nowhere, New Mexico. My son started to cry. He wanted Daddy and he wanted to go home. My daughter, however, was out of the truck, in the repair shop, and playing with Zeus, Sam’s pitbull. What have I gotten myself into? I am a horrible mother. What am I going to do? Stay calm. My mind raced.


Have I mentioned that Pecos, NM, has the lousiest cell coverage ever? I attempted to get my husband on phone, which was like the old cell phone commercial – “Can you hear me now?NO. This is where I would normally lose my cool and breakdown. I might get snarky and rude. I might cry. But I had no other option but to remain composed and calm, for the sake of my kids. I had to figure out what to do next.

Sam was having similar cell coverage problems with his flip phone, trying to reach mechanics in Santa Fe to find me a new transmission. His wife arrived at the shop (along with his daughter and grandkids) and she offered to drive us to Santa Fe. But then what? My truck would still be sitting in Pecos. So, I made the decision to drive the 26 miles to Santa Fe, knowing that it was likely I would break down completely on the side of the interstate. I thanked Sam and his wife and slowly crept onto the road, my son crying silently in the backseat.


What am I doing? I hope this wasn’t a mistake. You manifest what you think. Be Positive. I lurched and heaved at 35 mph for 26 miles, while passers-by honked and flipped me off (yes, I has my hazards on!) and my kids continually asked if we were going to make it. When I finally got cell coverage, my husband began calling mechanics and found a shop that could make the repair. I called my sister, who helped me find a rental car.

While the new mechanic looked at my truck and we waited to be picked up with the rental car, the kids played in the auto shop. They did jumping jacks and pushups to release their nervous energy. I transferred all our epic road trip paraphernalia to the rental and got back on the road. Only eight more hours to go until I would pull into my sister’s driveway, where she had a glass of wine waiting.


I had lots of time on the drive to think about my reaction to the situation. Frankly, I was surprised that I remained calm. If I had freaked out or cried, the kids would have too. I started thinking about other areas in my life where I should pay attention to my reactions to situations I can’t control. Like when the house is a mess and I ask them to help me clean. Yelling at them won’t make them eager to help. Or when we are in a really slow line and I become annoyed. Breathing loudly won’t teach them patience. Or when I have a dreadful day at work and come home frustrated. Complaining won’t teach them to find creative solutions to their problems.

The universe is tricky sometimes. Turns out that a broken down vehicle in Pecos, New Mexico was a serious parenting lesson in how to keep calm and drive on.