We are driving down the interstate, 3 hours into our 10 hour road trip to our beach destination when I hear Johnny’s Daddy say anxiously, “what’s going on?”. I look over and I see that our speedometer of our rental car is suddenly at zero yet we still have acceleration. It’s then that we notice smoke coming from our exhaust and a wrench symbol on the dash. I notice a rest stop coming up and we cross our fingers that we’ll get there safely. It’s 6:30pm when we pull into the rest stop and my other half starts calling the rental company’s road side assistance. It’s the first day of summer and the hottest day of the year.
I couldn’t believe this was happening to us. Inside I was panicking because we have two small children but I can’t show it. I am getting worried that once Johnny understands what’s is happening he’ll have a meltdown. We were very lucky that the rest stop had lots of good food and was cool inside. Later in the early evenings when it was cooler I let Johnny do something I usually stop him from doing at home – pull grass out. I figured some simple sensory fun will quell his anxiety. He started yanking it out and placing it on top of the picnic table vertically along each plank of wood. He was doing this very purposely and it was only when he picked clover flowers and started placing them on his grass project that he was just not piling grass. Everything was being placed just so as if he was doing an art project. I wish I had taken a picture but the tow truck driver came and I forgot.
After many calls it seems we are in a restricted area of the highway and the rental company can’t come to our location. We are on a toll thruway and if we had kept going and made it to a toll exit then the rental company could have met us there. Instead the flatbed tow truck with our replacement car was sitting and waiting on the other side of the big fence of rest stop. Only one company had the contract to tow in this area of the thruway and the rental company could re-send a new vehicle to a spot off the thruway. The frustrating part was the rental company’s support staff did not know this at first and by the time everything was sorted out two hours had passed and it was now 8:30pm.
What do you mean we have to pay for the tow and then get reimbursed? We have CAA/AAA and worked things out ourselves. The tow truck driver did not want to leave us at a central spot for the rental company to get us and instead said he’d help us skip a step and take us directly to them so we could get on the road quicker. Have you ever rode inside your car while it’s on ytop of a flat bed tow truck while driving down a highway? I have now!
We arrived the rental car office at the airport and it 9:30pm. The first car they bring out is smaller then what we had as we look at our big pile of belongings. It seems there is a jazz festival going on right now and there is only one choice left….a Ford Crown Victoria 2011 that was big and clunky that looked and felt like it was 20 years old. It’s now 10 pm and we could be fussy another day.
We originally had planned to drive two-thirds of the way and then stay the night on the road somewhere and then drive to our destination the next day. We looked at each other and then our kids and decided to drive through the night and stop when we need a rest and hope the kids sleep through the night like you would on a plane. Johnny probably slept 3 hours at the most because he was so excited about where he was going. “Princess” slept most of the trip.
We stopped a few times to have a nap but we were able to make up our time and get to our destination safely. Should we have found a place to stay the night? We had done such a good job preparing Johnny for our road trip that he more than a typically developing child wanted to get to his destination VERY badly. If we stopped to use the restrooms or to nap he’d get very upset and come close to having a meltdown. Autism makes routines and knowing what is to be expected or what is going to happen very important to Johnny. The best way to understand it is that every time you give him something unexpected or change things he begins to get anxious about what else he does not have control over and could change.
Now it’s time to enjoy some much needed beach time.