For months I had been looking forward to my cross country road trip with my little sister that I dubbed “The Southern Belle Tour” starring, not my sister, but me as the southern belle. I imagined driving through the south, drinking mint juleps in adorable towns, perhaps meeting a handsome southern man with whom I’d have a fairytale romance, and say things like, “I need to sit a spell,” and “I declare!”
It was not to be. Like most of my dreams that don’t come true, the Southern Belle Tour was nothing like I imagined, it was a complete disaster from day one.
My little sister had moved to Florida a few years prior and she planned to move back to Arizona. So like the good big brother I am, I flew to Florida to drive with her back to Phoenix.
Right before we left her house I said, “This will be the best cross-country slog ever!” To which my sister nodded in agreement and said, “What’s a slog?” But this comment proved prophetic.
We stuffed her 2002 Mustang to the ceiling with her belongings, rendering the rearview mirror basically useless. We could only close the trunk by sitting on it and we used every other bit of space, including the passenger seat, as a place to put stuff. We packed that car full, but no biggie, it’s a road trip! Fun! Excitement!
Then everything went wrong. First the a/c went out, which really is not the end of the world. We resigned ourselves to the fact that the drive would be hotter and more uncomfortable but, hey, that’s why windows roll down. No big deal. But then rain clouds rolled in. Heavy hurricane-like rain soaked the inside of the car, the glass fogged up and the windshield wipers stopped wiping. Looking out the windshield felt like how I see the world without my contacts in- like we lived under the sea! In other words, completely and totally blurry. With no visibility, you’d think my sister would have driven a bit more cautiously, but no. She drove like a bat out of hell and I feared for my life.
“You’re going way too fast! Slow down!” I shouted at her, inches away from a semi-truck’s steel bumper. I didn’t need to see it clearly to know what it was.
She gave me one of those disgruntled post office worker sighs and rolled her eyes, as if continuing to stay alive was a burden. I just kept thinking, “I’m not afraid to die, but please god don’t let it happen in Florida.”
Finally the rain cleared and we made our way to Savannah. The Southern Belle Tour was back on track! I WAS going to have a mint julep on River Street afterall! And I’m happy to say I did. This was the only part of the trip that wasn’t a nightmare.
Once we left Savannah, I pulled the knob out used to turn the headlights on and it snapped off in my hand, leaving only a tiny metal rod poking out. I could easily turn the headlights off by pushing the metal rod back in, but I wasn’t sure how we were going to turn the headlights back on. A pair of pliers would have done the trick but I was fresh out of those, so I figured we’d deal with it later. Moments later while driving down the freeway the driver side speaker blew out in my ear resulting in a low, dull MMMMMMMMM sound. Perhaps this is what distracted me because we got lost somewhere near Birmingham. I followed the setting sun west and thankfully we made it to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and decided to stay the night thinking the worse must be behind us.
The next day a heatwave greeted the South with the hot breath of hell. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we had a/c, which we did not, because it had been broken since the day before. It must have been 300 degrees in the car. Buckets of sweat fell from our faces as we crossed into Texas. Later that night as we filled up at a gas station, a swarm of angry bees attacked us near the gas pump. We would have gone somewhere else for gas, except no such gas station existed. Only the one built on top of a pile of bees. We managed to go another couple hundred miles then decided to stop for the night.
But day three is when the Southern Belle Tour officially died. By this point, my sister and I just wanted to get the eff home, but even that proved too much to ask. Somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, New Mexico, plumes of billowy white smoke began seeping through every crevice on the dashboard.
“What do I do! What do I do! What do I do!” my sister yelled in panic.
I told her to pull over and she did. Now let me set the scene of the breakdown location: it looked like a Roadrunner cartoon with mountains in the distance, rocks, and no sign of civilization. Except for the little shanty town we broke down next to.
“Let’s go see if they have water.” My sister suggested.
“Ummm… no. I’m pretty sure that is how Texas Chainsaw Massacre begins. We’re not going anywhere near there.” I told her.
So instead we just threw rocks at it and named it Murderville.
Luckily I had cell phone reception so I managed to get in touch with AAA. They said they would send someone out, but since I could see no noticeable landmarks, roadsigns, or anything other than rocks, I couldn’t describe where we were. All I could tell them was that I was in New Mexico on the I-10 next to Murderville.
About an hour later a flatbed tow truck arrived. As our luck would have it, the driver brought with him “the new guy” who he said he was training. This meant there was not enough space for the 4 of us to ride in the cab of the tow truck and he asked if we “wouldn’t mind” sitting in the broken down car on top of the flatbed. Seeing as we really had no choice or other option, we sat in the car, on the flatbed, in the middle of the heatwave without a/c or water as the tow truck driver towed us about 60 miles.
The tow truck pulled us into the mechanic in some little town in Eastern Arizona who looked over the car, said he could fix it, but that he didn’t have the part and couldn’t get it for two days. Suddenly I was living the plot of To Wong Foo… the Patrick Swayze movie where he and two other drag queens break down in a small town and get stuck there for a few days while the mechanic waits for a part. I couldn’t stop talking about that movie and how we were living it.
“That’s it!” I said. “There was no way we are staying another night in some craptastic motel! I’m renting a car!” Unfortunately as I soon learned the nearest car rental facility was in Tucson, about 100 miles away. We talked to some truckers to see if we could get a ride with them and one guy said he’d take us… for 200 bucks!! What a dick.
So we hit the streets to hitchhike.
The rain from Florida caught back up with us and started pouring and no one picked us up. We went across the street to McDonalds which I renamed the Fail Shack. At that precise moment, someone hacked my Twitter account and sent a million spam tweets to everyone I know.
Desperate and without many options, we called my other sister who saved the day. She drove about 3 hours to pick us up, then turned around and drove another 3 hours home.
We got back to Phoenix about 1 a.m. and The Southern Belle Tour was over. I declare.