Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A very eventful road trip to Southern California

Please allow me to get a little bit personal.

This bolt through my tire wasn't even close to being the most eventful part of our trip.

The plan was simple. A 7 1/2 hour drive down to Palm Desert to stay with some friends over the weekend. Then a little food exploration in LA on Monday, followed by brunch with my 91 year old step-dad on Tuesday morning in Laguna Beach. Simple.

As you may know, the Bay Area has been hit by El Nino. Nearly an inch of rain was falling every day. We went to drop off Cooper at his dogsitter. It was raining hard and about two blocks away from his house, I thought I hit a big pothole. My wife immediately suspected that I had blown a tire.

I checked the tire in front of the dogsitter's house and it looked fine. As we drove away, it made a thumping sound. I let go of the steering wheel and it was still going straight, so I just thought the sound was due to the wet road and the fact that the rear compartment was filled with luggage (and thus muffled the rear tire noise).

Wrong. When we got onto a busy street less than a quarter of a mile from the dogsitter, the tire pressure light went on and my left rear tire was flat. I pulled over on the tight shoulder. It was raining hard, traffic was heavy, and everyone was speeding to work at 50+ miles per hour. Dangerous.

Worse, the TSX wagon does not come with a spare tire. It only comes with a can of goo spray and an electric air pump. I later learned that 35% of new cars do not come with spare tires in order to raise fuel efficiency. What bullshit. So we called Acura for a free tow to the local dealer.

This was the sixth tow I've used in the last 12 months. The Volvo was towed twice after the crash. The Saab three times to various mechanics. And now, the Acura.

We were supposed to get out of town at 7:30am. But because of the heavy rain, we had to wait 2 1/2 hours for the tow truck to arrive. It was stressful as I was afraid we were going to get rear ended.

At the dealership, the tow truck driver gave me a souvenir. The bolt that punctured my tire was huge. According to Bozi, it belonged to a GM.

Another 2 1/2 hours in the Acura waiting room for a $250 marked up tire. This trip is getting expensive. This Michelin display was cool though.

After a spicy Chinese lunch, we left more than five hours behind schedule. And because we left so late, we hit LA rush hour traffic. That, plus flooding everywhere, meant we didn't get to Palm Desert until after 10pm. We were so exhausted.

We spent a perfect weekend with our friends and their young kids. It was in a gated resort that had everything-- pools, playgrounds, food, drinks, etc. We got to enjoy the sun and I discovered the blended margarita.

The friends are dentists and they told us about this real life Play-Doh dentistry set.

I'll take this moment to review the Acura. I can't believe I lived this long without realizing the benefits of satellite radio, GPS, and a rear facing camera. I have yet to figure out the bluetooth.

The car handles well and the ride is a bit rough on broken asphalt. Though the car has tons more gadgets than my old TSX sedan, it feels cheaper. I never got to reset the trip odometer so I don't have a sense of the kind of mileage I'm getting. My biggest gripe is the powertrain. The wagon only came with the normally aspirated four cylinder and a five-speed auto. It needs two more cylinders or a turbocharger. It really struggles to stay at 80mph on the freeway, which is kind of shameful. Reliability aside, the Saab's engine and automatic gearbox were far superior.

Eventually, liberal guilt set in. I was having fun in this little safe cocoon while working people outside struggled to pay the rent and put food on the table for their children. It really gnawed at me.

We said our good-byes on Monday and headed to the Los Angeles Farmers Market for some mole at Loteria Grill. I don't think I ever had mole before. It reminded me of satay sauce in a way. The meal was definitely worth the drive.

Then, it went downhill. It took almost 2 1/2 hours to drive 45 miles from Los Angeles to Orange County because of horrific traffic. My wife had sun poisoning and suffered from headache and nausea. As soon as we got to our hotel room, she started barfing. Our dinner plans went out the window.

This morning, I woke up to a view of these trees out the hotel window. These were all over Irvine, where I grew up. The trees gave me a flashback of when I was in high school, when I would look out the window during class and daydream.

We went to my step-dad's house to pick him up. He didn't know we were coming. It was supposed to be a surprise. I hadn't seen him in a year and my wife for a couple of years. When I knocked on the front door, there was no answer. I walked to the backdoor and when I knocked, I heard a groan. Fortunately, the door was unlocked. I found my step-dad semi-conscious. He couldn't move, was incoherent, and was pale as a ghost and sweating profusely. We called the paramedics and he was rushed to the hospital.

He eventually came to. Doctors surmised that he had a sharp drop in blood pressure. At one point, I thought I was going to lose him. When he became lucid, we said what we needed to say to each other. He was released from the hospital and last I heard, he was complaining about tonight's election results.

I don't typically share personal stuff on this blog. I'm sharing this today because I want you to get in touch with that elderly loved one and let them know how much you care before you lose the opportunity.


Ripituc said...

Thanks for opening up with this story. That is a valuable lesson everyone ought to remember, before it's so late.

And I agree, cars should all have an spare tyre! Even if it is one of those ridiculous smaller wheels (but I think they should all be full size).

Lukas said...

The trees look like eucalypts (gum trees).

Is sun poisoning just too much time in the sun? I've not heard that term before.

Not having a full sized spare is a key factor for some car buyers here - long distances mean tow trucks can be hundreds of kilometres (and dollars) away.

Maxichamp said...

@Lukas: Sun poisoning is too much time under the sun, as far as I know. She has very pale complexion, so she might be more prone to it.

They do look like eucalyptus, but are skinny.

Not having a spare in Australia sounds like an awful idea!