The long and winding road / by Susie Lubell

Interstate 5
photo courtesy of AARoads

Indeed we had a lovely week at my mom's in southern California, thanks for asking. It's a seven hour drive including two half hour stops for stretching and gassing and eating. That's, of course, when the stars are aligned.  When they're not aligned, it takes a lot longer. On this particular trip we were making very good time and the kids were both enjoying a mid afternoon slumber as I arrived at the Grapevine, specifically the exit right before you ascend 4,000 feet over the Tehachapi mountains and land in Los Angeles, but also referring to the winding stretch along the freeway itself. On a good day it's still a little harrowing and involves a lot of jockeying between big rigs. In the winter it's icy. This time of year it's windy and hot. So when your dashboard suddenly lights up with this cryptic message: STOP ENGINE - you know you're in for a super stress-free couple of hours. Ohmmmm...

This was not the first time I had seen the light. This particular light anyway. On our way home from camping the day before this trip, the oil pressure indicator lit up followed by anxiety producing beeping and the STOP ENGINE message. We stopped and checked the oil which was oily but we were two hours from home and it was dark so we kept driving. There was no logic in that decision; it's just what we did. The light didn't come back. Terrific! It's just a dashboard fuse thing! I brought it to our mechanic, a 97 year old German man who only works on German cars, and he confirmed that he saw nothing wrong with the car. It now appears that this is because, at his age, he can no longer see.

So four hours into our trip south and with three hours to go, possibly more as it is now approaching rush hour in LA, the light reappears and all I can think is we are so screwed.

Which incidentally reminded me of when I was birthing my daughter and at one point while her head was stuck right there in my vagina I thought well, this is a fine mess. She's not going back in and yet if she comes out anymore my pelvis will shatter. But I digress...

So we pressed on watching the light flash and beep, praying that I wasn't completely destroying the engine and, more importantly, that we weren't going to explode on top of a mountain in the Angeles National Forest. But, as was the case with my daughter, we white-knuckled through it and arrived home safely albeit completely traumatized. Fortunately the rest of the week went a lot more smoothly than the first day. Except the part where the VW dealership told me my Passat needed bypass surgery and, feeling my own oil pressure begin to rise,  I asked if they could schedule my bypass for the same time.

STOP ENGINE.