The car moves down the highway at a steady speed. The driver notices that the sun's glare is doing a quick dance across the hood when it should be standing in one place. Next she hears a noise that catches her attention. She can't quite make out the problem, but knows it's related to the hood. The driver's ed simulation video she watched 25 years ago springs to mind and she prepares for the worst. She's not paying attention to the sun spot any more because she's watching the entire hood begin to raise. Before she has time to slow her speed, the hood shoots backward toward the windshield blocking her view.
In a calm reserved for the scariest moments in life, she slows the car abruptly, checks the side mirrors and pulls onto the shoulder.
The scenario above was our worst nightmare as Christa and I drove home from Indianapolis. I was talking to a friend on my phone. While I talked, Christa noticed the glare on her hood didn't stay in one spot as it normally did. Then she heard the noise. I missed these cues that trouble was lurking since I was on the phone.
My conversation was ending, and I noticed that Christa took the next exit. It seemed a remote place to stop for a bathroom break. She pulled over to the shoulder. “I think my hood is going to fly up. I heard a weird noise.” It took me a moment to register what she was talking about. She got out of the car and tugged on the hood. It didn't move. She came back around and pulled on the hood release inside the car. I got out of the car and joined her at the hood.
The whole hood latch mechanism had come loose. We could see where at least two screws were missing. I remembered seeing string in the trunk when we were loading and unloading equipment.
I looped the string in and out of the grill and fastened it down. I had a sense that there might be a story brewing from this experience, so I pulled my phone out of my pocket and documented this road side stop.
We got back in the car and laughed at what a weird thing to encounter on a roadtrip. Christa pulled back onto the highway. For awhile, our fix seemed to be working and then as she picked up more speed, we saw this:
“Dear God, Please let that rope hold the hood in place. Please keep us safe for the rest of our trip. Amen,” I prayed aloud. Christa slowed down, and the hood lowered.
At no time did we wonder, “What are we going to do?” An unspoken knowledge that we could handle whatever happened passed between us, though I did admit to having a case of nervous cackles at one point.
“I'm going to go to the Walmart in Vandalia. Surely we can find something there to tie this down better.” Christa said.
“Bungee cords. I think bungee cords are our best bet,” I suggested.
We studied our strategy in the parking lot before we went into the store. We were confident we had a workable plan.
With a 4-set of yellow and blue bungee cords, we set to work. We tested our strategy with the two longer cords and when we tugged on the hood, it still moved more than we were comfortable with. We modified our plan and felt much more comfortable with try number two.
This is what we came up with:
“That feels really empowering, doesn't it?” Christa reflected as we pulled out of Walmart in Vandalia.
“It really does,” I agreed.
Our bungee cords worked against higher speed and aerodynamics. Miles passed. We relaxed knowing that our temporary fix was secure.
We thought our adventure was over. Suddenly we saw an empty black garbage bag float across the highway. I don't remember saying it, but Christa reminded me later that I said, “Wouldn't it be funny if it...” I hadn't finished my sentence when we drove over the bag and it got caught underneath the car.
Christa began laughing hysterically. I was laughing too, but would only understand her hysteria later when she reminded that I'd called the bag getting stuck before it happened. For the third time in two hours, Christa pulled the car off the road. We could hear air whipping through the bag making a thumping noise against the car.
Our laughter was uncontrollable. I jumped out of the car, took another photo, and then yanked the bag loose from under the car.
If this is what road trips with Christa are going to be like every time, sign me up! I haven't laughed so hard in a long time, and together, I know we can conquer anything that comes our way.
PS: Our bungee cord solution got us back to St. Louis safe and sound.