The long road home

So where did I leave off yesterday? Ah yes. Crappy camping trip, flooded tent, decided to call it a day and go home after a quick stop to see the Burren.

While in the States last month, Josh bought a pair of motorcycle headsets, so we could talk while riding on a motorcycle. He decided for this trip to attach one to a hat so he could chat with one of the boys while we were driving. We made plans on having dinner at Burger King at the one rest stop on our way home.

And so we drove – Josh in the lead, me behind him with the kids in the car. The weather was nice, the road was narrow but I was feeling confident. We were all pretty happy to be headed home.

Fifteen minutes after getting on the road – chu-chunk. That’s the noise I heard. Chu-chunk. I knew I’d hit something and felt the car slowing down. “Tell Dad we’ve had an accident.” I told Sean, who was wearing the headset, as I watched Josh go around a curve and out of sight.

I was basically coasting at this point. There was no place to really safely pull over. One side was mountain, the other side, a cliff down to the ocean. I thought I could see a little bit of shoulder ahead, but then the car stopped. Later, I figured out it was because momentarily, I forgot I was driving a stick shift and forgot to engage the clutch. All I knew was I was stranded on the side of a very narrow road and there was something wrong with the car.

But a moment later, Josh pulled up and asked what was up. I told him I thought I hit something, though I wasn’t sure what as I hadn’t seen anything in the road. He went over to the passenger side. He might have said choice words. He then informed me that I had blown not one, but both tires on that side. He then asked if I could move the car back to where there was a slight bit of shoulder. I said no, the car wasn’t working for me (again, I was forgetting the whole clutch and gear shifting thing.)

So Josh got in, put it in reverse, moved it to the safest location almost off the road. We pulled out the rental papers, took note of the road assistance sticker on the window and began to play phone tag. Turns out all the Republic of Ireland numbers for our car rental agency were closed for the evening. Out of desperation, Josh dialed the Belfast number, which got us a human being.

Josh playing phone tag on the side of the road, both tires flattened

Eventually, we were told help would be on its way – in an hour. sigh. Then it started raining. At that point, we squished the four kids in the back so Josh could sit in the car too. After an hour, Josh started playing phone tag again. Eventually, a big yellow van came barreling down the road, whipped around and pulled up behind us.

Help had arrived.

The mechanic didn’t seem surprised at the damage. He said it was probably a rock that had fallen off the wall and we never saw it. Yes, we nearly experienced Death by Rock Wall. The good news was, he could fix the tires and it had stopped raining. The bad news, he had to take the tires with him, and Josh had to go with him to pay for the tires, which meant I got to sit on the side of the road with the kids. We hauled kids out, he jacked up the car, pulled tires off, propping up the front end with the same rocks in the wall that tried to do us in. Miriam got back in the car, but Maura wasn’t sure about the tilted vehicle. So Maura, Collin, Sean and I sat on a tarp on the side of the road.

Well, not at first. First, Collin got his video games out. Sean wandered and took pictures. Maura flipped out when Daddy drove off with the tires. So I told Collin to dig out the big bag of Twizzlers my friend Jenn sent us. Then Maura sat happily, wrapped in a blanket, on the side of the road with me.

Granted, when people driving by saw me and three kids and a car with hazard lights on, they tended to ask if we were okay, if we needed help. When I told one man that we hit a rock and blew out both tires, he said “Well that was bad luck.”

Collin – always my son – said “You don’t know the half of it.”

Eventually, I pulled out my cell phone and looked busy with it – because if you’re on the side of the road with a cell phone, people tend to think you’ll be okay. Which they did. Then I noticed that traffic – which wasn’t much anyway – began to dwindle to nothing. Maura, wrapped in a blanket, curled up and started drifting off. Finally Josh called to say the tires were fixed, they were on their way back. A half hour later, the big yellow van reappeared, whipping around the curve and around us. Later, Josh would tell me it was the scariest ride of his life – the guy was obviously a local, who liked to drive fast on the winding narrow roads.

Ten minutes later, tires were on and we were good to go. We toyed for a bit with just getting a hotel room in Galway, but decided to wait and see when we stopped for gas. When we did stop, Josh and I were feeling confident that we could just get home. We just wanted to go home.

In the back seat, Miriam asked “Can we just call it a night?”

Oh no my child. That would be too easy. And your parents haven’t proven themselves the biggest idiots ever. We must press on. Sure, it’s now ten o’clock at night, we missed dinner, we’re eating muffins in the car, and it’s going to rain on your father again. But calling it a night? Never!

So we pressed on. Through the dark of night, wind, and more rain. Josh nearly froze off his bike. I went cross-eyed trying to pay attention to the road and forced myself to sing along with my iTunes collection. But we managed to get home without any more issues. We steered kids to their beds, I abandoned Josh and hit my bed. Josh was still cold from his ride through the rain, so decided to have a whiskey and hot shower only to fall asleep on the couch.

And so ended this year’s attempt at a family vacation. We’ve decided to stick closer to home and do day trips for the rest of the week. Yesterday, we took the girls to Bray and Killiney to play on the beach. Today, we hiked down a valley to a lake, got muddy, almost lost Miriam in a mud puddle (she did lose her shoe but Sean retrieved it), then went to Powerscourt Waterfall, got ice creams and hiked about.

Eventually, we may go camping again. But not until we get a better tent. And a car big enough to fit us all. Hopefully the kids will want to try this again.