Little Spouse On The Prairie: Scheduled Maintenance

Mar 3, 2018

To be honest, I may put on a show of indignation about my husband’s old-fashioned ways, but secretly, I am glad that Joel feels it is a “man’s job” to gas up the car, change the oil, and complete basic maintenance on our vehicles in preparation for family vacations.

Where we sometimes run into trouble is the timing of the car maintenance. Months in advance of our last vacation, an epic road trip to five national parks, I mapped out an itinerary that included stops at interesting historical markers and museums.  I also called ahead and made reservations at unique places to stay.  I am not one for those boring chain hotels.  I much prefer to find out-of-the-way bed-and-breakfasts or theme motels. 

My kids pretend that they hate these accommodations.  It’s kind of a family joke. My teenager, Millicent, will make some teasing comment like, “Please say we don’t have to stay at one of those weird hotels that have pink toilets and a mascot dog.”  Or my son Dashiell will bring up the one time that we had to sleep in the car because the Quonset Shed Bed and Vittles had gone out of business and forgot to notify those with reservations. We were so disappointed that time, because the place had advertised that guests got to drink milk straight out of the cow for breakfast!

At least my kids are good sports when we are forced to stay in a silly chain hotel like Holiday Inn (only because we can’t find anything better). They cheer and make a huge show of splashing around in the indoor pool.  They go to great lengths to be convincing, rarely if ever dropping their charade. I’m touched that they are growing such cheerful hearts.

My kids put on the same show about the stops along the way.  They might whine and complain about visiting the Nuclear Waste Adventure Trail and Museum (that’s a real place, by the way), but secretly, they really appreciate the hard work their mother invests in providing these enriching experiences.  And I can sleep at night knowing that my children didn’t miss out on the experience of seeing the world’s biggest ball of twine or Carhenge.

As listeners know, our used van was Joel’s midlife crisis purchase, so he insists on keeping it in tip-top condition. So, about the time I started making reservations and charting maps – around 12 months before the vacation - Joel noted that he’d need to change the oil and get new tires prior to leaving.  Six months out, he mentioned that the tires on the van were showing steel belts.  Two months from departure, Joel let me know that we really ought to change out the donut we’d had to put on the van when we’d had a blowout last month.  “I think you’re only supposed to drive on those donuts for a few months or so,” he said.

Joel made an oil change appointment for the morning of departure.  I guess he figured fresh oil would help us get better mileage.  I was a little concerned about the tires at that point, especially the donut, but I was afraid if I said anything, Joel would take it as an insult to his planning skills.

Somewhere between Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Grand Canyon, he insisted we stop at a small town to get new tires.  This gave the kids ample time to buy some cute vintage souvenirs depicting 1990’s Arizona. I was especially impressed with Clementine’s choice of the $30 snow globe that still had a bit of brown water in it.  But my son’s toilet shaped ashtray wasn’t too bad either, and it only set us back $18. 

Whereas I had planned for the kids to get their first glimpse of the glorious canyon just before sunset, Joel’s alternate schedule put the kids’ first view of the Grand Canyon well past dark.  Ingenious, really, because at that hour, we could just barely make out a red glow on the North Rim that may have been a forest fire.  We would have never gotten to see that had we arrived on my schedule.

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