Our road trip is spiraling into chaos. My cold has morphed into a nasty sinus infection. Sal’s orderly packing of Horatio – a Tetris-inspired masterpiece – has reshuffled itself into a trashy mess.
We spend precious daylight hours in a fruitless search for the giant blue whale of Catoosa, Oklahoma. On the way out of town on 44 West, I hear a gut-churning flapping sound on the passenger side.
Sal pulls Horatio to the side of the freeway. There’s a huge nail in the tire. Sal attempts a patch with Fix-A-Flat, which ends with more tire flapping and pulling over again.
Within five minutes, an Oklahoma state trooper pulls up behind us. He helps Sal sort out the assembly of our hydraulic jack and stands to the side, talking Sal through the process.
“Where are you coming from? All the way from Virginia, hmm? Well, if you’re driving Route 66, I hope you saw the Totem Pole.”
I assure him we have.
“Did you stop at the KuKu Burger?”
I assure him we did.
“Now, when you let the car down, ease the pressure off the jack, don’t let it slam down on you. That’s it.” He watches Sal install the spare tire and waits until we’re safely on the freeway before going his own way.
“Well, there are worse things than a flat,” I say as night falls. “It’s all part of the journey. What a nice state trooper!”
On the border between Oklahoma and Texas, I awake from a nap to find another state trooper behind us.
“What now?” I ask between sneezes.
Sal pulls over and looks sheepishly into the rear view mirror.
“I think it’s a speeding ticket,” he sighs.
A significantly less jolly state trooper appears at the window. “License and registration, please.”
I shuffle maps and cups out of the way to get to the glove compartment.
What have we done to displease the road trip spirits? How can we make it right again?