Tag Archives: car

A Wet and Not-So-Wild Weekend

Avoiding eye contact with people, aliens, and cameras

Can you tell that the kid isn’t a morning person?

The best-laid plans of mice, men (dads), and moms too often can get waylaid by the weather. That’s what the Mister and I experienced as we tried to enjoy our first Sam Houston State Family Weekend with our younger son last Saturday.

Come along for the ride as I recap most of our unusual day.

The museum is minutes from our son’s dorm.

The museum is minutes from our son’s dorm.

One of the highlights of our visit was checking out the Sam Houston Memorial Museum and grounds (the Mister and I are history buffs). 

The kid tries his hand at tomahawk tossing.

The kid tries his hand at tomahawk tossing.

Before we entered the building, our son got to test his skill with a tomahawk. Good athlete that he is, he hit the target twice and probably would’ve sliced off at least a toe with his third effort.

Sam lived a colorful life.

Sam lived a full and interesting life.

After the kid’s weapon wizardry, we went into the museum to learn more about his university’s namesake. All three rooms were packed with photos, paintings, artifacts, and information; it was fascinating!

Santa Anna . . . or Elvis? The kid wasn’t quite sure.

Santa Anna . . . or Elvis? The kid wasn’t quite sure.

What most intrigued our son, though, was a talking diorama of the injured General Sam Houston interrogating Mexican meanie Santa Anna after his defeat at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836.

Note the sword behind Sam

Check out the sword behind Sam.

More specifically, it was the sword behind Sudden Sam that sparked the kid’s interest. Oh, how he wanted to touch it! I told him to fight that urge, as I turned away. Next thing I heard was a loud, female, somewhat robotic voice saying, “Get out of the diorama!”

Yep, the kid had touched the sword, which set off a sensor. Embarrassing yet so funny that I’m sure we’ll be reliving that moment again and again and again. Hey, son, get out of the diorama!

Bowers Stadium

Bowers Stadium (note the ominous clouds)

After we ate a catered lunch and dropped the kid back at his dorm (supposedly to study), the Mister and I walked to Bowers Stadium to watch SHSU hopefully defeat rival Eastern Washington (they were nationally ranked #4 and #3, respectively, in the Football Conference Subdivision).

Along the way, it was drizzling a bit. Unbelievably (for me), I actually had not only found two ponchos (just in case) but also remembered to bring them with us! Really, folks, that’s pretty miraculous when you’re suffering from CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff) disease.

Again, note the clouds.

Again, note the clouds.

Once we got to our seats, that drizzle turned heavier. On went the ponchos just in time, as the dark skies opened up with torrential rain, thunder, and scary lightning. Naturally, we left our metal seats and looked for an overhang. All of them were packed with soaked people.

When the announcer said the game would be delayed for at least an hour, the Mister and I decided to bag it and spend time with our beloved baby boy at his dorm. Eventually, the storm moved out, and SHSU came away with a victory, by the way.

A crowded desk

A crowded desk

Although we would’ve loved watching the game, we enjoyed being with the kid more. He insisted we watch the first season of “Seinfeld” (he’s become addicted).

Father and son get the comfy digs.

Father and son get the comfy digs.

It was just like old times with our son . . . except for the cramped quarters and soggy shoes and socks. While the Mister napped, the kid and I had fun tossing around his Tigger ball. Later we threw a little football and mini discs. Just like home, except that the mess stayed while I left. I liked that part a lot!

After we had eaten dinner, made a Walmart stop, and enjoyed some great SHSU volleyball, it was time to bid adieu to our bearded boy and drive the 90 minutes back home. As I hugged him tightly, I was glad we got the chance to see how comfortable he is in his new environs, as well as enjoy some of what makes the campus unique (thanks to General Sam).

Next time we get the chance to see the Bearkats’ football team in action, at least it will be indoors against Stephen F. Austin State, the Battle of the Piney Woods, at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

No ponchos necessary!

A Little Traveling Music, Please

Still can’t resist my older son’s beautiful blue eyes!

Still can’t resist my older son’s beautiful blue eyes!

The Mister and I pulled on our traveling pants (big pockets for lots of snacks) Saturday and yesterday and put about 560 miles on the Honda Odyssey.

Our goal? To take our sons out to lunch at their individual colleges.

Result? Mission accomplished!

Our older son was first on our list. Saturday we drove the 190 miles to San Antonio, picked him up, and went to see “We’re the Millers,” which was surprisingly good despite the awful, woeful, disgusting abundance of foul language, even by Jennifer Aniston (you’re better than that, Jen!). Then we enjoyed lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and chilled for a bit at his nice apartment.

Love that Sirius XM!

No commercials rock

Finally, the Mister and I hugged our senior collegian goodbye (we probably won’t see him until Thanksgiving) and made the three-hour trip back home. We lightened the load by attempting to harmonize to songs played on Sirius XM’s the Bridge station. Usually putting that capital L to our foreheads, though, is the Mister’s inability to remember most of the lyrics despite his fine singing voice coupled with my out-of-tune pipes despite knowing most of the words.

Our finest moment? Our rendition of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville.” Even Simon Cowell might have been impressed! And, yes, we were 1 for what seemed like 236 songs. At least we weren’t shut out!

RJ and the kid

RJ and the kid

Yesterday we pretty much repeated the procedure, but without the movie. Fortunately, Huntsville is only 88 miles from our house; it takes about 90 minutes to get there. We picked up our younger son and his roommate, RJ, at their dorm and made the scene at Chili’s, which was their choice.



Naturally, the kid needed a molten dessert pick-me-up. It doesn’t take much to raise his spirits, thank goodness. After a stop at Walmart and a small disc golf course to play a few holes, we returned to Sam Houston Village. There we deposited the boys, gave our freshman a hug (we’ll see him a few times this month thanks to disc golf and SHSU football games), and then it was back to our horrible harmonizing.

Whew! Glad we don’t have to labor on Labor Day!!

A Smoky Highway

Black smoke adds to a darkening sky.

We noticed dark smoke billowing over I-10 near Columbus as we drove home after visiting our older son in San Antonio last Sunday. Last time that happened, it was caused by wildfires spurred on by our terrible drought.

There’s the problem!

This time a small car was engulfed in flames on the other side of the highway. The traffic was backed up for miles.

You can just make out a firefighter spraying water on the vehicle.

Nothing good ever comes of smoke drifting over I-10.

Farewell to an Old Friend

Despite the scrapes and high mileage, the Villager was a beloved car.

An old, much-loved warrior has died. Literally.

Our 1999 Mercury Villager no longer stands watch outside our house, ready, willing, and able to take us places. After 13 years of service and about 130,000 miles, Old Red has retired to greener pastures somewhere else.

Until I got my Honda Pilot, the Villager was my favorite car. It was more than a vehicle—it’s a symbol of my sons’ childhoods. The minivan was what they grew up with, transporting them all over the Houston area, as well as to Hebrew and Sunday schools, sports practices and games, and to friends’ houses. Plus we’ll never forget the long trips we took in it, ones to Carlsbad Caverns, Chicago, and DisneyWorld.

The kid manages a wan smile before driving off to school last semester.

Much to their dismay, both boys eventually drove the Villager to high school—apparently Mom’s hand-me-down minivan wasn’t cool enough for the parking lot, especially one like ours with plenty of newer cars. My younger son finally dubbed it the “Swagwagon,” a tongue-and-cheek reference to its lameness. But, hey, it was long paid for and extremely cheap to insure, which comes in handy with teenaged boys.

After we bought the 2006 Toyota Highlander for my older son to drive and the 2010 Ford Fusion for Mr. Swag himself, the Mister and I decided it was time to find the minivan a new home. Even though we wouldn’t get much money for it, we settled on selling it to Texas Direct Auto, which is where we bought the Highlander.

Hoping to eke out a few shekels more, I drove the Swagwagon to Mister Car Wash about 10 miles from our house. Not that clean and shiny would mask all the scratches, of course, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. All went well until I tried to start the Villager for the ride back home.

Oh oh! The engine wouldn’t turn over. One of the workers jumped the battery, and the minivan started once more. Whew, dodged a bullet, I thought.

Why in the world would I tempt the Evil Eye?!?

As I drove home, the Villager started to shake violently. The boys had complained a few times about this happening, but I figured they were exaggerating. Nope! This was the real deal . . . would the Swagwagon and I meet our untimely demises in a fiery explosion on the streets of sweet Sugar Land?

This is NOT a good spot for a dead car.

Well, one of us did die; fortunately, it wasn’t me. Even though that nagging voice of sanity in the back of my head said, “Just pull off in a parking lot and have the kid pick you up in the Fusion,” the idiot part of my brain thought, “It’s not too far; we can make it!”

Not only didn’t we make it, but the minivan sputtered to a grinding halt in one of the worst-possible places: One of the two early left-turn lanes in front of Hwy. 59’s feeder road on a very busy street. Nightmare time!

The car’s flashers really were on.

I quickly opened the windows, turned on the Villager’s flashers, and called AAA Texas. Then I waited in the 93-degree heat for a tow truck, as I waved cars that foolishly came up behind me to go into the next lane. One almost smashed into me, which is why I kept my seatbelt on the entire time.

A blessing behind me

When AAA Texas later told me they couldn’t rescue me for at least an hour, I was almost glad a city motorcycle police officer came up behind me (and confirmed that the flashers were indeed working). I say “almost,” because the Villager’s inspection and license plate stickers had expired; I didn’t want to get a ticket. But the cop thankfully ignored the infraction and called a wrecker, which had me moved off to a parking lot within a few minutes.

The tow truck driver, who works on cars, thought the fuel pump was the culprit with the dead minivan. There was no way we were going to put one more dime into our aging vehicle, so I called Purple Heart to make a donation. They towed it off into the sunset, and that was the end of our Villager saga.

When I think back on Old Red, I’m going to try my best to remember the good times we had and not the horrible experience at the end. Right now, though, I think a few years will need to go by first.

Howdy, Fuze!

Our 1999 Mercury Villager, driven by me and then the boys, has seen better days.

Out with the old . . .

My younger son is driving his dream car: A 2010 Ford Fusion.

. . . and in with the newish!

With our 2006 Toyota Highlander in San Antonio with our older son, and our ancient Mercury Villager becoming unreliable, the Mister and I opted to add yet another car to our fleet (the minivan will be going to a new home soon). So late last week we welcomed this 2010 Ford Fusion (only 33,000 miles) to our driveway for our younger son to drive.

Here’s hoping that the Fuze gets the kid safely everywhere he wants to go . . . especially to start his senior year of high school Monday!

One-Word Wednesday

We’ve added car #4 to our stable, a 2006 Toyota Highlander, for our older son to drive.


Bad “Carma”

My strong #2 son!

I’ve had just the worse “carma” lately.

It started last Friday. I had dropped my #1 son off at a local junior college to take the CLEP test to try to get credit for freshman composition (I drove, because I had to pay for the test with a credit card). We were told it would take at least two hours to finish, so I returned home and parked my 2009 Honda Pilot in the driveway in a shady spot. A short time later, I got back in the Pilot with my #2 son so I could drive him to meet our friend Glen to play disc golf. I tried to start the car. It made a noise, but the engine wouldn’t turn over. Oh, oh!

As I was pondering my next move, #1 texts me to say he was done with the test (which included an essay) . . . after 35 minutes! Oh, oh! Fortunately, we have another car, the Mercury Villager #1 drives. Unfortunately, it was behind the Pilot in the driveway

What to do?

I looked at my #2 son sitting quietly beside me in the Pilot and said, “Someone’s going to have to push this heavy car into the street.” I knew if the Pilot could just clear the driveway, I could maneuver the Villager around it. Competitive lad that he is, he jumped out of the car and ran behind it. And, as you can see from the crudely drawn graphic above, darned if he didn’t shove the Pilot just enough into the street that 1) no oncoming car would hit it, and 2) I could drive around it.

I called AAA Texas to come and try to figure out what the problem was with the Pilot, drove #2 to meet Glen, and then picked up #1 (fortunately, he always has a book to read just in case he’s ever stranded by his mom for more than an hour).

Sam tries to start my unstartable car.

AAA Texas sent out Sam, who also couldn’t start the Pilot. But he did notice that the key icon was flashing on the dashboard and determined that the problem had to do with the car’s security key. AAA towed it to the Honda dealer. John the service advisor finally decided that the Pilot’s immobilizer needed fixing. Really? How much more immobilized could my car be?!?

Of course, there were no Pilot immobilizers to be had in all of Houston . . . nay, all of the great state of Texas. One was overnighted from the plant in Ohio . . . where it apparently sat at FedEx in Houston, not to be delivered to the dealer until Monday. Meaning I didn’t have my car all weekend. Extremely annoying!

So that meant I was sharing the 1999 Villager with my #1 son. I used the red minivan Monday to run errands. After shopping at Kroger, I put the bags into the back of the car, got in the front seat, and proceeded to turn the key.

The Villager’s dashboard: Nothing to see here.

All I heard was click, click, click. Oh, oh! Please check my back—I think someone slapped a “car kick me” sign on it.

Yes, yet another call to AAA Texas and the chance to sit in a hot car for 20 minutes waiting for service. Oh, and while I was waiting, John from Honda called with an update on the Pilot. Even after putting in the new immobilizer as well as a new battery, the car wouldn’t start. So for the second time in a year, the Pilot needs a new starter. Why was I suddenly thirsty for lemonade?!?

As you’d expect, none of the Honda dealers in Houston stocked a Pilot starter; it had to be overnighted from Dallas. Joy of joys!

Henry tests the Villager’s battery.

Meanwhile, AAA’s Henry came to my rescue. The good news was the alternator was fine; all the nickel-and-dime machine needed was a new battery. Soon I was on my way home.

When Honda John called again yesterday, I literally held my breath. Would I ever get my Pilot back? Yes! The maroon mobile finally was ready to roll. The repairs were under warranty, so all the aggravation cost was my time. I’m just glad we have an extra car.

When I slid into the seat of my Pilot after that long four-day absence, I immediately sought out the one thing I truly had missed while driving the old Villager: XM radio! Oh, how I yearned to once again listen to the ’60s on 6, ’70s on 7, and my other favorite stations. I had forgotten how many commercials inhabit FM radio; it’s so irritating.

I’m hoping that my “carma” is on the upswing now. But just in case, I’m trying not to drive the Mister’s Honda Odyssey!