Ready or Not #114: Summertime Driving

Summertime.  Hot, hot, hot.  If you aren’t prepared, driving your car in the summer heat can make your life miserable, if not deadly.

When my children were small, we went to Provo, Utah, with my sister-in-law and her daughter.  My car had quit a couple of times, but it had always started right back up.  The mechanics couldn’t find any problems so I just kept on using it.  After finishing our business in Provo, we got on the northbound I-15 ramp to head to Orem – I say we got on because we never got off.  My car quit just shy of actually making it to the freeway. I guess that was lucky, but now what?

We had three little kids, ages three and under, and we were stuck on a blistering hot July day with cars whizzing by us.  We decided that our best bet was to climb down the side of the road, climb over the fence and walk back into Provo.  The Hostess day-old bread store wasn’t too far and I figured that they would have a phone that we could use and we could buy the kids a Twinkie and they would be happy while we waited for help.  At least I thought it was a good plan.

We had no problem walking down to the fence, but after that it was a comedy of errors – except it wasn’t very funny.  My son, who was still just in his crawling stage, was obviously not going to be able to climb over by himself.  It was questionable if my daughter, age three, and her cousin, age two, would be able to scale the fence, even with help.  To make matters worse the fence was about seven or eight foot tall and it didn’t have a stabilizing top bar and so it made the fence very wobbly.

My sister-in-law climbed over the fence first and the plan was to have me climb up and hand each child over to her one at a time.  It sounded easy, but when we went to actually do it, it wasn’t.  The first problem we came up against is that I am not athletically inclined (at all) and between trying to climb a tall, wobbly fence while holding a clinging terrified child, was to say in the least, impossible.

Thankfully a man driving on the frontage road with a large delivery truck saw our predicament and instead of feeling sorry for us as he drove by, he stopped to help.  He drove the truck right up next to the fence, let my sister-in-law climb in and hang out the window while I used the truck to stabilize the fence and hand the kids safely over. Whew.

We did get to the Hostess store and the kids ate Twinkies and soda pop while waiting for my husband to come save us.  While I was waiting, I thought about all of the things that I did wrong and what I needed to do to keep my kids safer in the future.  The only liquid we had was the formula in the baby bottle.  I had no emergency drinking water in the trunk or food bars for the rest of us.  I did have toilet paper, but we didn’t need it (thankfully).  Back then (seventeen years ago – think Stone Age, pre-cell phone, days) we couldn’t contact anybody.  I have never felt so helpless.  It was hot.  The kids were tired and thirsty and it could have been much worse.  We were very lucky.

For summertime driving, I would suggest that you buy an inexpensive backpack and fill it with bottled water, hard sugar candy, toilet paper and a first-aid kit.  By putting it in a backpack, it will keep it all together in the trunk and not roll around.  It will also make it easier to take with you if you have to abandon the car. It would also be a good idea to have a spare pair of walking shoes and a change of socks.  I would also suggest you store extra car parts: a spare tire that has air (another story), a jack, extra belts, window wiper blades (told you that story) and a bottle of engine oil.

Also, if you don’t have a cell phone (like nearly every elementary and high school student in the U.S.) then I would suggest that you buy one of those pay-for-the-minutes phones that you can purchase the minutes as you need them.  The phone only costs about $30.00 and then you only pay .10 cents for each of the minutes you use – no contract.  Put it in the jockey box.  That is a cheap price to pay for peace of mind and a quick lifeline to call for help.  Then you won’t ever have to find yourself trying to climb over a wobbly fence.

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