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Breaking down on the road

Last week I introduced you to the smashed wreckage of my friend's Buick, mainly warning readers to put down that cell phone. 

Today, I want to prepare us for the possible eventuality of breaking down on a cross-country road trip. Not something that has ever happened to me--I have only summoned a tow truck once, when I had my first accident at 16--but since it did happen to a friend of mine last week, I think we can all benefit from the knowledge I gained vicariously through her.

First of all, Kelli had good insurance. While she didn't have AAA, I know that AAA does the same as Kelli's good insurance did for her. I have said this before, and I will suggest it again: especially for female solo drivers, AAA is a wise, cheap, once-a-year investment. You are not alone in the world if you know you can call someone to pick you up or change your tire.

Back to Kelli. Kelli had driven 800 miles in one day when her car suddenly stopped functioning. She was 80 miles from Nashville, her final destination.

After taking a moment to go into internal hysterics, Kelli composed herself and faced the situation like a champ. She called her parents back in South Dakota, who got her a tow truck right away.

Hours later, Kelli found herself in a motel room in a tiny town in the middle of Goodness-knows-where, Kentucky, off of 1-24 East Bound. 

These helpful parents also found Kelli a reliable mechanic on the spot (again, what AAA would do for you). Kelli spent the next day on tender hooks, hoping and praying that the $500+ repair would not take 500+ hours. 

What at first appeared to be a serious fuel pump problem proved the next morning to be an ignition cylinder failure. Her car, recently brought back from the totaled car afterlife, had told itself that Kelli's car was being stolen, thereby shutting down and refusing to give up the key.

Alas, despite the tiny nature of Kelli's ignition repair, it was in fact more expensive than a fuel pump repair. Her father thankfully paid the repair costs, and Kelli had her car back within two hours.

I tell you this little story to paint you a picture of what breaking down on a road trip looks like. You have to be flexible, and you have to rely on other people. 

Most of all, you have to be prepared.

What did I learn from the vicarious experience?  Join AAA and carry extra cash. Oh, and be ready to spend the night in roadside motels. But don't watch "Psycho" before hitting the road.

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