The thing about being on a road trip is that it really cramps your style if your minivan doesn’t work right.
We got back to our apartment after the mishap at Sequoia National Park. But we needed to get the van checked out, which left us with a few questions.
- Where to take it?
- How to get it there and then get back if it’s going to take a while to fix?
- How to get anywhere while it’s being fixed?
- What if it can’t be fixed and we have to live in Bakersfield for the next two years until we can afford a new vehicle?
- Not really that last one. And it’s not like we have anything against Bakersfield.
- Except the river is kind of a disappointment.
But while the river might not have any water in it, Bakersfield does have the Swansonian Institute—exactly what January and August needed to get out of yet another dilemma.
A word for those who need a little background. To get myself through the past two bleak midwinter seasons, I’ve written serial stories about the intrepid adventurer January McLeod (sort of me, in a very generous interpretation) and her ongoing struggle against the notorious villain February Black. January’s partner is August Jones, a not-even-thinly veiled tribute to DJ. They’re assisted by the research team The Swansonian Institute, made up of two brothers—Swanson the First and Swanson the Second. These characters aren’t exactly disguised either: they are good (somewhat real-life, mostly online) friends.
The Westward Expedition gave us a golden opportunity to see them in person. But then the van went wrong, and the Swansonian Institute leaped into action.
It went along these lines:
Hey, guys, something’s wrong with our van, which might mess up our plans this week…
Swanson the First: You’ll need a vehicle. Use my truck.
Swanson the Second: There’s not enough room for all of them in your truck.
First: I’ve got five kids and I can fit them all in.
Second: That’s because you’re crazy. Joneses, you can use our Pilot. It even comes pre-loaded with twelve Celtic music CDs.
First: The truck’s got Carbon Leaf.
It was the truck that was available first, so DJ dropped off the van at the garage and showed back up with a big red shiny truck. (I have no idea what kind of truck it is. Sorry, First.) That night, we all squeezed into it and drove over to the Second Swansons for dinner. It really is roomy for a truck, although Sparkler just about expired during the twenty-minute ride because she couldn’t help touching people.
It is not an ideal road-trip vehicle. If you try to take a road trip with a family of six in a truck, you most likely will all die. But it got us where we needed to go.
As we left that evening, we switched to Second’s Pilot. Lots more room, but no Carbon Leaf. Still, we appreciated what we were given.
The next day, the garage called: van was fixed, cost wasn’t horrible, we were welcome to come get it.
The vehicle shuffle was starting to feel like a logic puzzle at this point. That evening, we picked up the van. I drove the van and DJ drove the Pilot over to First Swanson’s house for supper. But remember, that’s not the brother who owned the vehicle we were currently driving. After supper, we both drove to Second Swanson’s house and left the Pilot, finally all reunited in our own van. I’m still not sure how First’s truck got back to its own house. Maybe it’s like a horse, just wanders home on its own.
Not only did they rescue us in our minivanlessness, but the suppers that the Swansons fed us were of epic quality. January McLeod has put in a recommendation with Headquarters to commend the Swansonian Institute, and double their salaries.
Which would still be zero.
Stops and Pictures:
We went to a little water park in the middle of nowhere, and everyone had a “slappin’ wolf tail” time. I didn’t get any pictures there, mostly because our kids were old enough to go on most of the slides by themselves. So DJ was free to go on slides, and I was free to just hang out with people as they shifted off to watch the little ones. (I prefer visiting with friends to riding water slides. This is why I don’t get to plan our activities.)
We spent a lot of our time eating and hanging out with friends. A good time was had by all.
It was high time that these people gathered all in one place at one time. (I’m wearing my blue Carbon Leaf shirt. For the record.)
For years, we’ve heard California friends complain about the heat—they made it sound like it was so awful, practically desert temperatures. Well, we spent four days in and around Bakersfield, and the temperature hardly got above eighty the whole time. They pretended to be really surprised, but I just think they’ve just been exaggerating. Just see if they get any sympathy from us now.