It’s settled. We’ll drive to Alaska.
After days of intense planning, I have us from Phoenix to Alaska in 10 days.
But Karry doesn’t like straight lines.
“I want to go through Grand Teton. That’s a must,” she says.
No problem. It’s already a stop on our route.
“And I want to see the big trees again,” she adds.
“The big trees are in Sequoia. We’re driving north through Utah,” I say. “Besides, didn’t you see them a few years ago?”
“I want to see the big trees,” she says, un-phased.
That’s when we decide to slalom to Alaska adding several days and an unbearable leg from Tahoe to Salt Lake City.
Might as well hit up Big Bear on the way.
The first night at the military recreational campground in Big Bear is off to a flying stop.
The five-year-old we call the Prospector disembarks from the PZ (parking zone) and runs his face directly into barbed wire I’d expect to find in Belleau Wood.
I’m out of QuikClot after defending my wife’s honor from a pack of wolverines, so I cauterise his gashes with powder I make from crushing Skittles from the baby’s car seat.
(What would you do in a situation like that? Gosh!)
It doesn’t work, but he stops screaming. And I give him credit for a homeschool science experiment.
After a quiet night and our first attempt at dumping our “stuff” the next morning, we’re off to Sequoia to see the big trees.
Halfway down the mountain, the brakes require more-than-usual pressure to slow down.
“What’s that smell?” Karry asks.
“It’s just the brakes failing,” I tell her.
“Oh, okay,” she says.
She does so well as long as I have an answer.
“Is there any more Diet Coke?” she asks.
I pretend not to hear her. There’s no way on God’s earth I’m telling her I drank the last one. I don’t want to scare her, after all!
“Hey, Dad!” screams my three-year-old.
“What is it, Big Boy?” I ask.
“I don’t have to go the baaathrooom,” he says.
Finally, something’s going right I think.
“‘Cause I already diii-iiid,” he sings as I catch a waft of amonia-washed denim.
“How much does that kid drink?” I ask Karry.
“Well, he asked for Skittles but I couldn’t find them, so I gave him more apple juice.”
I shoot the Prospector a look in the rearview. He understands, and he stands down.
I conclude the brake controller has failed and trailer brakes are not working.
Our 6,000-pound lavatory pushes us the rest of the way down the mountain doing everything in its power to melt my rotors.
We coast into a cafe parking lot to inspect for damages.
Karry stands next to me, staring at the trailer wheels.
The brakes definitely aren’t working.
We’re also missing a hubcap cover and have a blown out axle grease cap.
The entire trip—the entire mission—is in jeopardy.
Karry looks at the trailer, the cafe, and then at me with a look I’ve seen a thousand times before.
“Do you think they have Diet Coke in there?”