Meet our hot rod

by Kim on June 17, 2012 · 42 comments

On Thursday we wrapped up our time in Ohio and headed out on the road for the true beginning of our summertime National Parks road trip.  We’ll spend the next two weeks visiting friends in Cleveland, Ohio, Asheville, North Carolina, Savannah, Georgia and St. Louis, Missouri before arriving at Yellowstone National Park near the end of June.

We’re driving 10,000 miles in two months, that’s no small feat for even the best of cars.  But Brian and don’t have the best of cars.  We’re puttering around the U.S. this summer in our lovable clunker named Vermont.

World, meet Vermont

Vermont is an 18 year old Nissan, Altima, a trusty old companion who has seen better days. She doesn’t attack the hills in the same way she used to and her years of attracting oohs and ahhs have long since passed, but we love her just the same.

And we’d better, because Vermont has a few tiny quirks is a hot mess.

An incomplete list of Vermont’s ailments

Back in the days when we used to clean the car, the antenna snapped off at the carwash.  This wasn’t an issue until the radio broke, rendering the auxiliary input port useless.  That meant no radio and no way to play music through our iPods.

It is blasphemous to embark on a road trip without music so we sprang for and installed the cheapest new radio we could find. I guess you get what you pay for because, while the iPods are blasting once again, the clock on the new radio doesn’t keep time correctly.

That’s no problem for us, though.  We just taped Brian’s watch to the dashboard.

Honey, what time is it?  Oh, let me just check my watch which I have taped to the dashboard of our car.  

The passengers side sun visor fell off years ago.  That’s not such a big deal except that Vermont has no air conditioning.

Yes, we’ll be driving through the scorching southwest at the height of summer with no air conditioning.  I’m all for cheap holiday deals, there’s no way I’d rent a car just to have AC, but driving in a moving metal heat trap in 115 degree temperatures is pushing it, even for me.

Gillian from One Giant Step suggested we hang a sari over the window to block the sun.  Another friend said we should buy one of those spritzer-and-fan devices to help keep cool.  I’m sure we’ll be employing a number of tricks to keep the heat down.

At least the windows work… sort of.

Vermont has automatic windows, state of the art in her day, but they only add to her aging infrastructure now. All four windows open just fine but the one in the back seat behind the driver only closes with a little coaxing.

Don’t mind me, I’m just closing the window

All of these little quirks pale in comparison to the biggest kink of all.

One sad day a few summers ago Vermont was rear ended.  Her bumper was dented and the trunk was smashed so it wouldn’t close properly. The insurance company deemed her totaled and sent us a check.  Since the damage was mostly cosmetic we saved the money and Brian banged out the kinks and coaxed the trunk into closing once again.  It didn’t look pretty, and the trunk leaked when it rained, but it suited our needs.

But two days before we were to leave Portland and load up that trunk with everything we owned, it decided to break for good.  It did not matter how much we whined, or sweet talked Vermont, or stood with our hands on our hips looking confused and slightly panicked, the damn thing just would.not.close. Vermont’s latch had kicked the bucket.

This put us in a bit of a conundrum. Brian researched our options. We couldn’t fix it without investing a large sum of money and even so we had to leave Portland in 48-hours. We didn’t have time to repair it.

So Brian did the only thing he could do.  He pulled out the power drill, some bungee cord, a metal cable, and the padlock that used to hang on my locker at the gym and he went to work.

And this, my friends, is how our trunk locks today.

Brian drilled a hole in the trunk, strung a metal cable through, and locked it with a padlock

Then he took a bungee cord and strapped the lid down to keep out as much dust and rain as possible.  Our stuff in the trunk is covered with a tarp.  

Yep, that’s how we’re rolling this summer.  Just me, Brian, Vermont and our AAA gold plus membership. If you see us out on the road make sure to say hi but please don’t laugh at us. And whatever you do, don’t test the trunk. 



{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Gillian @OneGiantStep June 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

“Back in the days when we used to clean the car” – I love this! For sure, though, you know that the dirt is what is keeping that much loved hunk of metal together!


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:04 pm

You are going to get well acquainted with that hunk of metal. Can’t wait!


Tracy June 17, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Brian has to be the best person to travel with, he can fix or build anything. Like a traveling MacGyver.


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm

It’s so true! As this comment came in he was actually in my grandma’s bathroom fixing her toilet!


A Cook Not Mad (Nat) June 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Good thinking getting that AAA gold membership:). Have a great summer!


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Ha, I know! Hopefully we won’t have to use it…


Carmel June 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm

At least no one will try to steal your stuff. Good call on the AAA.


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Yeah, who would break in to a crappy car like that??


Lindsey @ Wandering Unstuck June 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm

This reminds me so much of my car right now. I think all the … quirks – lets say quirks … of cars like this gives them so much character and makes the trip that much more fun/interesting. I do love the way you’re ‘fixed’ everything 🙂 Good luck!


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm

It is true, the little quirks just make the car that much more lovable. Plus, if we make it through the summer without a major breakdown we’ll have something to brag about!


Michele June 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm

This cracked me up Kim! She’s done you proud – you’ll need to get her license plate bronzed to forever immortalize her when this is all over. 🙂


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Michele, that is a fantastic idea!


Dalene June 18, 2012 at 1:03 am

If you don’t spray paint something awesome on the side of Vermont, I’m going to come and do it for you….. 🙂


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Haha… have I just figured out a way to lure you into having a drink with me?


Ali June 19, 2012 at 6:07 am

That is hilarious! And Dalene is right, spray paint something on it. Your blog URL maybe 🙂


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:08 pm

I have considered it…


Ashlie June 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Literally laughing out loud when I see the watch taped to the dash.


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Feel free to steal the idea 😉


Doug Bloem June 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm

How about painting Vermont’s roof white? It might keep the inside a few degrees cooler. A couple of rattle cans ought to do the trick.


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Doug, Brian really likes this idea… I can only imagine what might end up happening now that the seed has been planted. Spray paint and our car might equal one ugly situation.


Maddie June 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

You had me giggling with this post! Can’t wait to see Vermont in action in the parks of Utah 😉 P.S Brian sounds like one handy person to know, great ideas for fixing Vermont’s slight inadequacies 😉


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Brian loves homemade fixes for EVERYTHING. It will be funny to see what solutions he comes up with as the car continues to follow apart. I do have to say, thought, that she is holding up remarkably well so far. I hope it continues!


Jenny June 19, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Thank you for writing a post about Vermont! I love that car and also have many fond memories of her! She has driven me to Portland, ME, and to Portland, OR, and is still going. Here’s hoping she can finish out the summer and her glory days strong!


Kim June 19, 2012 at 8:14 pm

YESSSS!!!!!!!!!! I got you to comment on the blog! Vermont tells me to tell her Aunt Jenny that she misses you and wishes you would come and join her on the road trip.


Jessica June 20, 2012 at 6:39 am

Reminds me of the day I drove back home from the Columbia River Gorge with my driver’s side door lashed to the car with a dog leash. The door had blown apart in the 70 mph wind gust. I can’t forget the sight of I-84 whizzing along below my feet, visible in the crack between the door and the car.


Kim June 23, 2012 at 4:53 am

Hahaha! We all have our clunker stories!! I’m glad you made it through in one piece 🙂


Hannah June 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

This made me laugh! And I agree with Dalene – you HAVE to spray paint something on Vermont! Then you can do a post about your car makeover 🙂


Kim June 23, 2012 at 4:55 am

I’m afraid that if I paint her it will make her angry and she will stop working!!!


Patricia GW June 22, 2012 at 9:02 am

My fingers are crossed for you – I hope the old girl holds up! I think you’re going to end up with a lot more interesting tales driving her than if you had driven any other car 🙂


Kim June 23, 2012 at 5:00 am

Patricia, agreed! We had our first breakdown the other day…


Lize July 7, 2012 at 10:07 am

Ha I love this car, I had a nice stunner too had to hit the dash board several times to get the radio to work one day the bonnet blew up while driving over a bridge, no fear I had a gold belt to buckle it down again, smashEd the windscreen but was still good t getting you there that is the important feature of a car after all


Kim July 7, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Makes a good story, no? I’ve had my fair share of beaters- I love them most! Vermont has now broken down twice on the trip, but I think she’s on an upswing!


Trine-Marie May 6, 2014 at 1:13 am

Oh my 😛 I couldn’t live without AC in my car, but the rest I think I could deal with!
Trine-Marie recently posted..Planning The Road Trip Of A Lifetime!


Kim May 6, 2014 at 6:19 am

Well, I can tell you that I am once again driving around the U.S. in a car that HAS air conditioning and I’m not sure I survived before. That was a HOT summer.


Trine-Marie May 11, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Haha, I guess you can adjust to anything if you are having enough fun. Our car doesn’t always run great, but at least the Ac works!

The heat is the one thing I am worried about this summer. I’m originally from Norway where we never get temperatures above 100, so the bottom of the Grand Canyon might just kick my ass. Right now I’m just working out to get in better shape and investing in a hydration pack. Then I guess we’ll see how it goes 😛
Trine-Marie recently posted..Andy Got His Ph.D In Mathematics!


Kim May 12, 2014 at 7:57 am

There is a very cold stream at the bottom of the Grand Canyon that you can sit in to cool down- a lifesaver!


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