Beeping car on a long trip was almost the breaking point |

Beeping car on a long trip was almost the breaking point

Until our family’s most recent vacation, I could think of few things worse than driving across the country with two other hot, sweaty, bored and hungry travel companions.

For 16 days. In 106-degree heat.

Maybe traveling without air conditioning – a situation we endured until I pulled myself into the 20th century and bought a new car three years ago – would qualify.

Or “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

Miles upon miles of corn fields.

OK. So hot, sweaty, bored and hungry aren’t such bad conditions.

Not that we don’t like road trips. For years, our budget prevented us from utilizing the more popular air travel, so our attitude, passed on to us from our respective parents, was, “Get used to it.”

And we did. But that doesn’t mean we had to like it.

We usually love road trips, even if they mean driving through Kansas (Motto: “We’re Under Construction!”) or Nebraska (Motto: “Endless …”) Usually, the first day we complain about work and make up stories about our co-workers.

Then we start planning our route, which, until we get out of Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico or Arizona, isn’t worth thinking about because it gets us dreaming about things other than corn.

We always try to make our treks comfortable. We bring battery-operated fans, lots of beverages in the cooler and earplugs.

This summer, however, we got to test the limits of our sanity.

It wasn’t the heat, or even the humidity. It wasn’t the construction zones, the constant rain or the occasional Amish buggy holding up traffic.

It was the beeping.

We got all the way to Lancaster, Pa., with a few minor mishaps. The beeping started as we left Pennsylvania.

“Someone’s door’s open,” I said. Sounds of opening and shutting doors.

“Everyone have their seat belt on?” Chorus of yeses.

“Why … is the car beeping at us?” Blank stares.

We found that as we got up to higher speeds – a virtual impossibility on the winding route we’d chosen – the beeping would fade to a croak. But that only lasted for two days, and then the noise returned. It was constant. Piercing. Eternal.

Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!

We endured 3,100 miles of beeping. Three thousand, one hundred miles. You try it.

Most people would have found a mechanic and have him take a peek under the dashboard. The ones we found all had two-day waiting lists. We were ready to take a stake and plant it through the heart of the car. Repeatedly.

By the end of the first day, I was in tears, driven to near insanity by my car’s Chinese beeping torture.

“Make it stop!” I wailed, pounding the steering wheel. “Make it shut UP!”

We poked under the dashboard. We pulled all the fuses. We tugged on scores of the millions of wires stuffed behind the steering wheel. We pounded the steering wheel some more. We even kicked the tires.

We ended up stuffing pieces of napkins in our ears, playing the radio real loud and driving with the windows down. Our lighthouse tour became a search for a mechanic, a Subaru dealer, a car thief – anyone who could make the beeping stop. All to no avail.

Beep! Beep! Beep!

This, I tell you, will test the limits of anyone’s sanity, much less that of people who have been together 24/7 for the past eight days.

To lessen the loss of sanity, we stopped at as many places as we could.

Quaker Steak and Lube in Presque Isle, Pa.

Bird Baths and Beyond in Connecticut.

The three-story outhouse in Bryant Pond, Maine.

Buffy the Dog Monument in Hookset, N.H.

The Champy Lake Monster Memorial in Burlington, Vt.

Milty Wilty’s Piggly Wiggly in New York.

The Backyard Feeding Station in Ohio.

The Fur Trade Museum in South Dakota.

Anything – anything – to escape the incessant beeping.

We did survive. Barely. And the first thing I did was take my car to my mechanic, who spent 10 seconds – 15, max – finding the source and yanking its umbilical cord from its power source.

Life is good, now. Life is quiet, here in the mental hospital.

Next time, we’re taking a plane.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

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