Our Family Trip to S.C. and D.C. – Day 5

Day 5: Driving to D.C.
Emily showed up early the next morning! She helped us pack the car and saw us off. It was so great to see her one last time, even for just 45 min or so.

Back when I was planning this trip, I remembered that one of the space shuttles had been sent to D.C. In trying to find it, I discovered before we left that there are actually TWO Smithsonian National Air and Space museums! One is out in Virginia at Dulles airport, it’s a massive hanger were most of the airplanes – and the space shuttle -are. As we had a packed schedule in D.C., and the Virginia based Air & Space Museum had free parking from 4pm to closing at 5:30pm, I decided our best shot to see the space shuttle was on the way in. All we had to do was leave by 9am, and not have any getting lost or significant traffic issues on the way, and we’d make it around 4:30pm. We were off at 9:23am.

There were 2 possible routes to that Air & Space Museum. One was back up I-77, which we had taken a long way coming in. I wanted to go a different route, to see different things (if there was anything to actually see). I also noticed that I-85 to I-95 route went through Richmond, VA. As we had tightly skirted Columbus, OH, and driven right through Charleston, WV, I thought it’d cool to keep “collecting capitals” on this trip. Amber wasn’t as impressed. I made her stop reading and put on her glasses to see. Between it being a small city, and the capital building’s gold dome being under construction, not much to see. But it was interesting to note how different capital cities can be.

Oh, I should mention the heat now. I’d been watching the weather for Barry, of course, and I’d noticed that D.C. was supposed to get literal record breaking temperatures 2 of the 3 days we were to be there. As in 102° both Friday and Saturday, with Thursday being the “cool” day in the low 90s. All of which is well above my heat threshold of 85°, above which I start to melt (or wilt, whichever word you prefer).

So we’re on our way, trying to cruise on through and make it to the museum on time. Kids are getting extra computer time so I can just focus on driving. Apparently at one of the potty breaks – might have been a gas break too, I don’t remember – we picked up a bug, as in an insect. I noticed it when it was flying in the windshield and my window. Thankfully at my window, so I opened the window and let the bug out! I of course noticed how hot it was outside the car as the air blew in. Had been at the gas station too. But, after a few minutes, the heat beside my face seemed to be spreading, instead of diminishing. I checked the vents, and sure enough: the A/C in the car was no longer working. I tried a couple tricks to let it rest and / or restart, to no avail! We had lost our A/C.

I didn’t tell the girls, just kept driving. I REALLY wanted to see the space shuttle. We’d power through. It wasn’t long before I HAD to crack the windows, even though we were driving on the highway. I told Amber what was going on, and that we were keeping going. Really, what other option was there? I mulled many things over in my head as we drove. We were loosing time. But all we needed was just 15 minutes in the museum. Hey, even if we made it with just 5 minutes to spare, 1 minute! If we could just get our feet in the door, we could run off to lay eyes on the space shuttle while throwing “We’re coming!” assurances over our shoulders to the employees saying the museum was closing. I figured we could then find a mechanic still open and head over there at 5:35 to get the A/C recharged. Or we could just go to a mechanic instead of the museum… No! All I wanted for this day was to see the space shuttle and have Popeyes chicken for dinner.

We drove 3 hours in the heat without A/C. I should have been less, but as we got close, a stray storm from Barry struck! The Sun was blotted out (blissfully at that point), the skies opened, and even the light from the numerous lightning strikes wasn’t enough to let us see more than a few cars ahead of us. Every other stop light was out. I kept pressing on. We were SO close, and there was still time. We could still make it with 15 min left. Then a huge traffic jam / back up. :( The map app I was using said we’d make it with only 1 or 2 minutes – that’s all I needed to try with. I kept up hoping and wishing, and trying to make fools drive and get us through lights. We finally turned down the road to the airport hanger, which no one else was on – YAY! I booked it – safely – to the map destination to find… a parking lot behind a commercial building with a fence. A fence behind which I could see the museum. AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! The d@&% app had put us on the wrong side of the fence!!! I found out later apparently the employee entrance gate was right near by.

I cried. I kid you not, I was so stressed and hot and dejected that I all out cried real tears and wailed out loud. Aurora asked if I was sad. She also asked if I was mad. Yes, I’m sad! All I wanted was to see the space shuttle!! (And have Popeyes for dinner.) Why was that too much to ask?!

After I calmed myself down, and had found a parking lot AWAY from the heartbreaking disappointment, I moved on to plan B. I called a local car shop closing at 6pm to see if they’d recharge our A/C if I came over right then. No. I called a second local car shop with the same request. They said Yes!! Turns out they were literally around the corner. Except my fekakta map app put us at some strip mall not even on the same side of the road as the car shop! We made it at about 10 to 6. The shop was great. They stayed open past 6, though not just for me, there were 3 of us customers who showed up throughout the next 45 minutes. VERY Unfortunately though, it turned out the A/C compressor was bad. The technician who tried to recharge it said despite there being absolutely no refrigerant in the lines, there was also not a leak. He tried to put new refrigerant in, but each time the compressor kicked on it immediately shut off and threw the code “no refrigerant”. Well duh. Except the only way to get refrigerant in is for the compressor to be blowing through the lines! Catch 22, ugh. The technician used to work for Honda, so he described all the tricks he tried in order to get the compressor to run, to no avail. He said he went in an could turn everything manually, so nothing was locked, but that something electrical was wrong (he also suspected a problem with the fuse box since my entire dash was hotter than it should be). He said I needed to take it to a dealership for repair. The guys were so nice, and they only charged me $40.

So off to one of the 5 local Popeyes for dinner. (Ah, close to the South still.) Then we made the over warm trip to my cousins Leslie and Spencer’s house. They live in Maryland, close to the D.C. border. When I texted months ago and said we were coming to D.C. in Summer and would like to see them, the responses I got form the two of them were “Do you need a place to stay?” and along the lines of “We’d be honored to host you.” Ah, wonderful cousins are wonderful! We arrived later than planned, due to being an hour at the mechanic’s, and then doing dine-in for dinner instead of eating in the car. But they had a room all set up for us. Nicely done too! The girls each had their own bed for the first time this trip.

Oh, and we drove past some really interesting stuff within a mile of them. Stuff I would have loved to see, if it wasn’t so hot, and if we’d had extra time there.

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