Tuesday July 1 2008 1150 pm
Ever heard of Mount Washington?
It’s the highest peak in the northeastern United States (6,288 feet), located in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The highest wind gust ever measured on the Earth’s surface was recorded there in 1934, at 231 miles per hour.
Tourists and New Hampshire residents alike scale the mountain by foot, bicycle, railway or car; one can pick one’s poison. The website for the Mount Washington Auto Road states, “A drive on the Mount Washington Auto Road is a drive unlike any other.”
I had no idea how true that was. Because as of today, Mount Washington can add to its list of distinctions that it is the final resting place for the transmission of my car.
Imagine if you will steering with the utmost caution up a steep, winding mountain road that is characterized by nauseating drops of hundreds of feet without the protection of guard rails and is dotted with barrels of water marked “For radiators only.” Now imagine your loving spouse at your side and your cherubic babes in the back seat, all trembling with anticipation at the prospect of reaching the summit and visiting one of the world’s most famous weather stations. In your spouse’s lap rests the “My Car Climbed Mount Washington” bumper sticker they give you at the entrance booth when you begin your ascent.
Turns out they hand over that damned bumper sticker a tad too early. Because now imagine the same picture, only just after you reach 5,000 feet in elevation, the car shudders, jerks and smoke begins pouring out of the hood faster than you can say “It’s a long way down.”
There’s no need to go into the rest of the details. Suffice it to say that the afternoon and evening involved a rescue van, a specially equipped flatbed tow truck, a fast-food cheesy-cracker dinner for the kids, more than two hours entertaining the kids in a closed visitor center (the guy who stayed long after closing so that I would have a place to wait with my kids was unbelievably nice), and hundreds of dollars of cab fares and towing fees. And we haven’t even rented a car yet or fixed (or replaced) the transmission.
Vacation is supposed to be about getting away from it all, about relaxing. Right?
Is it vacation yet?