It was the summer of 1998 and record setting temperatures were being felt in Austin. Janie had graduated the previous spring and decided after a year of substitute teaching where we grew up that it was time to broaden her horizons. What better place than Austin, TX? Leslie had already set up house in Austin and was loving life, why not join her?
The Dixie Chicks song “Wide Open Spaces” was Janie’s anthem as she packed up all that could fit in the 4-door sedan, cashed out her savings account and headed west. Little did she know that the feeling of complete freedom and excitement would be marred with car problems along the way.
Driving with our parents in tow in their minivan, Janie made the long trek from where we grew up in West Virginia. The air conditioner decided to stop working properly near Nashville and the last leg of the trip was excruciatingly hot. Our dad did what any great father would do and took over driving the “Dodge Hog” [as our friends in college affectionately referred to Janie’s ride] and allowing Janie to ride in the van with mom. Janie and mom made sure that our dad had a well stocked cooler of beverages to help him replace the fluids he lost every mile he drove in the summer heat.
Upon arriving in Austin [with a now growing puddle of water on the floorboard of the front passenger seat], we all felt relieved that everyone had arrived safely. Janie set up temporary residence at a hotel off of 35 near Cameron Road. She was beginning to get her bearings and decided to venture out on her own to run copies of her resume in order to begin “the job search”. As she drove down Camino La Costa in Austin, her muffler flew off without warning. With the windows down due to lack of a/c, the Dodge Hog sounded like a 20-ton hornet. Loud and incredibly embarrassing. Not knowing quite what to do, she made a u-turn and stopped to pick up the muffler. Of course, Janie didn’t think about the fact that the muffler was probably roaring hot and picked it up bare handed and threw it in the front passenger seat. Fingers burnt, sweat beads forming on her forehead, she jumped in the car and took off, hoping that no one had witnessed what had just happened. Just as she was nearing the hotel, the muffler slid off the seat into the 3-inch deep pool of a/c water and sizzled like bacon on a Sunday morning.
She arrived at the hotel sweaty and completely exasperated. No a/c, a broken muffler…what next? Was someone trying to tell her something? Our dad quickly located the closest muffler shop and the Dodge Hog was repaired within hours.
Despite the stress of moving, finding a job and the numerous car problems, Janie soon realized that Austin was, indeed, her destiny. Little did she know the timing belt would be the next thing to go……