What's The Worst Trip You've Ever Had?

Illustration for article titled What's The Worst Trip You've Ever Had?
Photo: Spencer Platt (Getty Images)

My travel bug has been kicking my ass this year. 2020 is the first time I’ve stayed in one place for more than four months since I was 12 years old which is absurd but also the natural endgame of having parents that live on opposite sides of the United States. But instead of dreaming about all the wonderful trips I’d love to take (though I will admit a beach vacation would be nice right about now), I’ve been thinking about all the terrible things that have happened while I travel to remind me that it’s not all fun and dandy.

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I’ve got good stories. When I was 19, I went to Paris by myself for two weeks. On day three, a man stole my cell phone right out of my hands, which was cool because I only spoke marginal French and lost all my photos from the road trip I’d taken from Germany to Austria. I spent the rest of the trip as a weepy, wine-drunk tourist, which I suppose is The French Way.

Or there was that time in Iceland where I couldn’t avoid running over tools that fell out of the back of a man’s truck. It blew one of my tires and sent me careening into one side of a ditch, then into another as I tried to keep myself from falling into a 10-foot gorge. I was out in the middle of nowhere, so I had to wait hours for a tow truck to retrieve me because the rental company didn’t have a spare tire in the trunk. I also ripped off the front license plate, which was very embarrassing to explain to the rental company when I returned a wibbly piece of dented metal.

There was that time I convinced all my friends to come to the US Grand Prix with me only for it to rain so torrentially that not one single pair of shoes lived through the weekend. My friend literally had to buy something from Target so she could have shoes to fly home.

And I can’t forget the shitty blizzard that hit right when I was flying from my mom’s back to my dad’s after Christmas. Our 6am flight was cancelled, and we only managed to get out of San Antonio at 7pm. At which point we flew to St. Louis for a several-hour layover. At which point we arrived in Detroit at four in the morning. At which point my mom drove my brother and I several hours to Bay City for a 7am custody swap. She then turned around, drove back to Detroit, and flew back to San Antonio that very day because she is a champion. (I love you, momma.)

There was also a four-year period where, every time I took a flight, it was significantly delayed. Didn’t matter where I was flying from or to. Didn’t matter when I left. Didn’t matter the airline. Always delayed. If I was supposed to arrive at noon, I just started assuming I’d get in at midnight and factoring that into my travel plans.

So, let’s kick this travel bug together. Share your very worst travel stories and remind us all why staying home is actually kinda cool.

Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.

DISCUSSION

This summer, my fiance and I were going to drive to California since we both love road tripping and scored some limited passes to Yosemite to go camping. We were pulling a small trailer with all our camping gear in it. Somewhere in Wyoming one of the trailer lights decided to abandon us so that was great. It was about this time I noticed the car started to make a funny noise and smelled weird. Everything seemed to check out so we continued onward.

We eventually made it to Yosemite, but by this time the car sounded horrible, turns out the brake pads were worn out and it was metal on metal.... Great, driving through Yosemite, up and down inclines grinding brakes and a trailer with one light. Our GPS decided to avoid toll roads which unfortunately looped the main drive in Yosemite into that exception list so it kept trying to direct us onto essentially fire roads and constant dead ends. It took us the wrong direction to our campsite and wanted us to dive 30 miles on a fire road. Mind you we are in a Nissan Altima with a little trailer, ain’t happening. When we got it figured out, it was a 3 hour drive to our campsite as the sun was going down. Luckily we found a first in first serve campsite and settled in for the night. The next few days were good just tooling around the park.

The next stop was Sequoia national Park, which we went the entire wrong way through the park with the car still sounding not great, but I figured out how to keep it to Minimum until we could get to a shop. Unfortunately, our stupid GPS decided to do the avoid tolls thing again and sent us down this super narrow, steep and twisty switchback path, brakes grinding the whole way. It was miserable, but we finally made it to town and got the brakes serviced the next day.

All is good right? Nope, our next stop was going to be San Simeon where I was going to propose, so we headed that way, we were needing gas and saw there was a casino advertising super cheap gas, so we got off the highway (mistake) and went towards the casino which was 10 or so minutes away, when we got there.... No gas, it wasn’t even fuckin built yet. So we accept defeat and head back towards the highway, but now we were hungry for breakfast, find a McDonald’s for a quick bite..... that was in a military base, by the time we figured that out, we couldn’t turn around and had to go to the guard shack. They understood our error but still had to do a thorough background check on me and the car. After about 10 minutes, they closed the entry and let me go. (They told me it happens a lot, I hope that’s true and not just to not make me feel like an idiot.) The rest of the trip to San Simeon was good, except the hotel I booked said no dogs when we got there, even though the website said they took them.

The next day I proposed, she said yes and we both agreed this was the shining moment of a crap sandwich trip. We headed home, I grabbed some magnetic trailer lights so the trailer at least was legal and headed out. That evening somewhere in Utah, a truck pulled up next to us and was gesturing at the trailer, at that point I figured “what the fuck is it this time?” Those fancy magnetic lights I bought of course had fallen off and were dragging behind the trailer all busted to shit. Surprisingly, they somehow worked, but looked horrible. A quick bungie strap to the back of the trailer and we were good to go, it looked like absolute garbage, but they worked and I was over it. The rest of the trip home was pretty uneventful besides one of the trailer fenders was a ticking time bomb I luckily defused before anything happened. At one of our stops, I noticed it looked kind of funny, pulled on it a little bit and the fucker fell off! So here you have this car traversing the west with janky lights strapped on and missing a fender. I have no idea why we didn’t get pulled over. I even tested that damn trailer for a solid week before the trip, I took it everywhere with me in all sorts of driving to look for weak points.

After that it was smooth sailing for the last 6 hours of the entire trip, what a mess. But the main objective was reached and after that shit show, she still said yes.