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Winter was drawing to an end, and spring was right around the corner. We were driving from California to Florida – on smooth roads and rough –  dodging big rigs, pot holes, and road debris. We love road trips, and those grey and chilly days in February and March are the perfect time for us to pack up and head across country.

But then, a couple of days into the trip, we heard a small ping as we sped east on Interstate 10. When we pulled over later that day, we discovered we had been hit by flying debris – probably a pebble or other object picked up by a big rig and flung into the air. It was just a tiny chip, but enough to notice.

By the next day, the tiny chip had grown into a small but noticeable crack. Day-by-day we watched the crack slowly expand across the corner of our windshield as we traveled east. By the time we made Florida, the small chip had expanded into a large circular crack across the right-side of our windshield.

It would have to be replaced before we headed back to California, so we went to the Safelite windshield repair store in Altamonte Springs to get a new windshield. In the Safelite commercials, people get a crack in their windshield on the way to their kid’s Little League game. By the fifth inning, there is a Safelite van in the parking lot, and before they break out the soda and snacks at the end of the game, wham – they’ve got a brand-spanking new windshield.

Maybe that’s how it works in the major metropolitan areas, but in Altamonte Springs, Florida, not so much. Turns out we had to make an appointment 24 hours in advance to get our windshield replaced. So that’s what we did. A half-hour visit to make our appointment, and then we got the windshield fixed in three hours the following day. All good. It was the day FOLLOWING that day that the real trouble began.

We left for California around 11 a.m., traveling across country to Interstate 95, but the minute we got up to cruising speed we heard an annoying, loud whistling sound. It seemed to be coming from around the new windshield. Obviously, we had a small leak around the windshield, but we were already off to a late start, and we had hotel reservations in Tallahassee for that evening, so we pressed on.

That whistling sound was going to drive us nuts all the way across country, we thought, but we’d just live with it for the seven or eight days our trip would take. The second day out, after a long drive to Walker, Louisiana, we fell into bed exhausted. That’s when the nightmare really began. On a very rainy morning following an even rainier night, Carmela opened the door to our truck to find the inside was flooded. The cup holders were filled to the brim and spilling over, the seats were soaking wet, the floor was a big puddle, and the rain was still pouring in from all around the windshield.

The whistling sound had been annoying. What happened next was a calamity. We pulled the truck under the shelter of the hotel entrance, where we dried out the front seats and floor as best we could. Then we plotted our next move.

It was Sunday in Walker, Louisiana, and Safelite was closed. We decided to try to patch the leak and move on – not really wanting to sit around in Walker, Louisiana any longer.

As luck would have it, there was a Walmart just a few traffic lights away from our hotel. We drove over, and Carmela ran in to buy some heavy-duty tape for the edges of the windshield and a tarp that we could drape over the windshield if the tape didn’t work. I drove around to find a sheltered spot out of the rain while I waited for her.

As I drove around looking for a place to hold up, I found that if I drove at least 25 or 30 miles-per-hour, the leak slowed down to almost nothing. If I drove slower, the deluge returned. Good to know.

The problem was, we were just east of Baton Rouge, and Baton Rouge is always a traffic nightmare. We couldn’t really count on keeping up our speed. Carmela bought the tape and the biggest tarp I’ve ever seen, and we returned to the hotel and parked beneath the sheltered spot at the entrance. We carefully taped up the windshield. By that time, the rain had slacked off a bit and we decided to drive west as fast as we could.

We pulled out, hit the freeway, and the tape immediately blew off the windshield and started making loud flapping noises as it banged on the roof. We pulled off at the first exit, removed all the tape, and made a run for it. The rain had slacked off to a drizzle and we were anxious to keep heading west. Checking the phone, we saw that the farther west we drove, the better the weather.

Unfortunately, before we could get through Baton Rouge and across the Mississippi River, the rain returned, the traffic slowed to a crawl, and our windshield began once again to pour rain down upon us. It wasn’t just the truck interior that was soaked. We were too.


We jumped off at the next exit, looking for a sheltered spot. The rain slacked off once again, and we were able to drive toward the river, keeping up our speed and making rolling stops at intersections when necessary.

We reached the bridge, got across it with little problem and sped toward better weather. By this time though, we were wet, cold, and had picked up some kind of a bug. We just wanted to get home. We got across the Sabine River into Texas, through Houston, and stayed in Luling, once known as the roughest town in Texas because of its rowdy cowboy days, but now known for it’s never-ending supply of ready-made, yet still hot, brisket sandwiches at the largest Buc-ee’s in the country. It was a dry and lovely night. The next day we drove through San Antonio, and all the way to Fort Stockton to spend the night. The rain had obviously slacked off and the forecast was for continued dry weather.

Unfortunately, despite the sunny forecast, when we got up the next morning in Fort Stockton it had rained overnight and our truck was once again flooded. We dried it out as much as possible and started driving. The original plan had been to visit friends in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico – but we both just wanted to be home. We told our friends we would have to skip our visit and drove like hell through the day and most of the night, which we finally spent in Buckeye, Arizona. We drove the rest of the way home the following day.

Our wet and soggy tale does have a happy ending. When we got home, we called the local Safelite office in Westminster, took the truck over and waited while they took the windshield out, cleaned up the shoddy work that was done in Florida, and replaced the windshield as guaranteed.

They were very professional, but we could overhear them complaining about what a terrible job the Altamonte Springs franchise had done. In less than two hours our new windshield was tightly sealed, and we were back on the road – although it was only across town to Huntington Beach.

We were still sick and whatever bug we encountered driving wet and cold across country lingered for weeks afterward. But it didn’t matter because Dorothy was right, of course, there’s no place like home.



Another strange thing that happened on our soggy trip across the U.S., was that on that rainy night in Louisiana, I fell into a deep sleep with my watch still on my wrist. I slept resting my face against my wrist and as I tossed and turned, and my watch gave me a black eye. My black eye continued to deepen and grow during our long trip home.

I looked like I had just lost a cage match in some martial arts fight or maybe I just smarted off to my wife one time to many times.

It was that kind of trip.

– George Lee Cunningham

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