Road Trip | How to Get Lost in New Mexico

"Road trip!" This has been the go-to vacation mode for our family of five. We recently donated our faithful old Buick Rendezvous through the Donate a Car Canada program, but didn't want to let it go without a little nod to some of the adventures it accompanied us on.

USA, here we come!

I hadn't realized, until I started scrolling through old road trip pictures, how far and wide our '09 Rendezvous actually took us. Not only did it get us down to the New Mexico Whitesands, it also explored parts of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington State with us.

It's pretty likely that our three teenagers were less enthusiastic than their parents were about these treks. Ok. It's a lot likely. There was just so much bribery and cajoling and compromising. I mean, how are you supposed to keep 5 people happy? All at once? When you're travelling hundreds and hundreds of kilometers each road trip? I don't think we ever really figured that out, and I couldn't find very many pictures of smiling teenage boys in my file. But the SUV sure served us well!

Giant array = giant dismay

'Not sure what the "Very Large Array" is? Yeah. I wasn't either. It's this:

Yup. A big field full of dishes. My hubby had seen them in a movie and was pretty stoked about detouring to "just drive by" on our way North and out of New Mexico.

One thing we know for sure about road tripping as a family is that I should, 100%, never-ever-never navigate. I mean, I can read the map and do a reasonable GPS-voice impersonation, but do not (do not!) listen to me if I decide to follow my "gut."

Because 3 out of 3 boys were totally not into visiting the Very Big Array, I was determined to souse out the quickest path to and from that field. The map showed two options: main highway, and a secondary route. It looked highway-ish. My gut said, Definitely follow that highway-ish red line on the map - it's so.much.shorter. than the real highway. My gut was wrong. Really so completely wrong.

Warning signs

To be fair, our frame of references for "rough road ahead," and "Beware: rocks on road," road signs are Rocky Mountain signs that simply note that a beautifully winding mountain highway might get a little seasonally dodgy.

Fair warning: if you come across these signs in New Mexico it means the road is made entirely of giant stab-y, tire-piercing stones. That actually pierce your tires. And leave you stranded between apparently abandoned homes along a completely abandoned road in a wholly abandoned desert.

The short cut red line that led to the Very Big Array was not a short cut. Especially not once we'd emptied the entire contents from the vehicle in order to get at and mount the spare tire, and then (after re-packing all of our belongings) limped our way 80 more miles to the array, and then on to the main highway. The array itself? Yeah, it's probably 15 minutes off the main highway. We added hours and hours to our travel time by taking the short cut.

Canadian hitch-hiker

We paused at the array. It seemed only fitting to pay it some kind of respect given all we'd sacrificed to get to it. And then nursed our poor Buick and its broken foot to the highway, praying to the tire gods that the spare would hold until we could get to any kind of civilization to buy a replacement tire for our shredded original.

The spare did not hold. It wheezed out a protesting gasp a few miles down the highway. And we were stuck. In the States. In New Mexico.

So, I went and stood in the middle of the highway. All 5'2" of mom Me. I hailed a passing truck (with a beautiful human and her dog and her threats of, "Do you know how lucky you are? No one ever stops for hitch hikers in New Mexico!") and got dropped off at a suspect looking town up the highway. The broken down shack of a garage that called itself the tire place happened to have two gentleman on the yard. I (don't judge me) pleaded our case and (I said don't judge me!) jumped in the truck with one of them and another spare tire, praying a) the spare would fit the Buick, and b) that I'd live to see that happen.

On the road again

I lived! And the spare fit. And it got us all the way to the next nearest city (none of the towns en route had anything close to a tire shop...but they definitely had some interesting places that looked like they were probably "We're totally a tire shop!" fronts for much scarier businesses...). There? We found that sanctum we all know as WalMart. And we just happened (we could do another blog on "Road Trip Coincidence: Miracle? Or plain dumb luck?") to roll up with enough time in the day for them to swap our small town spare for a less-small-town proper tire. Very big array? Very big adventure, I'd say! And I'm sure my kids would totally agree. Offered enough bribes.

Giving up the Rendezvous was no small thing for us. Canon Beach, Oregon, Seattle, Vancouver, Everywhere Alberta. Coeur d'alene, Idaho. Oh. Yeah. Coeur d'alene. Don't get me started on that short cut.

Do you have a beloved old vehicle that needs to go? Give us a call!

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Buick Rendezvous Gets it Done


"Buick Rendezvous, 2009. Broken down on Northbound Metis trail. Parked on the shoulder." Had you told us 50,000 kms ago that our trusty Buick would get us all the way to March of 2019 we would not have believed you for a second! We knew this was the final service call we'd make for this faithful SUV, and it came with a flood of memories.

SUV or half-ton truck?


When our family was ready to transition from a minivan to something smaller, , the Rendezvous was our go-to. This was the fanciest vehicle we'd ever had (Heated seats and mirrors that adjusted themselves? So fancy!). We loved it!

Storage space in the SUV wasn't optimal, but that didn't stop us from using the poor ol' girl like she was an F150. Over the years we've moved many friends from one home to another. We've hauled lumber and gardening soil and trees. She got the kids through years of hanging out with buddies (read: that vehicle hauled a lot of bodies, weird combinations of sporting and gaming equipment, and debris).

Road trippin', Buick-style

We're a road tripping family - because who can afford to fly with 3 kids? Well...who can afford to fly them and feed them? Since we had to choose between the two, we opted to feed them. They seemed to appreciate that. When the kids were still travelling with us the drives would take us South of the border in search of sun and warmth and adventure.

One of our most memorable trips was taken in the Buick. That hearty black wonder got us all the way down to New Mexico, USA. I don't think we ever (like, never) got all of the White Sands, NM sand out from the carpet fibres and various nooks and crannies of that vehicle? We had dramatic tire trouble (that's a story of its own...) in an effort to short-cut our way to the Giant Array (again, more on that next week), and just about drove the boys nuts with the various other "short cuts" we took in an effort to show them their continent.

Gettin' it done

Winter after winter, long after our sons had purchased their own vehicles, the Buick got us through one tight spot after another. The kids went from kiddos to adulthood while we had the Buick. With 5 adults, our family has a pretty big vehicle foot print. Work and play demands mean that everyone has their own car...and with that many vehicles in one family , there are a lot of roadside breakdowns, parking lot boosts, and wonky electrical issues. The Rendezvous was the one vehicle that never broke down. We'd leave it parked curb-side for weeks or months at a time, giving it a negligible drive around the block just to ensure we kept the motor functioning and the parking authorities at bay. And every time we needed it, it started right up and got whomever was in a last-minute pinch to where they needed to be.

One last trip

Until just a week or two ago. I'd done the obligatory run around the block/move the vehicle and make it look like someone loves it drive. It started up fine and had that warm and mechanical-gas-y smell of a neglected vehicle. I love that smell. It reminds me of grandpa's old blue K-Car. The one that used to sit out on the farm, years after it had stopped driving. A magical, all-blue automotive playground for the grandkids.

Then, one of our boys had car trouble, and without giving it a second thought, he grabbed the Buick keys and headed off to work. The ol' thing didn't get very far before it coughed a little and gave it up at the side of the road. There would be no more last minute saves by that seasoned Buick.

For our family, that leads to the easy next-step: donation. The SUV doesn't owe us a thing. From thousands of miles of road trip comfort to truck-like weight-bearing to icy parking lot rescues, it has more than earned its end of life rest.

Five quick minutes on the Donate a Car Canada website and we were in their system for free support. We got our tow timing call the next day, and before we knew it, the Buick was out of sight.

That hardworking auto will keep its generous legacy going by turning into a cash gift for Inn From the Cold, our family's charity of choice. Fitting for a vehicle that kept us warm and safe over so many kilometers.

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