Day 24 of Miami to Alaska Family Road Trip: Our Most Bizarre Vacation Day Ever

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On family road trips you have crazy days and then if you’re in our family you have indescribably bizarre days.

The 24th day of our road trip was one for the ages and it all started because I was doing something you always do on vacation: taking photos of scenic places.

The Mean Winds

We were traveling along Oregon’s coast from Newport to the famous Sea Lion Caves near Florence when just a couple miles from the caves I told my wife who was driving to pull over at a roadside overlook that faced a lighthouse surrounded by gorgeous cliffs.

Beware of the door killer winds that can come with these killer views along the Oregon coast. This is probably also true of California.

When I got off the car with my camera, a burst of cold strong air pushed against me, making it difficult to move.  As I was lurched towards my photo moment near the cliff, I heard my wife screaming curses at the air.

Wife: “I can’t close the damn door!  My X!¡$#% door’s jammed!”

Me: “I’ll be right there!”

When I got to the driver’s side of the PapiMobile, I saw my wife struggling to keep her door shut.

Wife: “It’s stuck somehow and it won’t shut!”

At first glance, the door looked perfectly fine to me.

Me: “Let go of the door!  I’ve got this!”

Observe my daughter's Briani's hair. It's being whipped up by powerful winds near another lighthouse viewpoint. This is the same type of wind that damaged our Buick Enclave's door.


I grabbed the door and began to close it in every way I knew how: with one hand, with a fast slam, with both hands, with my back against it, holding the knob up and slamming the door in, pushing the door tight and then tackling it like a football player.  Nothing worked.

This is the door thing we were focused on trying to fix. The real problem was the actual door hinge.

The wind was whipping our car at what seemed like 70 MPH so I jumped inside of the car to think more clearly and to see if the solution just might lie inside the vehicle.

My wife and I turned every conceivable button in the car on and off and scanned the entire owner’s manual for the Buick Enclave.  Nothing helped so I went back outside as my wife struggled to keep the door closed.

“Open the door slightly so I can try something else,” I said to Angela as she struggled to keep the door halfway open.  I looked at the door hinge and the latch.  Since I know nothing about cars, everything appeared ok to me.  The only point of my experiment was to try to see how a broken door latch looked compared to an unbroken one.  Fighting extreme winds on my side, I opened my door and observed that everything I was looking at looked identical to my wife’s door.

Desperate and completely ignorant of what I was doing, I pushed some steel latch thingie on my door and when I tred to close my door, it replicated the same exact problem my wife’s door had.  It wouldn’t shut.  “Aha,” I thought.  “This is the answer I’ve been looking for.  Now I just need to simply undo what I did to my door.”

The problem was that I did not know how to undo what I did.  The piece that I touched became completely, dead bolt stuck and my door will not shut.  Both doors were now fighting and flapping as the cold winds pounded us without pause.

As this chaos got worse, my kids are in the back seat laughing.  “No one is going to believe this, daddy,” says my son Jonathan.  “These things only happen to us.”

Angela and I were now officially at our wits end so I decided to call my car expert friend Danny and ask him what to do.  His wife overhears everything and chimes in: “Open the door knob at the same time as you press the unlock door button and then try to push the door in.”  It worked!

As I raced back to Angela’s door, she’s struggling to stop the door from flapping any longer.  I grabbed the door again and followed all of the steps I just did on my door. It doesn’t work.

Towing the PapiMobile to Detroit

In the darkest moment of our crisis we turned to our trusty team from OnStar.  OnStar has rescued us many a times on our road trips so even though this is a bit outside of what I think they can handle we decide they may have a secret answer we don’t know about.  The wind is howling stronger than before, the door is flapping, my wife is crazed and the kids are now starting to stress with us as I explain the whole situation to OnStar.

As I suspected, this problem was a major stumper, even for OnStar.  They tell us they will need to call a tow truck for us to move the vehicle.

Me: “Ok, where would the tow truck take the car?”

OnStar: “Sir, according to policy they would have to bring it back to Michigan.”

Me: “Michigan?  Really?”

OnStar: “Yes, sir.”

Me: “Ok, that’s not going to happen.  I’m with my wife and kids in the middle of remote Oregon and we will look for another solution.  I will call you back.”

We Must Move the Car!

As soon as I hung up with OnStar I turned to my wife.  “We must move this vehicle.”

“NO WAY, Manny!   This door is uncontrollable and driving is extremely dangerous,” she said.

“We have no choice!” I told her.  “This wind is killing us here.  Driving may help us because at least we’ll have some wind pushing the door towards us whereas right now we’re getting tired of just trying to hold the door shut.  We have no choice but to try something new.”

Reluctantly my wife put the car forward and as we moved our PapiMobile en route to Florence, Oregon, 14 miles away, a state sign for very windy road warned us that mean winds or not, our vehicle would have to zig zag through cliffs in order to get to a mechanic.  Angela and I steered the wheel with one hand each as she tightly clutched the door shut with the other.

Fixing the PapiMobile

With just 1 hour to closing, we brought our battered PapiMobile into the garage of J&J Automotive.  The mechanic on duty immediately helped us, determining that the door didn’t have a latch problem in the area we were focused on.  The problem was that the actual hinge itself got partially bent when Angela attempted to get off the car at the viewpoint.  The moment she opened her door the wind pulled it back further than it should have and the hinge bent.

The bent door hinge had to be hammered back into place. The very capable team of J&J Automotive in Florence, Oregon came to the rescue.

The auto shop owner told us that Oregon’s scenic vistas, the same one I gushed about in an early posting, are notorious for causing massive wind damage to cars who either have their doors fly off completely or whose doors forcefully hit cars parked next to them.  Now they tell us!

In order to fix the door, two mechanics removed the Enclave’s door and hammered the bent hinge back into place.  Almost two hours later we were on the road again!

The Infamous Sea Lion Caves

Even though it was late in the afternoon, this whole mess of a day started over going to Sea Lion Caves, so we stuck with the plan.

This view was not worth going to the "world's largest sea caves." At least it should be unobstructed for what you pay to go down there.

With apologies to Oregonians, Sea Lions Caves is the most overrated attraction in Oregon.  We spent $40 for the five of us to ride an elevator down to a very smelly, large seawater cave that’s not very interesting unless you adore sea lions or seawater caves.  The problem was not so much the odor (that’s to be expected) but that our view was obstructed by an unnecessary guard fence, the cave is dark and the sea lions are far and barely visible.  Even with flash photography, which is prohibited, the sea lions are so far from the observation point that they would not be visible for most people with cameras.

Elk Viewing Makes Our Day

Just two miles east of Florence, on our way to our ultimate destination Crater Lake, we drove by the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area and were treated to a beautiful open area that is the year-round residence for a herd of about 100 Roosevelt elk.  We saw elk eat, run and even play together and the best part was that it was all free.  Just goes to show that many of the best things from road trips are free.

Disney Vacation Tip of the Day

Whenever and wherever possible avoid late starts to your day.  They throw your plans off and bring more stress to family vacation because you feel like you’re spending the rest of the day cramming and catching up.  The most stressful days of our family vacations are almost always the dreadful late start days.






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