Vacation Horror Stories: Battling Snow And Broken Transmissions

Listener Jim McLaughlin adds his tale to our series "Vacation Horror Stories." He set out with seven people from Pennsylvania in a snowstorm to Florida and twice had the transmission breakdown on him.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The search for true relaxation can be a taxing one. You take some time off to get away thinking of paradise and then harsh reality sets in. That's the sort of experience we're chronicling this summer in a series we call...

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Vacation...

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SIEGEL: ...Horror Stories.

JIM MCLAUGHLIN: Hi, my name is Jim McLaughlin, and I live in Hershey, Pennsylvania. My wife, my sister, and our combined four children...

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MCLAUGHLIN: ...were leaving Pittston, Pennsylvania. And our destination was Melbourne, Florida. As luck would have it, we ended up in the middle of a snowstorm. In the first four hours, we covered about 4 miles, decided we would take the Pennsylvania Turnpike south because the other roads were a parking lot. So all told, it took us about 12 hours to get to Baltimore, which is normally about a three-hour trip.

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MCLAUGHLIN: But we did hit Florida later on that afternoon. Just as we were crossing the state line, a little voice from the backseat said, I smell something, and it was smoke coming from underneath the car.

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MCLAUGHLIN: The transmission was burning up. The garage, the mechanic confirmed my suspicions. It's going to be $2,300 for repair. We called a rental company. They had a seven-passenger vehicle, luckily, but that was going to be another 700 for the week. Finished our drive. And it rained a couple of days. On our return trip, called the garage. They said the vehicle should be ready. We got there. They said everything was ready. We loaded up. We paid our $3,000 in bills, and off we went.

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MCLAUGHLIN: We drove about two exits. One of the kids said they were hungry. We stopped at a fast food restaurant. And in line in the drive-thru, that same small voice said, I smell something again. Sure enough, I leaned out the window. The transmission was cooked again. Called the garage. They were closed, but the mechanic answered. And after some conversation, he agreed to meet us. He took one listen to the van and one look at it and said it won't be finished until tomorrow.

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MCLAUGHLIN: We got one room because at that point it was all we could afford. Next morning, we got up, started off on our way. We made it all the way to Virginia before our bad luck resurfaced, and I was pulled over for speeding.

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CORNISH: A vacation horror story from listener Jim McLaughlin of Hershey, Pennsylvania. Share your travel misfortunes by going to npr.org, click on Contact Us. Please put vacation horror stories in the subject line.

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