The Kansas City area spans over the border of Kansas and Missouri, so doing much of anything around here shows me 2 more states, but I wanted to also get to Oklahoma while I was nearby. Of course, everything looks closer on a US map than it really is, so I chose to visit Natural Falls State Park in the nearest corner of the state. It was still nearly 4 hours drive each way.
I flew in on Friday afternoon and had a quiet night, keeping an eye on the weather. There had been thunderstorms (from scattered to severe) and flash flooding in the KC area in the days before I arrived, and they'd been slowly moving south/southeast toward where I'd be driving. Luckily, the storms had completely cleared the area by the time I set off early Saturday morning, Independence Day. Granted, early after a 2 hour time shift was only about 10:30am, but it's summer, and the days are long enough that I still had plenty of time to make it back without getting lost in the dark.
The journey started out as one of my less exciting ones... highway, farms, trees, nowhere to stop at all. Then, somewhere in rural Missouri, every light on the car dashboard came on. Every light. Engine, door open, traction control, air bag. Then after just about a second, they went back off and the trip computer reset itself to zero. The radio, the AC, the engine, everything else kept going. So I also kept going, looking for a place to stop that would be populated enough to ensure cell phone service, while keeping an eye on the car's behaviour.
Finally, about 60 miles later, I came to Joplin, MO, a city I'd actually heard of, and pulled into a parking lot. With the motor still running, I checked the owner's manual: the trip computer will be reset like that only when you detach the battery. Well, that's not good. I searched the web and found all manner of issues with the electronics on the type of Hyundai I had rented, but nothing about spontaneous resets. I'd driven about 150 miles, meaning there were roughly 80 to go to the state park, then all of that back again. I sat in the car and had a debate with myself:
It seems to be running fine, it was probably just a computer glitch. Computers need to reboot all the time. Keep going!
The car will need more gas if it's going to make it there and back. If this is a battery issue, when I turn it off, it may not start again.
This is a gas station, try it!
And if it doesn't start, then I'm stuck here begging for a jump start or waiting god knows how long for AAA to show up.
But if it does?
Then I spend the rest of the trip stressing about whether the car will start the next time I stop. And the next... And the next...
Just keep going, it's silly to make it 2/3 of the way and not get there. Besides, it means I won't get to Oklahoma on this trip.
Yes, but the whole point of going to all the states isn't just to check them off the list, it's to enjoy myself. To remember it. I am not having the slightest bit of fun stressing about whether this vehicle will keep moving, and while a dead car in the middle of nowhere may be memorable, it's not exactly the memory I want.
But won't the car need to stop for gas either way?
The tank is over half full, and the range shows 199 miles. That's plenty to get back to the hotel.
Fine, turn back. At least if the car dies at the hotel, it's a comfortable place to deal with it.
So I headed back the other way, with the air conditioning turned down low to ensure my fuel consumption wouldn't increase. I made it back with no further issues and decided I needed barbecue. I consulted Yelp for something nearby (still not fully trusting the rental car) and ventured out for a few burnt ends. The car started, I found the place, and it was closed for the holiday. I saw another BBQ joint a couple of blocks away, also closed. So I stopped at the Hy-Vee and got some of their "BBQ" chicken and a bottle of sauce. It really wasn't good enough, but when you crave barbecued meats, nothing else will do.
I'm not really a fan of Fourth of July festivities, so I skipped the fireworks and stayed in with Netflix, hearing a few distant booms and crackles in the night air.
After the museums, I finally managed to get some barbecue -- burnt end and sausage sandwich with a sweet and spicy sauce (good, but I still like Texas style better) -- and then went to the airport.
Overall, the quick trip was a success, and I liked what I saw of Kansas City. I also really don't mind missing the corner of Oklahoma, because now I have a chance to take another trip for something I really want to see there. Because there's always something.
When I left Seattle, I shared the shuttle from off-site parking to the airport with a couple off to Alaska, their 50th state, for their anniversary. When they both retired, they sold their house, bought an RV, and set off to see America. This is so common as to be a joke -- and one Neal made about me and my own map of the USA getting slowly coloured in -- but I get their motivation, it's really the same as mine. I'm planning to move to another continent, their retirement brings the end of their lives into view... we're both just trying to get the most out of the country we live in before we leave it.