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Misadventures in Southern California

Two women stand close to a cliff

Every great trip has at least some element of misadventure to it. Troubles on adventures remind us that life isn’t perfect and that when a trip does go off perfectly we should consider ourselves extremely fortunate. Misadventures can make for a great learning experience and allow you to help others. Sometimes they make for great stories. But sometimes they just cause anxiety and remind us that some things are just out of our control.

On my latest trip to Southern California, I had a few of those minor inconveniences that helped me slow down and accept that things don’t always veer in your favor.

The phantom flat tire

One of my biggest fears on long road trips is running into car problems. And although I love my all-wheel drive, I hate that my tires have the same amount of wear. This means that I can’t just buy one new tire. All four have to match.

Before my trip to Southern California, I was most nervous about driving through Los Angeles. I have driven through many large cities (Dallas is the worst!), but I’m also a small-town girl. So when my low tire light came on in the middle of the Los Angeles urban sprawl, I freaked out.

I instructed Crystal, my travel buddy, to find the closest Walmart. If it was just a nail, they could patch it. It was 7 p.m. on a Sunday so I was worried we wouldn’t find an automotive store open. But on the other hand, it is the second-largest city in the United States.

A tent is shown on the beach

We found a Walmart just a few miles down the road. I exited off the six-lane interstate and pulled into the parking lot. But this Walmart didn’t have an automotive center. I had never heard of a Walmart not having an automotive center.

I got out and checked the pressure of all four tires, and they were all good. I cleared the sensor and said a prayer.

A little later down the road, the low tire pressure came on again. “Ugh, I was really hoping it would stay off!” I thought. I cleared the sensor when we got to our destination, a beautiful campsite on the Pacific Ocean.

The next morning we drove to Channel Islands National Park to catch the ferry for the islands. We spent two days and one night on Santa Cruz Island. Back on the mainland, I checked the tire pressure of all four tires again, and they were still good. So I just hoped it was the many elevation changes L.A. has that made the sensor go off. The entire rest of the trip, it never came back on again. So maybe it was just the elevation change.

Dry rotted tent seams

I’ve been trying not to overpack. So when packing up I decide to only take one tent. Usually, I like to have a backup in case something happens, like if the tent rips or we decide we want more room. But in order to save room in the car, I only grabbed my MRS Hubba Hubba.

I hadn’t used it in a while so I thought we could just use it for the entire trip. The first night of camping was on the beach. While falling asleep that night, I noticed the walls seemed to be flaking. The next morning, Crystal says, “Man look at all that sand!”

Dry rotted seams are shown

Well, later I discovered that the seam tape on the tent was flaking off. It was not sand, it was dry rot. Good thing we were camping in the desert, I thought. This problem could wait until I got home. But I was regretting not bringing a backup tent or checking the tent before I packed it.

There was a chance of storms on the last night of camping. Crystal said she wouldn’t mind a little rain. “Remember our tent’s seams are not sealed well!” I cautioned. But fortunately, it did not rain.

I contacted MSR about the problem, and they got back to me with instructions on how to reseal the seams before I even made it home.

A tent under a tree

The broken camera

Ten years ago on one of my first big adventures out west my camera broke. I couldn’t take any more pictures with it. Fortunately, the person I was traveling with had one he wasn’t really using, so I could take it over.

I have had my current camera for, well, 10 years. I bought it at the end of the above-mentioned trip. I’ve kind of been wanting a second camera for a backup, but haven’t bought one yet. Then while exploring Channel Island National Park, I noticed a thick fog over my LCD screen.

A foggy LCD screen on a camera is shown

My anxiety really made me regret not borrowing one of my dad’s cameras for a backup. But the fog cleared, and I was able to use it without problem the rest of the trip.

Later on the trip, I grew lazy and tired of trying to keep things organized in the back of the car. I began to haphazardly keep things together. This is always a big mistake.

Two errors led to my next camera woes. First, I just shoved the camera in the bag, not getting it into the padded portion. The other was shoving the camera bag into the back of the car.

While opening the door at one point the bag fell out and onto the ground. I didn’t think much about it. Overrun with exhaustion, I was just thinking of driving home. While showing the foggy LCD to my dad, he said, “Can you take pictures through that crack?”

“What? What crack?” I turned the camera around to find my lens completely cracked. Then the memory of the bag falling came back to me. As well as the memory of not putting the camera into the padded portion of the bag.

A cracked lens is shown

The good news was that it was only the protective filter that cracked. The bad news was that it was stuck on the lens, and I had to get professional help to get it off.

I would say, “Lesson learned.” But I have now twice broken a lens because I was exhausted and didn’t take the extra steps to secure the camera. Hopefully, there will not be a third time.

The missing wallet

The third misadventure from my Southern California trip was losing my wallet. Fortunately, it was only part of my wallet. But it still had the potential to severely inhibit my trip. I lost my debit card, driver’s license, and some medication.

I was frenzied and hurried to make a fun evening in Los Angeles, and got careless. I either lost the wallet, or it was stolen.

Palm trees in the desert are shown
When you’re 2,500 miles away from home, your money and ID are not what you want to lose.

After I thoroughly searched my vehicle, I could not find it anywhere. I spent an extra hour and a half of time that I did not have attempting to find it. But I never found my wallet.

You can read a detailed account of the dilemma in this blog post.

SoCal misadventures

A phantom flat tire, broken – but fixable – camera, and lost wallet, aren’t terrible for misadventures. Nothing caused me to have to leave early or spend an exorbitant amount of money to get home. And besides, what trip isn’t complete without a few misadventures.

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