A Road Trip and a Dead Car Battery

By Blaine Scinta

The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through Virginia and North Carolina, linking the Shenandoah Valley with the Smoky Mountains. Throughout the year and during each season, the Parkway reflects its unique beauty. From a calm fog that hugs the valley to the endless layers of mountains that go on as far as the eye can see, the Blue Ridge Parkway never ceases to amaze me. My friend Tyler and I decided to head to North Carolina to meet up with a few others who lived in Asheville, NC. Over the years—through my many road trips—I have always organized a checklist before hitting the road. I don’t want to forget the usual things while packing, like a few road trip snacks, camera gear, or the appropriate clothing, and then there are the few things I try to be mindful of when it comes to my vehicle.

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I always make sure to check the tires, oil, and brakes before a trip, as well as check the windshield wipers and fluid, and assure there’s a spare tire. These things are noticeable throughout the year; the rest are easily visible—so I don’t know about you, but I typically don’t think about the belts in my car every time I press the start button.

As we departed and began the six-hour drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway, I tried to determine whether there was anything I might have forgotten. The week before, I noticed that my car had clocked 68,000 miles, but I didn’t think to check that. After multiple playlists and some good conversations, we found ourselves surrounded by a calm mist that had begun to roll through the mountains of western North Carolina.

On our first day, we went down a long dirt road, which took us to an abandoned fire tower. For years, fellow campers have been able to camp out on a first-come, first-serve basis, and this offers one of the best views of the mountains and an incredible view of sunrise. After leaving the fire tower, we clambered to the car, where I found that my vehicle's remote start had begun to struggle, even at close distances. I brushed it off, thinking that the battery in my key was getting low, as that had caused a delay in this feature before.

Early the next morning, we planned to hike Black Balsam Knob to catch the sunrise, so we decided to park near the trailhead and prepared to settle in for the night. We woke at about 4:45 am to complete the hike before sunrise. I went around to the front of the car to start the engine so we could warm up before starting our hike, but when I pressed the start button, nothing happened. I tried again, but not a single screen would turn on to tell me that there was an issue with the car. I started to panic. I quickly realized that the battery in my car was dead.

Since the battery was the factory battery, it should have alerted my attention the week before when the odometer reached 68,000 miles, which meant the battery would need to be replaced soon. Among the list of things that I thought about before leaving for the mountains, I should have put the battery at the top of that list (hindsight is 20/20). Luckily for us, we parked in an area that we knew would have a few cars from other hikers as the morning went on. We decided to begin our hike up the trail, trusting that someone would help us jump the car.

I find myself on the road very frequently, and if there is one thing that traveling has taught me, it is the importance of remaining positive and open-minded when things don’t turn out the way you expected. As we arrived at the top of the trail, we enjoyed a good conversation with a few people who had made the hike around the same time. Before long, we realized that they had parked in the same area that we did. We headed back to the cars as a group, taking in the last bit of scenery, and in the end, managed to jump my car battery and get it started.

As we drove down the Parkway, we headed toward Linville, a small town in the middle of the mountains. Once there, we were able to purchase a new battery. We ended up changing some of the itineraries for the trip because of time lost. My takeaway from this trip? It is always essential to keep your car maintained, especially when prepping for a road trip, but it is equally important to have a healthy mindset when problems arise...

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