when you take an extremely talkative 10-yr old girl, a yellow belly 8-yr old son, a cranky 2-yr old baby, an even-crankier pregnant wife, and a cheap bastard (who won't pay for air tickets) and throw them all in a car for an 8-hour trip to Mecca?
Baddest. Road-trip. Ever.
And I don't mean 'baddest' as in Michael Jackson "I'm Bad". I mean bad as in it was so rough that I had to resort to a grammatically incorrect term to fully express my misery.
Half way to Mecca (around 11pm at night), I blew out a rear tire. The force of the tire tread ripped out the plastic molding of our Toyota Prado as well as part of the rear bumper.
So there we were, middle of nowhere, pitch-black desert, on a weeknight (being the Mr. Smartypants I am, I figured traveling on a weekday would result in less traffic, which it did - so there went my chances of getting any roadside help), without a flashlight, having to change a flat on my Prado that I had never done before.
Now, I've changed many flat tires in my life, but never from an SUV which has the spare tire mounted underneath the rear of the vehicle. The procedure to simply REMOVE THE SPARE took over 30 freakin' minutes!!! I had my son holding up my cellphone to provide some semblance of light, with headlights of the occasional passing car or truck helping out.
Once I got the spare down, I had to jack up the truck and switch tires. This proved to be an even bigger ordeal, for our fearless son, whose sole task was to hold the cellphone, got startled by a tiny desert mouse running around our truck. He started hopping around, letting out screeches and screams that would've put any woman to shame.
So much for naming my son after the Prophet's uncle, Humza, also known as Asad-Allah (the Lion of Allah).
After he bravely situated himself back inside the truck, my wife took over cellphone duties and I got the tires swapped.
It took me one hour exactly for the whole operation.
And wouldn't you know it, right when I was pulling out, emergency roadside service pulls up behind me. I kid you not. He was probably hiding behind some desert hill, just waiting for me to finish.
But I was impressed by one taxi of three youth who pulled over about 15 minutes before I was done. They kindly offered assistance, which I politely declined since I was basically finishing up.
It took me another hour or so, stopping at 4 or 5 different gas stations, looking for a tire shop where I could buy a tire to replace my blown one. And also I stopped several times to take power naps. And also I drove extra slow, mainly because my wife kept nagging me every time too fast for her nerves.
So our trip that normally has taken us 8 or 9 hours ended up taking 13 grueling hours.
Which was nice for my wife, because it gave her even more time to make sure I understood that she's NEVER driving to Mecca again.
Worsest. Road-trip. Ever.
But in the end, as you all probably guessed, it was totally worth it - with images such as this one to really sweeten our experience:
That's a clip of Humza and Aya relaxing on the second floor near mount Safa inside the Haram.
One last note. We got rooms at the Zamzam tower hotel, one of the hotels at the megacomplex right outside the Haram, better known as Burj al-Bait.
While it was annoying at having to pass MotherCare and Promod and Starbucks on the way to the Haram, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Zamzam. The rooms had a beautiful view of the Haram, as well as the audio from the Haram connected directly into each room (with volume controls!). The executive suites were reasonably priced (500sar/night) for 2 rooms plus a sitting room, although the valet parking was a bit pricey (150/night).
Oh and when I returned to work, I found out that one of the towers under construction had a full blown fire that took out 6 floors.
Weird how we totally missed that.