How Technology Helped Me Survive a 2,947-Mile Road Trip with 2 Teenagers and a Dog
We were driving through the painted desert along the northern border of Arizona when road fever took hold.
It started when my 17-year-old commandeered the Bluetooth connection to the car stereo from his sister after one too many Macklemore songs and began blasting the soundtrack from A Fistful of Dollars. She retaliated by attacking her older brother with a saguaro cactus she’d collected in Santa Fe. He defended himself using a John Wayne bobble-head doll he’d bought in Monument Valley.
I pulled us off the state highway in the middle of a howling windstorm and enforced a quick hike along the purple, gray, and blue dunes. At that point I’d have walked into a tornado just to get out of the car for a few minutes.
I wasn’t surprised events had taken this turn; I was only surprised it had taken so long. We’d been stuck in a car together for six days, driving from one coast to the other in a 2014 Buick Enclave that GM had lent to my lovely and talented wife, who among other things writes about technology and cars. (Fortunately, it was not one of the models recalled for faulty ignition switches.) This was our version of National Lampoon’s Vacation, and I was Chevy Chase.
Before we left, we made sure to load the Enclave with enough smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other gizmos to entertain two digitally savvy teenagers, as well as their parents. Technology is what made this trip not only possible but actually pleasant, despite the occasional cactus attack. And it starts with the tech built into car itself.
I gave up all claims to being a cool car guy 17 years ago when I bought a minivan. Still, I thought, a Buick is something old people drive. (By “old people,” I mean “older than me.”) The Enclave changed my mind.
It is an excellent ride — comfortable, powerful, and stylish. We cruised along I-40 like a yacht sailing through placid seas. As a parent, I appreciated the Enclave’s many safety features, none of them unique to Buick but cool nonetheless — like the side mirrors that lit up when someone entered my blind spot, or the visual and audio warnings if I got too close to the car in front of me or suddenly veered into another lane. In short, the Enclave is a better driver than I am.