Road trip! What a great idea. I had claustrophobia from the ice, snow, and freezing temperatures of Chicago and needed out. Every day the urge to flee heightened. And the clothes I put on to go outside put my brain on high alert: leave immediately and without the down coat, Arctic mittens, wool hat, and Timberland boots. Even my little rescue dog Tulip’s eyes seemed to plead with me to return to her homeland, Los Angeles.
The sight of the airports on the news with people crowded in long lines and the melees that were breaking out on planes over masks made the flying option scary and like a giant COVID petri dish. A road trip started to sound fun, safe and relaxing. And no, I was not off my meds. It could be great like the spring break trips to Fort Lauderdale, only a lot farther with no beer, sex, or drugs and the addition of endless bathroom stops due to an aging bladder. I miss college. I convinced my friend Diane, of the fun of a road trip and also bribed her (I picked up the gas and road motels) so off we went.
The number one danger of a road trip is packing every piece of clothing you own because you think you’ll need it and can just “squish it in the trunk.” Was two pairs of shoes enough or was twelve too many? I stuffed one suitcase until it wouldn’t close and then jammed the rest in bags and shoved them in the trunk of my little Honda Civic. Diane also packed everything she owned. Fortunately the trunk could close, but finding anything we wanted was a like going on an archeological dig. Tulip had the back seat to herself on a cushy blanket. She only required a bag of food. A light savvy traveler.
North route? South Route? Mountains or flat land? By Diane’s advanced map skills, of which I have none, she calculated north was an hour faster and most importantly there was no snow. When your trip is approximately 28 hours, arriving sixty minutes sooner is like winning the road trip lottery. North it was, albeit my nonexistent map instincts thought better of it.
Ahhh Iowa, my old college turf went by quickly, and the sight of rolling hills was a relief after the piled up dirty snow in Chicago. Time seemed to fly in the first four hours before it came to a screeching halt. There’s a point in a cross country car trip that it suddenly dawns on you “Holy shit we are miles, hours, and days away! What the fuck was I thinking?” I almost started to cry and suddenly longed for the airport.
Nebraska was endless. The grazing cattle was a nice vision until I remembered they were all going to be served at The Outback Steak House. I don’t eat meat and yelled out the window “I’m sorry.” Stopping for gas west of the Mississippi was thrilling as the price per gallon suddenly plunged. I was in cheap gas heaven. Comparison shopping for gas at this point in life is better than sex. Diane however, was always on the hunt for a Starbucks where ironically the drinks are more than a gallon of gas. If you filled your tank with mocha lattes you’d really be bitching and broke.
Colorado loomed and with it the fear of the “Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel” or what tunnel? Friends were calling to warn us about getting stuck in there for hours due to endless traffic jams yet it was the only way west for us. As luck would have it Eisenhower was on our side, regardless of my childhood love for Adlai Stevenson. (Anyone besides me remember them?) Now I like Ike as the two mile long back up was going in the opposite direction.
“Rocky Mountain High Colorado” was beautiful but Utah was spectacular. It raises the beauty bar to new heights. It also has the most winding mountain roads I have ever driven and long stretches with no gas in sight. I don’t care what level AAA member you are no one’s rushing to save you if you run out. I pictured us living on the side of the road for days with great clothes, a lot of shoes and no food. I did set a Honda Civic speed record through the mountains however, with Diane clutching the dash board and praying for her very life. Utah is beautiful even at 103 mph.
After two endless days in the mountains neither of us cared if we ever saw another one. I maxed out my love of nature. Las Vegas shocked me back into blinding neon reality which I also long to forget. The best moment of the trip was still ahead – Amboy Ca. population of five as of 2000, zip code 92304. It’s an unincorporated community in Ca’s Mojave Desert, west of Needles and east of Ludlow on route 66. It has a lone gas station that is souvenir nirvana. I love, love, love the t-shirt I purchased and for the first time in my shopping history I don’t have buyer’s remorse. Ask Don L for background info on this topic.
1,800 miles were in the books and the sight of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica almost made me believe in Santa Claus (almost but no). The sun, the waves, the warm air, I was happy.
Then tragedy struck. I had to stop myself from falling down in a heap on the sand weeping. I suddenly remembered we had to drive the 1,800 miles back.
Road trip? Maybe I WAS off my meds.