I suppose we might be gluttons for punishment. Or perhaps really disillusioned people. But somehow, after weighing our options, we decided that it made most sense fiscally and pragmatically to DRIVE to Chicago from Portland, Oregon for our summer trip to my hometown.
As the day drew near, we began to rethink our launch strategy. Should we just toss the kids in the car after dinner and begin our trek? Would they sleep in the car and allow us to cover more ground? We had planned to make the trip with two full sixteen or so hours a day of driving. It may be the equivalent of swimming in a tank of sharks or particpating on the show Fear Factor and having snakes dumped over us while we lay in coffins protected by goggles and a lycra body suit (Lycra! god help me - maybe worse than the snakes?)
We decided that was our best option. The boys were excited. School was out and the highly anticipated trip to see all of their cousins and grandparents had finally arrived. My husband drove the first 6 hours stopping in Ontario, Oregon near the Idaho border for gas and coffee. All three of our heads popped up like jack in the boxes -- my oldest spying the Arby's at the gas station and Sean asking, "We are in Chicago?" It was maybe 4 a.m. but the idea of the boys falling back asleep was quickly fading.
The ride continued through Idaho, the landscape greener than most summers due to a rainy spring and wet summer. And then we crawled into Utah, followed by Wyoming, every few minutes a chirpy voice asking, "Are we there yet?" or "Can I hop?"
We made it to Rawlings, Wyoming around 3 p.m. and exploded out of the car like a trick can of cloth snakes. My husband took Sean to the pool and my oldest and I brought some luggage up to the room and melted into the hotel funiture.
The next day we ate a quick breakfast and headed back onto Highway 80, heading east, with half of Wyoming and all of Nebraska and Iowa and most of Illinois in front of us. Day two seems to always be the hardest. When I was younger I did a bike fundraiser with a gal pal. We had biked sixty miles the first day. We felt proud and strong, but after we ate dinner we were sore and started trolling the little town we had stopped in for industrial size Ben Gay. We almost cried on Day Two when we mounted our tired and sore bodies on our bikes and headed out for another sixty miles. I can't even remember Day Three but I know we smelled very minty and our bodies were fairly numb from the pain and the loads of Ben Gay.
This is exactly how Day Two on our Road Trip from Hell felt. Our bodies were like parenthesis, slouching in the car (we took the small hybrid to save on gas -- left the roomy, gas guzzling loser cruiser van @ home in the garage), never free of the sun's steamy glare.
We drove forward, the land like wet slick quilts, softly billowing into gentle ripples, jeweled with fences, crops, ponds and livestock. We had come from the mountains, from the muscle of the intermountain west, sliding down into the placid and predictable heartland, where we could see for miles with no surpises.
By evening thunderstorms had moved down from the north and the radio warned of tornadoes and flash floods. My husband white-knuckled the drive, navigating through sheets of rain, over swelling rivers, thankful for the lightening that would light up the inky darkness, and the boys shuddered from the shaking thunder.
By 1 a.m. we made it to my parent's home. Sean hopped into the house, hopped onto my parents and laughed, so excited to see them. After hugs and talk we fell into beds, so happy to arrive safely. To think of the journey back home sent chills up and down my spine so I tried to remain in the present, to enjoy the sight of my mom and dad, to relish in their laughter and smiles and to let go of the stressful ride and the "what can go wrong on the ride home" thoughts. I just wanted to be in this moment, to frame it with hope and happiness, to keep that feeling frozen into a tight cube, to save for another day when I needed to find joy.
Sam Smiles Project
3 months ago