Tonight We Ride!
by Amanda Martin
We packed our car and were hopeful for the journey ahead. Six days on the road. The first night, we stayed in a hotel in Salina, Kansas. We arrived to the hotel very late since we couldn’t leave until Jeff and Jon tested for their belt advancements in karate. With the successful completion of belt testing and Jon letting us know that Pretend Doris (Doris is his favorite friend at karate) would also be joining us on our trip, we headed to our house to pick up the final member of our family, Zen the dog. To our surprise, he had not eaten the couch or gone to the bathroom anywhere we could find, a great omen for our trip. At nine o’clock, we loaded up in the car and yelled, “Whooo…road trip!” and were off.
The first three hours of our drive was blissful. Jon started off happy and telling the same joke a zillion times. Don’t stop me if you have heard this one: “Hey, hey, hey mommy, what do you call a three humped camel?” Jon answers himself, as slow as he possibly can: “I don’t know, what do you call a three humped camel?” (I know we have watched Zootopia possibly thirty times). Jon smiled like it was the first time he had ever said it: “Pregnant!” (insert hysterical and very slow laugh here). Now this went on for some time, with Jon occasionally switching up what animal it was in the joke, not quite understanding that the joke didn’t really work with any other animals but we played along. Then Jeff and I realized it was quiet…Jon, Sawyer, Pretend Doris, and Zen were all fast asleep. At the three-hour mark since we had left, we heard Sawyer stirring and then Jon.
As we were on no time schedule, we pulled off at the nearest exit and parked so we could feed Sawyer, walk Zen, and just stretch our legs. One and a half hours until our first destination. Again, somehow the kids were in great moods.
I think this is a good point in the story to tell you that we did not look at this hotel before booking…. At one forty-five a.m. we pulled in. First we saw a cop car and an officer in front of one of the rooms, so I guess security is good, right? Next, all the lights were off in the check-in room and I had to buzz a little doorbell thing that was hanging on the lovely bullet-proof glass. A gentleman came up to the glass to ask me what I needed in a very annoyed fashion. The gentleman passed the room key under the slot and we were off to see what awaited us. I went first. The room was actually not as bad as I expected, at least at first glance. Then we checked out the bathroom…it was perfect for a short girl like myself and had a lovely cement nook right next to the shower in case someone wanted to lie in wait to watch whomever was showering, a very thoughtful addition…they truly thought of everything. We brought only what we needed in from the car and hoped to go right to sleep. Zen found a nice mousetrap that had been left out…again, very thoughtful. Jeff and I were tired, but we remembered the kids had just gotten up from their lovely three-hour nap that we were previously so excited about.
Two hours of broken sleep later, Jon fell off his bed and banged his already stitched-up eye on the AC unit. “So sleep isn’t happening, you want coffee?” Jeff asked as he got out of bed. I couldn’t talk so I just gesticulated my best hand-sign for a giant cup. I love when someone knows you well enough to understand the meaning behind your flailing arms and no words need to be spoken. “Alright, let’s do this!” Jeff came bursting into the room with way too much energy. We laughed, I think out of delirium and out of a ‘well I guess this is really happening’ feeling. Coffee, shower, Jeff took the kids and dog out for a walk so me and Pretend Doris could get in a little morning yoga and then we were back in the car.
We tried to plan the days with no longer than four and a half hour drives so that we could take our time in the mornings, wait until Sawyer was ready for his morning nap, and then drive during that time. When he woke up, we would break for lunch and walk Zen, stretch or do whatever we needed to. The first stop we made was for gas and a potty break for Jon. We had just left about fifteen minutes before so Jeff took him inside while the rest of us waited in the car. Jon came out stomping his feet with his arms crossed over his chest, Jeff following him with a big smile. Jon climbed into his car seat and explained that he was “so angry with daddy.” “Oh ya?” I asked. “I went poop and daddy flushed it and I wanted to flush it!” Jeff tried to keep a straight face while apologizing a few times before Jon finally agreed to forgive him on the condition that next time it would be all Jon.
Colorado! I have always wanted to go to Colorado. Apparently not the parts that we went through but it was still exciting. After three hours, we arrived at our destination. This was awkward because our navigation application, whom we named Karen so we could yell at her, had told us the campsite was an hour closer than it actually was. Very humid, hundred-degree weather and flies that would not stop biting us helped us slowly attempt to assemble our tent. The actual tent was easy; we had had set it up two other times when we camped in our living room and when Jeff and Jon slept in our backyard a few weeks past. This time, the weather forecast called for a late evening storm so the rain flap would be required. Rain flap… rain flap…the instructions should have read: engineering degree preferred. After about thirty minutes of Jon and I working it out like a puzzle, corners first, we got it…well we thought we did. It semi-resembled the picture included and we had staked it down so many times it wasn’t going anywhere. Lucky for us and our rain flap, it didn’t end up storming that night.
At this point, I’m thinking, “So I guess we are really doing this, we are about to see if this whole outdoors life is for us/will the kids and pup be little buggers.” As much as I like a good story, I was pretty grateful that Sawyer went down with the sun. Jon and I fell asleep reading and Jeff took the dog for the longest walk he could muster. All slept through the night…until the sun came up a little before six o’clock. With such an early start to the day, we got on the road before the heat and the flies returned.
The wonderful thing about Jeff’s Job is that he can do it remotely. I decided to drive so that when the kids fell asleep, Jeff could work. Not a bad gig to be able to be putting miles on the road while putting in a day at work.
We were about twenty minutes from our next campsite when Jon announced that he was starving and needed to eat. We too were starting to get hungry so we assured him that the next place we saw to grab something to eat, we would stop…well there wasn’t anything. Literally, nothing. Our exit was approaching when we read that the town’s population was one so we decided to keep going until we found a place to eat and would then double back once we did. An hour later we found food, and I was not about to head backwards an hour, so I made the suggestion that we keep moving. Our next stop was about another four hours away in Lyman, Wyoming.
Wyoming is not a place I ever really thought too much about but now, having been there, it gives me all the feels. It is so beautiful. It is exactly what I pictured Colorado looking like. Large green fields, trickling creeks, and snowcapped mountains in the distance. Even our pit stops looked like a picture on a postcard. Over eight hours on the road, this had been our longest day yet. Noticing we were in a small town and had seen a few restaurants, we thought it best not to push our luck trying to find more later so we grabbed some Mexican food and headed back up the highway a little bit to a park we had passed on our way in. We ate our food and talked about what a pleasant travel day it had been and how lucky we are to have such awesome road companions.
Jeff and I have never been very good at taking great days for what they are. If it was going good, we would think, “Hey, let’s make it better!” Being that this had been a good day traveling, I should have known that we were going to try and top it. I know, let’s turn our six days of little driving spurts of no more than four and a half hours into an all-nighter! Perfect.
Plan: feed the little ones, run them out at the park, get on the road and travel until dawn. High-five Jeff, we got this!
WORST. IDEA. EVER!
It would be another ten hours on the road, eleven with stops.
So according to our calculations we would arrive by seven in the morning.
Even now in hindsight, I just don’t really understand how we both thought this was the way to go. But off we went.
Utah! So Utah was meant to be a quick pit stop for caffeine and gas. Sawyer, Jon, and I took Zen on a little walk while Jeff filled up the car and got the necessary beverages…or so I thought. We came walking back to the pump and I noticed Jeff looking at me kind of blankly, a WTF look. This can’t be good…
“Please tell me you have the keys!?” Jeff threw the knowing question my way. For those of you who hate to be left in suspense, I did not have the keys. So cool, now we are stuck in Utah an hour and a half into our ten-hour marathon, at a gas station, phones and wallets in the car, its dark, getting pretty cold and no dogs are allowed in the store. Jeff kept looking at me like I was going to bring on the thunder, looking for a good place to hide until the storm he knew was coming would blow over.
There was nowhere to go. I mean really. So I sat quietly gathering my thoughts on how I would play this. Would I just throw him through the window? That would get the car open but then our drive would be cold. Do I ask a stranger for a ride for me and my beautiful children to California? That’s no good because the car seats were in the car that was locked. No, I chanted our road trip mantra to myself: this is supposed to be fun. And because I could not let Jeff completely off the hook, I let him stew for a few more minutes wondering what I would do. At last I laughed a, “Well, fuck me, right?”
Un-parallelized, Jeff went inside to call our insurance’s tow service. Jon, Sawyer, and I did some nice yoga on the sidewalk while Zen tried to eat all the cigarette butts littering the ground around us. About an hour and thirty dollars out-of-pocket cost later, we were let back into our car.
Jeff, who was still playing nice, said he would take the first shift. I got about three hours of broken sleep when Jeff asked if I could drive. “I got this this babe! I am the road trip master.” He was too tired to argue and just switched.
“All right, all right, I got this,” I thought to myself as I bounced with fake energy. “Fake it ‘till you make it, that’s what I always say.” I was talking to myself at this point. Jeff could fall asleep at the drop of a hat when he wasn’t tired so within seconds he was snoring next to me. “That should be helpful in my staying awake, haha. Oh god, this is embarrassing.” I looked around in reassurance that no one was actually awake and listening to my ramblings. With everyone fast asleep, I drove for what felt like forever. It was not. I think I had been driving for a total of about twenty minutes when Jeff woke up to the sound of the roadside rumble strip. “You okay?” Jeff asked half-asleep. “Remember when I said ‘ya babe, I got this?’ I don’t got this.” It was news to me that my night vision was no more, but hey, live and learn right? So…Jeff is awesome. He had it. Occasionally I opened my eyes to see him head banging to death metal, thought it was weird, and then would pass back out. I woke up in Nevada at a Starbucks! “My main man! Jeff, yes!” Jeff looked at me with a death stare. “Just don’t, I can’t deal with this right now,” he said as he gestured to all of me. No worries, I knew it was nothing coffee couldn’t fix.
This might be a good time for a little back story. I have been in the process of switching all my beauty products to something natural. Before we had left my not-so-natural deodorant had run out so I had Jeff pick me a new brand up at Whole Foods. What better time to test it out than on a trip where we would be trapped in a car, not bathing and sweating together?
So back in the car Jeff hopped with a giant coffee. We were only two hours from my parent’s cabin in Calpine, California. After a few minutes of Jeff getting another boost of caffeine, we were all now allowed to talk. What were the first sweet words my husband would say to me but “you smell like a rotting onion.” “No, no sir that is the smell of organic-ness that will not give me cancer in the armpits. I like it. Would you rather me smell or have cancer?”
“You really don’t want me answering that” Jeff said as he cracked his window.