This roadtrip we seem to find ourselves taking far more often than is plausible, is exactly like childbirth. Five days after it’s over, I find myself saying bizarre things like ‘it wasn’t that bad’. Worse, as five days turns into months and year(s) I find my brain populated with illogical thoughts like ‘roadtrips are fun’.
And with that misinformation in hand, I constructed a plan to reprise (for the 5th time) our pilgrimage to the heartland. And, since we were already driving, I decided to throw in a 7-hour detour to Arches National Park. Because, if spending 6 days in a car with my family taxes my ability to enjoy myself, then 8 days in a car…….Well, anyone with an average IQ can probably complete that sentence [correctly].
Anyone except me.
On day two, or was it three, of ‘The Drive’, as our minivan meandered along asphalt cutting through absolutelynothing, the professor made a comment like ‘I don’t want to do this again.’ And by ‘this’ he meant, drive from Calgary to Indiana with his family. And since I was right in the middle of the awfulness, I actually agreed with him. Out loud. As in, ‘you’re right, this sucks, let’s not do it ever again.’
When we finally made it to Indiana – following a very regrettable stop at the Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, a night at a very dodgy Super 8 in Lawrence, Kansas, and a rather enjoyable stop at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City – I was asked a surprising question on more than one occasion. ‘So, are you having fun?’ It was the kind of question – much like ‘so, do you love being a mom,’ that people often ask when they’re not really sure what to ask; the kind of question that only has one answer.
Yes, I love driving across the country for days on end with my children and husband! Because obviously there’s something wrong with a person who does not love spending all day with their loved ones in a car.
Thoughtful friends inquired about ‘some of the highlights of the trip’ and I found myself staring back, blankly, unable to recall simple details like what day it was, or which states we’d driven through, much less any ‘standout’ moments from the actual trip.
My mental rolodex flipped through the series of thus-far-experiences ‘heat, long drive through desert, not seeing the Delicate Arch, unhappy children, the scary motel in Monticello, the scary Super 8 in Lawrence, junk food, bad coffee, not having barbeque in Kansas City (the barbeque capital of America),’ and then I remembered that one time I laughed.
‘We were playing the quiet game in the car, and it was the Gort’s turn to ‘start’ the game, so he’d get us all ready to play by yelling ‘starting……..now!’ but his 3 year old brother decide to usurp his leadership, so the Gort would yell ‘starting……..now’ and then Percy would chime in ‘starting now’ and the Gort was enraged by this flagrant attempt at overriding his authority from a 3 year old. So he’d try again, ‘starting…………now’ and Percy, ever defiant, would yell ‘starting now!’ just when the Gort thought he’d started the game.The Gort was beside himself, yelling, ‘Pee-yurs!’ and Percy pretended he’d done nothing wrong, and the professor and I were literally crying from laughing…..’
And whoever had asked the question looked perplexed, either because they thought it was an unhumorous anecdote or because they’d expected a slightly more conventional answer like ‘the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.’
Which, right around the time I’d requested we detour to Utah to [not] see the Delicate Arch, the professor requested a stop in Kansas City to see ‘the museum designed by Steven Holl.’
So that’s why we headed to Kansas, to photograph door handles in a museum and lights in a fountain, which turned out to be skylights in a parking garage. ‘I can’t believe you guys don’t think this is interesting,’ the professor complained while photographing a parking garage skylight as the rest of us sauntered on towards the minivan. Nearly three hours after we’d first pulled in.
[That being said, walking through the museum and poking around the sculpture garden turned out to be one of the genuine highlights of the trip.]
The previous night, when we’d lain our weary heads at the Super8 in Lawrence, had not been a highlight.
The overly yellow hallway with the dank basement feel was the first sign that we’d chosen badly. The door that wouldn’t lock was the second. It had been a long day filled with a too-long stop in Denver, and driving through the flatness of Kansas, culminating in a severe thunderstorm and McDonald’s smoothie for dinner.
I was tired. I wanted to turn off the lights and close my eyes. I couldn’t imagine anyone in Lawrence was going to rob us between the hours of 11 and 7 so I actually considered pushing our bags against the door and calling it a day.
But the professor determined a non-locking door was a deal-breaker and marched back to the lobby to request a different room. Though its door did lock, the new digs were not an improvement, and I declined to take a shower in the morning.
pic by jsj: yes, we all slept in our clothes from the previous day
The next day, we were up bright and early with a museum stop and a nine-hour drive on the itinerary. An hour or so before midnight, we finally arrived in Muncie Indiana. Our home for a whopping twelve hours before we headed off to northern Indiana for a family gathering.