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Another Day in the Country

Fear and loving on the road

© Another Day in the Country

Early in the morning, I wheeled my over-stuffed suitcase out so my daughter could see how it fit into the back of her Jeep Cherokee. It took up almost half of the luggage space. This trip was really going to happen.

Richard had researched a wonderfully efficient ice chest so that we could carry perishables with us and cook some of our own meals.

He envisioned carrying supplies for two meals a day and then finding some exotic restaurant along the way for our evening meal.

The ice chest took up the other half of the baggage space.

Jana managed to pack a small suitcase with a week’s worth of clothing for herself and Dagfinnr. It fit into the back ceiling space. Richard had a back pack and a hanger full of clothes that went into the remaining space. It was a tight fit!

Under the arm rest in the back seat, I fit an envelope that held my down comforter, and I stuck my pillow (both essential for sleep) between my side and the door. Under my feet was a sack of goodies to snack on, and under my grandson’s feet were cases for his iPad and his drone for taking aerial photographs.

Wow! What was this going to be like? Were we really going to be doing this?

My son-in-law is a very private person who avoids contained spaces and crowds of people (more than two) like the plague. We three were going to be in a car with him for five days.

At 9 o’clock, we pulled out of the driveway in California and headed out on a five-day, four-night road trip to Kansas that would dip into seven states.

I had memories of traveling with my dad on mandatory trips. They were never happy memories. But I also had pleasant memories of traveling with my husband and kids. So what would this trip be like?

Richard had researched our route, places we could see, and the time it would take, thoughtfully trying to include something for each of us.

He wanted to take his son to the Great Salt Lake in Utah; his father had taken him there when he was a boy. He wanted him to see the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. I wanted to see the Tetons. He wanted to be flexible so he hadn’t booked any motels.

When evening loomed the first day, we’d made it to Elko, Nevada, and began looking at what motels were available. All looked a little seedy in my estimation. We finally chose one, and Jana and I went in and asked to see a room.

“This is adequate,” we shrugged, and went out to do the paperwork.

It was a tiny little “office” with a shabby counter holding “complimentary breakfast” items: a couple of dispensers with corn cereal and sugary, different-colored round things.

“Oh, but there’s instant oatmeal and a microwave,” I pointed out to Jana. “We’ll be OK.”

Mr. Gupta, the manager and owner, turned out to be a nice guy. They’d added fruit, milk, and some pastries to the breakfast offering when morning came, and he told us he’d been running this place for 40 years.

When we got ready to leave and had packed ourselves back into the car, Mrs. Gupta came running out with my pillow. I’d forgotten it in the muddle of sheets on the bed. 

“Take note, son,” Richard said, “That’s why you leave a tip for the cleaning staff when you stay in a motel.”

We hadn’t really registered in our planning that we’d be traveling on a weekend.

There were a lot of people on the road when we tried to get through Salt Lake City and found ourselves in a nerve-wracking traffic jam.

We called upon all the sources of technology in the car’s navigational equipment and the iPhones — from Siri to Chloe to whomever — until the driver wanted to throw all of them (and us) out the window. But we made it to calmer roads as we headed through Idaho and on to Montana.

It was Friday night, and the whole world seemed to be heading somewhere — finally, after being quarantined during a pandemic.

No matter how old your family is or how many times you’ve done things together, we are all so different with our needs and expectations.

Anytime we get together, anytime there are two or more in a group, around a table, we take a chance.

The encounters we have, no matter how much we love each other, are up for grabs. We may have a wonderful time, or it may be tense and uncomfortable. Quite frankly, I was expecting this trip to be tense.

It almost was when Richard lost his wedding ring for three days. But it turned out OK when he found it under all the ice that never melted in the huge chest that housed only yogurt and a few pop cans.

It got a little tense when we were all hungry and Jana decided to make ramen on a camp stove and we had no bowls to eat it in and the driver was sure we were going to get kicked out of the park by a ranger for cooking on the back bumper of the car. (It also was windy, and I had to hold up a big towel so the stove fire would stay lighted.)

“We did it, and it was fun!” we exclaimed when we pulled into Ramona, five days and a million memories later on just another day in the country.

Last modified July 22, 2021

 

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