© Another Day in the Country
For some strange reason, I am a risk-taker. It seems rather obvious, doesn’t it? Right here, in this very column, I take the risk of exposing myself, my life, to you. And then, I’ve told you all about the risk my sister and I took when we decided to move from California back to Ramona. Most of our friends and relatives voiced their concern — loudly; but we were rather oblivious to the risks involved. We called it an adventure — maybe even a lark.
On weekends, we often drive to the big city (Salina) to run errands and take in a movie and perhaps go out to eat. This foray into civilization is our dose of culture for the week.
For many years Triple T was our designated driver (not that we drank, he just knew his way around town) and he would have this mental map of what we planned to do and where we wanted to go, in his head. The movie at the Art Cinema was regularly on the list at 2 o’clock and I was always trying to cram in as many errands as possible on the way. This drove my other two buddies crazy. They liked to get to the theatre early to find the prime seat, go to the bathroom, get some popcorn, settle themselves. I was always the one taking the risk of getting there after the lights had gone down. Tim would tease if we were 5 minutes early, “Are you sure there isn’t another errand you’d like to run before we go in?”
This weekend, Jess and I took off on an adventure. A branch of the Fike family were getting together for their Christmas celebration, and as cousins, we were invited to join them in Lawrence. I was driving, so I cleaned out the car, we loaded our gear and goodies and then I remembered I’d neglected getting the gas tank filled. “Ah, well,” I said to myself, “I’ll get gas in Herington.” (In case you’re wondering, this wasn’t the risky part — I had a quarter of a tank.) However, when I got to Herington the gas was higher than I expected. Gas last week was $3.06 in Salina and here it was $3.25. I was going to hold out for a more populated area — I’d get gas in Council Grove!
By the time we cruised into Council Grove my gauge in The Grandma Car, which is always set on ‘how many miles can you go’ mode, was down to 52 miles. “Good grief,” I said to Jess, “it’s $3.29 here. Gas is going up. I think I’ll wait till I get to that island in the toll road and see if it is cheaper.” I’m sure that those of you who are familiar with that route are getting nervous already. About 10 miles past Council Grove, looking at my dwindling gas supply and I was already sorry. And, I will confess that the stretch of road between Council Grove and the toll road never ever had been so looooong.
Once we were on the Toll road, I began to calculate just where on this road that center island gas station and restaurant were. I figured that I’d have about 12 miles worth of gas when I got to Topeka. Jess looked very calm; but, I was really sweating it out, now. I felt like I was traveling in a covered wagon trying to get to Topeka. Every nerve in my body was straining to see city lights. As my gas dwindled, Jess began figuring out whom to call when we ran out. With 8 miles worth of gas left, we finally hit our first Topeka exit — thankfully with a gas station. There was lots of traffic and by the time I sat through two lights trying to turn left, I was down to 7 miles and there was a crowd at the station where I had to wait while some gal chatted on her cell phone and the gauge went down to 6 miles — yes, this Grandma Car is a big car.
After I’d filled my tank and the gauge assured me that now I could travel 475 miles in comfort I realized why this station was so crowded — gas was $3.09 a gallon. Whoopee I’d saved 20 cents a gallon. My sister looked at me with that extremely trying-to-be-patient-but-feeling-impatient gaze and said, “Have you learned your lesson? I’m not praying you into anymore gas stations.” We laughed. (It was a family joke. When she was a kid she used to get nervous when our dad got low on gas and she’d quietly sit in the back seat praying for him to be able to find a gas station — she felt she was the official “prayer” for every little thing.)
Exactly 10 miles past my salvation exit we came to the island stop for gas and food on the toll road. Out loud I said, “I bet I could have made it….” Meanwhile, I was flooded with relief, crisis averted until some other day in the country. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I take the risk, for that rush of adrenalin when you actually survive!