Since moving to Montana in the late 80's, I have made that 1100 mile drive maybe a dozen times. Some trips were quick, some were fun-filled and joyful, some tedious, and one memorable trip was just awful. (To read the full awful story of that trip, check out the blog entitled 'I would rather be poked in the eye than drive anywhere during the holidays' from November of last year) When my kids were kids, we sometimes made the drive in one fell swoop, stopping only at gas stations, rest stops and the golden arches, then it was back on the highway, hurrying to or away from home. Why on earth we felt the need to hurry I have no idea. Certainly we never ran the risk of missing a deadline and we weren't running from the law, but hurry, hurry, hurry is what we did. In the years since then it has mostly been a solitary trip, just me and sometimes my dog, leisurely driving along, a book on cd blasting from the stereo. There are plenty of motels that accept canine companions so even when I had a dog with me, there were lots of very nice choices.
This time my son was coming with me and it sounded like the perfect opportunity to save some $$ by driving straight thru. The plan was for me to start the road trip while my son slept, then reverse rolls. It would be great, it would be fun, this plan would work. We left Missoula around 1pm and made pretty good time, rolling along listening to one of the Odd Thomas books by Dean Koontz. We made our first rest stop about 3 hours later...it went downhill from there. Here, in no particular order, are some of the highpoints of the lowpoints of the trip.
- My 13 year old dog, who hasn't been able to jump in or out of a vehicle in at least a year, decided he no longer cared to have me lift him in or out. Apparently standing by the side of the car until the cows came home was preferable to me helping him up. He even growled at me once! Not wanting to stand by the side of the car indefinitely myself, I ignored the warning and lifted him into the back seat where he promptly threw up. Since he hadn't eaten all day, there was nothing but bile, but still....yuck.
- We ran into window rattling thunderstorms with torrential downpours and incredible lightning. At the same time we encountered daredevil drivers who drove as fast if not faster than they had before the storm, as well as drivers who suddenly forgot what the lane lines were for.
- By midnight, tired of rain and other drivers, we pulled off at Cedar City, Utah, only to find there were several events going on and no motel rooms. For some reason motels now eschew the No Vacancy sign, preferring to turn you away in person at the front desk rather than by exterior signage.
- I would have thought at some point all of the roads between Southern California and Montana would have been completed...apparently not. Not only were we forced into one lane, but it was a lane half on, half off the highway, which meant the two right tires were on the rumble strips. I now know that murderous thoughts are created by driving on rumble strips. I also know that...
- If there is a slow moving truck anywhere in the vicinity, it will find me and place itself in front of my car, probably while I am driving on rumble strips.
- Before he threw up on his quilt, my dog had decided that little area between the back of the driver's seat and the front of the back seat looked like a cozy place he would easily fit into. He had to stand half in half out of it for 5 miles before I could pull off at a rest stop and help him up. He didn't thank me but at least he didn't growl at me....or throw up.
- The book, by one of my favorite authors, turned out to be one better suited to reading than listening. Not much happened, but the narrator thought out loud about stuff...a lot. By the 2nd hour of listening as he pondered this or that, I began encouraging him to get to the point. By the 5th hour I was telling him to shut up. By midnight I was actively campaigning for him to somehow be killed by a random marauding zombie. Sadly the book was zombie-less, random or otherwise.
- What is possible and even easy when you are 30, 40 or even 50, becomes less so at 60+. My back ached, my head pounded and my butt was numb. Whose idea was driving all night? She should be shot.
I'll be here a month, enjoying the sunshine as seen from an air conditioned home, visiting family, catching up on all the gossip and goings on, drinking wine, laughing, telling stories, sharing photos. Then it will be back on the road. But this time, I'll be enjoying an audible book that isn't quite so cerebral....and one of those very nice motels that welcomes dogs.