As I sit here, drinking a yummie hand-crafted Durango beer, my husband is pretending he’s awake, watching the UFC through his eyelids. We are different people. I came home from work with a 12 pack of micro brews, because I think that my New Year’s resolution is going to be to keep the house stocked with beer, at all times (and I may as well get a jump on something productive). He was a bit miffed that I brought home beer and not food. I think, it makes me the perfect woman. I value beer over food, but prefer them to happen simultaneously. This food vs beer thing is safe. Road tripping? That’s another thing entirely.
When I was in college my road trips began. I met exotic people, in exotic places. Maybe EXOTIC is a stretch. But I saw gas stations named ‘Major Gas.’ I saw hats that said ‘Ride Me, Ride Free!’ One of my few regrets in life is not buying that hat. They were fun trips, full of a lack-of-planning, loads of beer, no razors, days without showers, and Goldfish crackers. And then I started road tripping with a family. The only thing that remained were the Goldfish. In the seat cracks. Smashed on the car floor. Stuck to my boot.
Two weeks before our big family road trip that we were planning (a trip with two adults, a three-year old, an 85 lb labrador and an 18 lb pug) I broke my heel. I’d like to tell you that I was doing something thrilling, but in reality, I broke it on a water slide. Not a cool, Water World water slide. Not even a typical public pool water slide. This was a kiddie slide. There-in lied the problem. The pool was shallow. It was our first run. My three-year old was scared, so I took her down on my lap. As we neared the chlorinated landing strip of water, pee and some snot streams, I lifted her up so that she wouldn’t go under. As I did so, my feet went down. This was not a deep pool. It’s true: kiddie pools are meant for kiddies. Surprise! I went to the doc the next day and left with a boot. Not a little boot, either. A boot that went up to my knee. I asked about those little boots, that just go to your ankle, and the doc looked at me like I was crazy to think such a thing existed. Not sure what I did to piss that guy off, but I see those little boots all the time. My gigantic one DID get me more sympathy, though and doubled as a dust bunny, dead leaf, and dog hair collector… it was my wookie foot.
My husband threatened to cancel our trip, but I wouldn’t have it. This was my vacation, dammit! We would have fun.
So, two weeks later, we embarked on our 26 hour drive. We stopped the first night in the middle of nowhere, WY, right off of the highway. We set up our borrowed camper in a kind of camper parking lot. This was a camper from the 80’s. We enviously gazed at the campers around us. We mocked the people with toilets and televisions, microwaves and air conditioners. I missed my sound machine. We fitfully slept to the humming sound of semis. The second night we had the pleasure leaving the highway, and “camping” in a massive rainstorm. A deluge. Constant, unrelenting rain. Drip drip dripping right through our 1984 non-water-resistant canvas.
We were at a beautiful campground outside of Jackson, WY. All night I could feel and hear something bumping up against our camper. I waited for the flash flood to carry us away. I slept with my daughter, hoping that if a grizzly slashed through the canvas, it wouldn’t get her because I was forming a protective spoon of yummier mommy meat around her. My husband slept with the dogs. At one point during the night, I said,
“WHAT was THAT?!” as something shook our camper.
My husband groggily responded, “Just a bear, go to sleep.”
I couldn’t tell if he was joking.
Needless to say, I was sleep deprived and in a bit of pain. My boot collected more souvenirs than my daughter, on that trip. She did manage to leave some of her own souvenirs in the middle of Yellowstone National Park though. They looked like deer poo, so we left them for the next tourist to examine. We had a few good moments like seeing a giant billboard advertising the upcoming Testicle Festival, but it really wasn’t a pleasure cruise. My boot was a nasty shade of green and my left lower leg was an atrophied like a room temperature stick of butter. Somehow we stubbornly made it to WA, visited friends and family, and promptly turned around with our still saturated camper and started back home.
We were so close to Colorado, I could taste the thin air and patchouli. When we couldn’t drive any further, we admitted defeat and stayed at a motel in Twin Falls, ID. It was a motel 6. I was terrified to actually lay my little baby down on that bed. I pictured tweakers cooking meth. I pictured hookers, hooking. I pictured serial killers, killing. I pictured lice jumping into our hair. I pictured bed bugs sucking our blood. I laid down a sleeping bag, coats, and spare clothes just to protect her from all the nastiness that bed had likely seen. I even forced my labrador to get up on the sleeping bag, because I assumed that whatever might be on the bed – the floor was probably ten times worse. One of the dogs woke us to relieve himself at 3A.M., so we decided to relieve ourselves of the Motel 6. We had enjoyed a good three hours of sleep. As my husband started driving, my daughter and I quickly fell back asleep. We drooled and dreamed. The dogs drooled and dreamed. My husband drove on, a symphony of snores playing in his ears.
We woke up at sunrise. My husband looked a bit delirious, like he was in desperate need of drooling and dreaming. I asked him if he was okay. He replied, and I will never forget his reply. Never. Ever.
“I was so tired about an hour ago, I had to start pinching my own nipples really hard to stay awake.”
I wonder if that’s what the truck drivers do.
I usually prefer happy vacations in my bubble but I am slowly learning that happiness can’t be forced (dammit). I love beaches. I love visiting friends. But I have learned, that traveling with a family may compromise the semipermeable walls of your bubble. After all, they aren’t made of steel. The walls, I mean. Actually, the family, too. If we all want to maintain our thin grasp on sanity, we need to keep those drives to a three-hour maximum. And give my husband a break from driving. No one should have to pinch their own nipples to maintain consciousness.