A year ago today, My husband Mike and I left Redding on a cross-country trip; we planned too many places to visit and I got a crash course on American geography. (“Yes, Erin, there is a Santa Fe” and “No, Erin, New Orleans is not close to Nashville.”) I liked that travelogue: it was fun to write and I had lots of down time to do it.  I wanted to publish it on anewscafe, an online journal that I admire but it seems that my verbose and meandering style is more suited to blogging.  If there’s a way to archive this travelogue on my blog for posterity, I haven’t figured it out.  So I thought I would pull excerpts from last year’s journey and comment upon them (or let them stand on their own merit) on the corresponding day this year.  This, of course, means I’m recycling old work, but I will be interspersing posts with new material.  And I will be working on that novel…  Really.

10/2/12: Orem, Utah

Hard to believe that at 6:30 on Monday night (10/1) we left Redding and today we are in Utah and starting our cross-country, family visiting, genealogy exploring, 37-38 day trip.

The “Plan” was to leave early on 10/2 and do the long haul to Utah in one day. While I was packing I noticed Mike removing the pillows from our bed and bringing in the cooler from the garage; this was my first hint that we were leaving sooner. In the interest of full disclosure I should say that I wasn’t really packing; my dear friend Sally Burnham was packing for me. Sally claims that I’m the worst folder she has ever met and that I completely miss the part about packing where you flatten the clothes and make them smaller not larger before putting them in the suitcase.

So at 6:30 PM (a full 12 hours earlier than I had planned), Mike and I left Redding on a “Road Trip.”

While the term “road trip” conjures images from 20-something movies for some people, it takes me back to family vacations from Maryland to visit relatives. Pretty much every summer, my parents would wake up their four children in the middle of the night, pile us into a large American-made vehicle (okay, a Ford) and take off for Michigan. I remember pillows on the floor of the back seat that Noni, the youngest, slept on. I think I was down there sometimes, too (those were big cars). Rick and Mike, my brothers, were somewhere else—maybe on the back seat, maybe in the 3rdseat (facing backwards) of a station wagon we had for several years (I learned to drive in it). Mom gave Noni and me a Dramamine and we crashed. We stopped in Hagerstown, PA, for breakfast; I didn’t eat, just stared into bleary space until I could climb into the back seat and sleep again. Sometime in the afternoon we would stop for a quick lunch at a Howard Johnson’s on the Ohio Turnpike. My dad was a proponent of “making time,” always striving for a personal best… After lunch, more Dramamine, sleep and arrival at my Aunt Madeline’s around 5 PM. I often woke up in her driveway—no wonder I thought it took 3 hours to get from Maryland to Michigan until I was an adult and made the 10 hour trip myself.

A few words about Howard Johnson’s: Noni and I loved Howard Johnson’s. I always ate the same thing—a hot dog that came in a stiff paper holder with part of a toasted bun cut off. I considered this to be the height of fine dining. But the real draw was the vending machine in the ladies room. Noni and I would save our quarters and choose carefully from the various items that could be had for 25 cents. Over the years we purchased tiny manicure sets (so dull that even the TSA would let them through security screening), lovely plastic rain bonnets, miniature flashlights, “imported” perfume, key chains, small (and fragile) stuffed animals, and coin purses.

I’m pretty sure this road trip will be different, even though the 10 hour haul from Sparks, NV, to Provo, Utah, is reminiscent of Dad’s three stops a day—at most—approach to family vacations. For one thing, Mike and I will not engage in silent battles over space, usually the arm rest. My brother and I would push grimly against each other’s arms, in a no-win contest for dominion of the back seat. Even though we were completely quiet, my little sister (a notorious puker wedged in the front seat between my parents) would rat on us and bring down the “don’t make me stop this car” threat. I was happy when she outgrew her car sickness and was relegated to the back seat. Of course her memories are different and include big fat lies about me singing “Red Rubber Ball” (an unappreciated classic) all the way to Michigan.

The Nevada-Eastern Utah segment of our journey will not be represented in any photos—incredibly ugly terrain– enough said. The highlight? We stopped at a casino in Winnemucca to use the rest rooms and I put a dollar I found in my pocket in a machine I thought was video poker (that’s what the sign said); I pushed a button and the machine went crazy. When all the binging stopped the number 2010 flashed from the left corner. For one heady moment I thought I won over $2000. Since this turned out to be a penny machine (this was not a high end casino), I netted $20.10. I consider that my mad money to be spent on something foolish and fun.  Mike played a dollar, too, and lost most of it in 5 seconds.