I have enough anecdotes to use for my Adventures in Travel/Thumb Drives series to fill several blog posts. Unfortunately, I keep collecting them. I’m not sure I’ll ever catch up (probably not, considering I am a habitual project starter, but few time project finisher).
We were supposed to get on the road Saturday, but after two nights of next to no sleep (thanks to the incredible amount of work that goes into throwing a two-day unforgettable wedding party that will be talked about for generations to come), I knew driving Saturday afternoon would not be the most brilliant move I could make. That, and the fact that we decided since we only ever get together as an entire family now for weddings and funerals (and really just weddings because not everybody made it to the funeral), we decided to take advantage and have a family picture taken that morning. The last complete family pictures we took were ten years ago. My best friend from third grade takes some awesome pictures, and she took some for us after my mom’s funeral a couple of years ago, but those only included the seven siblings… not their spouses and offspring (because they weren’t all there… yeah, I’m looking at you “But we live in Hawaii, and it’s so expensive to travel to the mainland. You guys should just come here.”) We also didn’t want the family portrait to be a wedding portrait (or we’d have used something from the preceding days); one person is inevitably the centerpiece that way, and that one person isn’t me, so why even bother?
I digress. I could barely get myself moving and dressed before the twelve o’clock photo sitting, let alone get the car packed, the road snacks prepped, and the boys ready to depart by one (our absolute latest target time to be on the road). So, I decided for the sake of safety, and because I really like nothing better than sleep family, I would stay one more day and depart first thing Sunday. And by first thing Sunday, I mean one o’clock in the afternoon at the absolute latest. Or one-thirty.
The boys and I were making great time. The air conditioner was keeping the cabin frigid for the human types, and tolerable for those types that think wearing a fur coat in June is fashionable (really boys? I’ll bet you even wear white paws after Labor Day, too, don’t you?).
The sign said: Rawlins 71. A quick check of the digital gas gauge readout informed me that we had 76 miles left in the tank. Not quite enough, in my opinion, to push it all the way to Rawlins, but certainly enough to get us to one of the nearest towns outside of Rawlins with no stress. It was about this time that I realized my bladder was quite full, and I was ready to stop. Besides, remember how I stayed an extra day so I could get some rest before starting on my drive? Well, I didn’t. I went to my brother’s house instead and stayed until almost one o’clock in the morning talking with him and his wife. I desperately needed some caffeine in the form of Mountain Dew. And a restroom (did I already mention that?) I started looking for an exit with services.
We entered a long stretch of construction (I-80) where both directions of traffic are sharing the road. No problem. We slowed down because fines double in construction zones I am a conscientious driver, and because everyone else did. I watched the digital readout. It said 45 miles to empty. I was pretty certain we hadn’t already traveled 30 miles, but at this stage, all I was thinking was “Must. Go. Potty.” Two miles later, it said 31 miles to empty. Odd. At this point the low fuel indicator light illuminated. I wasn’t worried. I checked the navigation system for the nearest gas station. We hadn’t passed one in quite some time. The nearest one was 12 miles ahead. We’d make that easily. I knew from experience (lots and lots and lots of experience) that the low fuel indicator light usually illuminated between 30 and 35 miles remaining.
The construction zone ended, and we were back on the two-lane highway. Ten miles later, the car sputtered and we coasted to a stop on the side of the freeway. The GPS said 2.5 miles to the gas station. Worse, I could see the gas station. It was a Love’s. The green and red prices mocked me with their bright glow… just far enough in the distance that I couldn’t see how much diesel and super unleaded fuel cost. If I hadn’t needed to pee so badly, I might have thought about taking a picture for the blog… just so you could see how irritatingly close and still just a little too far away the gas station was. If I’d been by myself, I might have just walked there and back. But I have the boys. And I’m not about to leave them. Ever. Nor could I have managed them and a full fuel can on the return trip across four lanes of busy interstate.
The outside temperature was over 93 degrees. I rolled the windows down to try to keep the boys from suffocating. I gave them each a bowl of water. Marty decided it would be a good time to bark at everything driving by. Luckily, my car came with a year of free roadside assistance (or something. I should really check the details of that agreement). I just had to find the number somewhere in the pages of my owner’s manual. I checked my cell phone. No service. Why was I not surprised? (I’ll tell you why I was not surprised… Sprint is my service provider. I live just outside of Kansas City (well, temporarily anyway), the home to Sprint PCS Headquarters, and I can’t get cellular phone service in my own house, or just outside my house. Or in the neighborhood leading to my house. Seriously. So why would I expect to see any bars of service along a major interstate in the year 2012?) I switched the settings to “Voice Roaming” and placed my call. I wonder how much that is going to cost me. They were able to dispatch someone to help me immediately.
Not immediately enough for my aching bladder, though. I accidentally departed Florida last December and left my “she-nis” or Feminine Urinary Device (greatest. invention. ever.) packed in my deployment box. Why I didn’t think to travel with it is something I have no hope of ever trying to explain. It usually goes everywhere with me. I’ve seen some stuff. It comes in handy on road trips when you are forced to use some pretty shady restrooms. It comes in handy in airports when you are forced to use some pretty shady restrooms. Or at Walmart. Or in Istanbul when all you have is a dirty hole in the ground. It comes in handy on airplanes when you go into the lavatory following a six-year-old boy during turbulence. Or in Afghanistan when you are stuck for hours in an overwatch position with neither a tree nor bush anywhere to be found. It would definitely come in handy when stranded on the side of the road surrounded by nothing but open fields and cars whipping past at regular intervals making squatting impossible. Or when you have an empty bottle in the car, but the wrong genetic plumbing to take advantage of said bottle’s existence. Yeah, I definitely messed up there.
When my Conoco hero arrived, he poured 3.96 gallons of fuel into my car… a total of $15.00… which apparently wasn’t covered by my roadside assistance. We agreed that I would follow him to the station and replace the 3.96 gallons in his gas can to even out the score. As for the slightly less than four gallons of fuel he added… I checked my digital readout after he added them… apparently I could have driven 150 miles. Crazy considering I only average about 21.5 on the highway. I think I need to have my gauge checked.
The pumps at the Conoco run 24/7, but the station itself was closed. You know what that means… no restrooms! It was beyond funny at this point. That meant I had to drive under the freeway to the Love’s station that had so taunted me earlier for both the restroom and the Mountain Dew. There has only ever been one other time when I had to go worse. It was ten years ago, driving up to San Francisco following a class picnic in Monterey to go out to Alcatraz Island. We couldn’t find a parking space, (heck, we couldn’t even find the right pier… had to call the original directory assistance/GPS – my dad, who could give directions to anywhere from anywhere in almost any major U.S. city, and frequently did) and I could feel every single seam in the road, each and every tiny pebble the tires crushed. It took all my focus and effort not to wet myself (which would have been embarrassing because I was with my boyfriend at the time, and also because I wasn’t a two-year-old in diapers). I think I was also not very nice to him while he tried to find a place to park that might put me anywhere in the same zip code as a restroom. For that I am still sorry. But I really thought I was going to expel urine with such force that it might have pushed me through the sunroof. It wouldn’t have been pretty. I could think of nothing (including common courtesy); just the need for relief, and it took ALL my energy. Sometimes when my physical needs get overwhelming (lack of food, need of restroom), I turn into kind of a jerk. Like Mr. Hyde. But more like if Mr. Hyde were actually a hormonal she-dragon awakened from hibernation (do dragons hibernate?), starving, in need of a toilet, and required to do battle with some stupid knight looking for a damsel in distress before doing anything else. Not pretty.
We got the fuel, the Dew, and the sweet, sweet relief of a restroom, and continued on to the next stop. Followed by the next… which was actually a hotel for the night. The North Platte, Nebraska La Quinta is newly remodeled and SUPER nice. Not like the Cheyenne, Wyoming La Quinta… Yikes! The boys were tired. I was tired. I’m pretty sure we were the last people to check in that
night morning, so the boys didn’t start barking at noises until people started to get up for breakfast. Unfortunately, about two hours after I fell asleep, I woke up, and I was sick, sick, sick.
I am not sure what did it. It could have been the excessive fruit I consumed (so many apples trying to stave off the sleepies; and a cup and a half of grapes with Pringles), or it could have been the two-day-old sandwiches left over from my sister’s wedding reception where they’d sat out all night (most likely), or it could have been the sugar snap peas that looked like they may have been on their way out, or it could have been the sandwich I made that morning (from condiments in my father’s fridge that probably expired 3 or 4 years ago, but my dad is a big believer in “waste not, want not” and thinks most expiration dates are arbitrary… and that anything will last forever in a freezer). It could also have been an alien baby. It didn’t matter what it originally was… it was now wholly unrecognizable and tearing me up on the inside trying to force its way out. And it meant I could not eat anything from my cooler for the rest of the drive home. Because I didn’t trust it. And because the last thing I wanted was to consume anything solid.
The boys woke up ready to go outside as usual first thing in the morning. I dragged my zombie sick self down to the lobby to take them out one at a time. I had no strength and no energy. If they’d wanted to make a break for it, they totally could have. Checkout wasn’t until noon, so I put the boys back to sleep on their blankets, and face planted on the bed. Only to get up and go to the bathroom to be sick again.
I remembered there was a vending machine from my last trip through, so I stumbled down the hall to find it. It wasn’t even plugged in. I went down to the second floor. Out of order. I found the one on the first floor. Huzzah! It was running. I put the change in the machine and pressed H1 for my Coca Cola Classic selection (Note: NOTHING works better on an upset stomach than Coke syrup. I like it by itself without all that nasty carbonated water diluting it, but I’m not in the habit of carrying it around, and it just isn’t as easy to come by as a bottle of Coke. You can usually find it at your local pharmacy if you ask. My niece likes to pour a tablespoon on ice cubes and eat those. I’ll take it straight because I like to live on the edge like that.). Where was I? Oh yes, H1. And then it happened. The light started blinking “Please Make Another Selection.” Um, no. I want a regular Coke! I don’t want another selection. I tried again. H1. “Please Make Another Selection.” I crawled to the front desk and asked if there was anywhere else on the premises that I could get a Coke. She asked if the vending machine said to make another selection. I said it did. She informed me that it meant the machine was sold out. And yet, there was the example bottle right there… just out of reach. The next nearest Coke was at a gas station across the street. Not happening. Now, dejected and sick, I dragged my poor body back to my room and collapsed for the next three hours.
At noon, and not a moment before, I collected our belongings and shuffled with the boys down to the car (where they finally got breakfast, and Marty got drugged). I asked Joe if he would drive, and he just looked at me, and hopped in his crate. I guess that was his way of saying no. Marty had just taken Dramamine and was about thirty seconds from passing out for the next six hours, so I didn’t think he’d be a safe option behind the wheel.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful… apart from frequent fuel and restroom stops… we couldn’t take any more chances.
At long last we arrived home, where the boys and I are still attempting to recover.