For those of you just joining: We’re driving to and from Chicago for my cousin’s wedding. No, my other cousin. Also, there will be no weather in this narrative. The weather was fine, with only a few embarrassed clouds. For the purposes of our driving descriptions, you should feel free to fill in whatever weather you prefer. I’ll try to remind you where to fill them in, for those of you who require a little climate control in your narrative. We resume our story on Monday morning, having married off my cousin and feted the 9th Birthday of the Reigning Queen of Pink over the weekend. Wheels up.
I woke to the sound of gunfire, which I was getting used to at that point – it turns out Katy Perry was staying in our hotel, and she doesn’t limit the festivities to just Friday night. Since we needed to get up anyway, this wasn’t an altogether bad thing. We decided that the best part of the day was going to be over too soon, so we loaded the car, the kids, and Marvin the Martian and rolled out promptly – even skipping a chance to have breakfast at Tiffany’s, and when was the last time you got to do that, huh?
So we made the car go lightly down the road, spinning nature’s panoply of paintbrushes faster and faster under our tires, and made for the impending hurricane on the East Coast like a man tired of waiting on death row – not exactly thrilled with the destination, but ready to be done already. Illinois quickly became Indiana, which gradually became Ohio. Mind you, it would have become Ohio much faster had SOBUMD not taken a well-deserved nap while I drove us a good way toward Canada. Luckily she’s a light sleeper and woke up before we crossed the border, steering me back toward the heartland.
Not wanting to miss a chance to hear Katy Perry, we kept spinning the radio dial as one station would fade out and another fade in. Local radio is a little more local in the heartland. Lost dogs were described with their breed and the date and location where they were found; the report ended with “and Bob, ol’ Roscoe got out again, Mavis says come get him before she sells him to them girls from Sturgis who thought he was so cute.”
There being nothing like revisiting our misspent youth, we stopped for lunch at an Eat-n-Park in Nowhere, Ohio, which is just outside Youngstown. The waitress obviously interned at an Olive Garden, because she stopped at every table with a baby, picked them up, and passed them around. It was adorable, in a small, round, and talcum-powered kind of way. Eat-n-Park has retired Sparkle, their
evil Eat-n-Park star former mascot, and seems to have re-imagined their smiley-faced cookie as the Silver Surfer – a little freaky, really. The food is just like I remember it, sad to say.
We continued to roll through Ohio for the several hours one does that. Eventually, following one of the many “What state are we in?” queries, Number One Son piped up. “You know, this nation is e-mother-effing-normous. And so’s Ohio.” Can’t argue with him there.
Another thing you’ll notice driving across America that’s less obvious when flying the the country’s fascination with phallic symbols. Sure, the airport has an air traffic control tower that’s straight up with a knob on the top, but have you seen the grain silos we use? Tell me you don’t think about the Washington Monument when you see those. Is it just me?
And then there’s the Turnpike. Taking the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a joy. There are signed every few miles stating “Fines higher in work zones,” by which they mean the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The whole damn thing. The view is also an issue – it was so boring that I fell asleep and had to have SOBUMD drive it. Luckily, she was able to stay awake by listening to the radio, which was playing Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night.
But Pennsylvania does roll into Maryland, and the sun does set faster on trips going East, and in the fullness of time we reached the
construction zone fun ride that is the US Capitol Beltway. Just as we turned off I-270 and went to merge onto the Beltway, I spotted the sign: “You must be at least this tall to ride this ride.” The Reigning Queen of Pink was again disappointed with the height restrictions. SOBUMD did the dodging and weaving needed to make the trip safe and fun, and we approached the final exit – our exit – at 75 mhp in heavy traffic. We passed the penultimate off-ramp, only then seeing the newest sign for the ride: “Your Road Westbound Exit Closed 9pm – 5am”
After driving 13 hours, we’d missed the chance at our exit by 5 minutes.
As we navigated an alternate route, there was plenty of time for blamestorming. SOBUMD decided those 5 minutes were spent with me trying to drive to Canada. I maintained that those 5 minutes were actually consumed by our carrying the extra weight of Marvin the Martian slowing down the car. By the time we got home, we had decided that it was probably Katy Perry’s fault.
The car was unloaded, the cats were out of their mind with joy at seeing us, and the next day the earth shook. Again, sorry about that.
So congratulations to my Cousin Drew and my new Cousin Rachel, great partners in crime! It was a great trip made all the better for meeting new family, seeing old family, and rolling through the heartland with both.
Thank you all for helping us get there and, once again, back again. Rock on.