Friends, a lot happens on a two-month road trip and as I look back, there are so many tantrums, moments of frustration, periods of sheer joy, and hilarity that didn’t make it into the blog. Here’s a look back at some of the things that didn’t get their day of internet fame:
The lamp and the weights
As we packed for the trip, Monica selected a small lamp with lampshade. She explained that having good light in the tent would make a big difference. And she’s right. Headlamps, lanterns and flashlights don’t always offer the best light. In our trips throughout Florida we always had electricity, so plugging in a lamp seemed like an idea so smart, a millennial would call it a “hack.” But on our cross-country trip, we only had electricity once – and I forgot to pack an extension cord. Doh!
The other amusing items was a pair of 8 lb. hand weights. These never moved from their little corner of the van. In fact, when we arrived home, I left them where they were. I’m just trying to see how long they’ll continue to ride around, adding 16 lbs to our cargo.
“We’re never going to see these people again.”
I lost count of the number of times Monica said these words. They were usually followed by the removal of clothing, a public act of personal hygiene, or a bodily function. Whether Monica was having a tent-side sponge-bath, I was throwing up in a parking lot in Nevada City, or our daughter was wearing her shoes on the wrong feet – we got used to ignoring the gaze of other people. In general, we managed to be civilized when it mattered most, but there were some other times when the Neanderthal in our DNA came out.
We had almost this entire canyon in Oklahoma to ourselves. The showers left something to be desired, so Monica threw caution – and her clothes – to the wind.
You don’t like these clothes? Too bad.
Packing clothing for a two month road trip is tricky. We had to prepare for all types of weather and situations. Add to that, the fact that laundry facilities were going to be few and far between, the clothing needed to be able to handle a few gentle uses between washes. For me, this meant long stretches of the summer without an iron – and I hate wrinkles. For Monica, it caused issues when she loaded up on ‘shoulderless’* shirts, but didn’t pack a strapless brazier. I think the only appearance by these shirts was in Missoula where bras seemed optional anyway.
*official fashion terminology
They say it’s all about layering. When it came to sleepwear, Monica demonstrated layering at its extremes – at one point wearing almost everything in her suitcase, and at others, almost nothing (muttering, “We’ll never see these people again.”)
Tantrums. Performed frequently by children, occasionally by adults. There was the time our daughter pitched a fit about the distance from our campsite to the trailhead for a hike… we didn’t even get to the hike. We finally stopped using the term “hike” altogether. There were times when we’d “take a little walk” and she’d get suspicious and ask, “Is this a hike?”
The “free breakfasts.” As an economics student in college, we learned the phrase, “There is no free lunch.” On this trip, I learned that this is also no free breakfast. Aside from a machine that takes quarters and vibrates the bed, Monica requires that a hotel feature free breakfast. No need to spend $40 every morning. In Asheville, the Hyatt Place offered a fine meal where our son ate his own weight in bacon. Protein!
On the flip side, there’s an outfit called “Carbon’s Golden Malted” that peddles a Belgian waffle iron and batter dispenser set-up found in hotel chains nationwide. I had very bad things to say about the tasteless waffles they produce – until just the other day, when I had a decent waffle in a St. Augustine Best Western. I can only assume that some of their less honest customers are not buying the manufacturers recommended batter. I mean – this is surely where the good folks at Carbon’s make their money. “Free waffle iron if you buy our batter.” I’d almost written off the motor-lodge waffle.
The more we look back on the trip, memories of the good times get rosier, and the stressful times get foggier. I don’t look at pictures of our rafting trip down the Merced River in Yosemite and think about the 2 hour search for parking. I don’t think of how our trip almost fell apart in Santa Fe. Ok, I just did think of those things, but they weren’t the first things that came to mind. I also remember how bizarrely well-behaved the kids were at the Avett Brothers Concert outside Portland and the funny make-believe adventures they created while splashing in the creek in the Great Smoky Mountains. This is why, despite the challenges I’ve faced in my health, we can’t just sit at home where it’s always easy and safe. Besides, even if an activity goes poorly, and the family creates a scene as it melts down in spectacular fashion, we’ll never see those people again.
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“Don’t make me turn this van around” is written by Jonathan Kile, and approved by Monica Kile. Check out Jon’s periodic column, “So How’s That New Book Coming?” at Creative Loafing – Tampa. His 2014 thriller, The Grandfather Clock, is available free for Kindle on Amazon.com and other eReaders at Smashwords. Reach him at email@example.com. Monica is a freelance grant writer, non-profit consultant, tour guide, and connoisseur of 70s rock lyrics.