Saturday, July 15, 2006

Road Trip

I took the Dotopotamus to Wichita Falls this afternoon where we met mom who took Dot on to the Last Stop for a couple of weeks while I'm in Colorado. You can see that Dot got a short hair cut for the occasion -- to thwart the stickers as much as possible! I'm going to miss that little bugger, but I feel better knowing she's having a good time with mom and the cows.

On the way back from Wichita Falls I was thinking about all of the bazillion miles we've driven over the years. I come from hearty driving stock. Mom and dad have covered some serious pavement over the years, primarily between Someplace North and Texas, and I guess their road trip fortitude has rubbed off on me.
I got to thinking about my own car trips and I've had some doozies. Each of these could be a story all by itself.

As a kid we drove from Montana to Texas and then Colorado to Texas MANY, MANY times. I primarily remember just looooooong stretches of land with little bitty towns breaking up the monotony every now and then. It was always a big deal to get to the big city of Denver (where I usually freaked out and covered my face because there was so much traffic). Then it was pretty much small towns again all the way to Eastland. I do remember that we would get pretty excited when we hit the Texas border, only to realize we had another eight hours to go. Lordy.

My damnedest road trip experience ever was one of these long drives -- Texas to Colorado -- when it was just dad and me. Blizzard conditions between Clayton and Raton were absolutely treacherous even though you could see where the sun was just above the low ceiling of the storm. I'm pretty surprised that we made it through that one unscathed. Zero visibility at some points. But dad just slowly motored through and we got to Raton okay. It was, however, incredibly scarring when I was going to the bathroom at the Texaco in Raton after this harrowing journey and my brand new diamond cocktail ring fell off my finger in to the bottom of the toilet. Let's just say that it took some serious nerves of steal to work up the guts to get that baby out.

Was it the same trip, or a different one, when dad and I hit the snow storm just outside of Colorado Springs? I fretted, twitched, shrieked, and basically panicked through most of that drive as we had to hold our hands outside the window and "snap" the iced over windshield wipers every time they came to our side, in an effort to knock some of the snow off. Hollidays never stop.

I have fun memories of mom and I making that Texas drive by ourselves, and specifically I remember BELTING out some gospel songs as we were tooling through Lubbock. It was just miles and miles of pure nothing and we were singing like we had an audience of thousands. (For the record -- the funniest road trip story EVER will always be mom and the West Texas Incident. God bless her, but that one can bring me to tears...)

One of my very favorite trips from Texas to Someplace North was a fairly recent one -- Dot and I drove to Silverthorne, and then on to Meeker, for Christmas in 2004. From northern Texas onward, it was cold. Very, very cold. I got a flat tire in Tulia, Texas in the middle of the blizzard and to this day I'm grateful to that old no-English-speaking Mexican man who fixed my tire for $5. I spent the night just over the New Mexico border and it was gorgeous, spectacularly gorgeous the next morning. Anyone who's lived in mountains and snow country will know what I'm talking about -- one of those crystal clear, sun beaming brightly, way below zero mornings when everything is covered in white and the snow is pristine and untouched and the mountains in the distance are as blue as azure. It was incredible, and the best way I can describe it is that I was very much "in the moment" and "engaged in the present". I wasn't daydreaming or sleepy. I was just very aware of the beauty and crispness and cold all around me. It was Christmas Eve day so all of the radio stations were playing Christmas carols and it was awesome. The trip back to Austin was also great because that's when I listened to Stephen King's "Dreamcatcher". That is one amazing shitweasel of a story.

The road trips from Texas to Places North, and vice versa, took other interesting twists. I have some warm memories of driving from Helena to Throckmorton with Mammaw and Pappaw and Tim one summer. Tim and I had such a good time. We saw a moose in Yellowstone Park that was right off of a picture post card. Pappaw let me drive -- that took some serious guts given that I didn't even have a learner's permit. And Mammaw tried to get Tim and me to pee in a mason jar rather than stopping -- we refused.

Then there was the infamous 60-hour Greyhound bus trip from Eastland to Helena when I was 14. What were mom and dad thinking? For the most part it was a grand adventure but the worst agony of all was having to sit next to this GIANT, sweaty Indian man who was deaf but who wanted to talk, NON-STOP. And I mean NON-STOP, too. Whether it was writing notes on his chalk board or me trying to respond to his full-blown sign language with my pitiful one-handed responses where I had to spell out each letter of each word in the sentence I was trying to say. A simple answer like, "I live in Helena" tood about 2 minutes to communicate. I L I V E I N H E L E N A. Or me having to look right at him (totally awkward) and talk slowly, using really exaggerated mouth movements after he would yell at the top of his lungs, "I WAN OO REE YUR LEEPS!" I thought I would die. That was back in the days when I was actually nice to people and never wanted to hurt anyone's feelings so I talked to that guy, who told me to call him "Chief", from Denver to some little wide spot in the road in northern Wyoming. He gave me his name and address and told me to write him letters because I was (yell) "BOOTEEFUL" and he thought I could be his (yell) "GERLFREN". Oh (yell) DEAR GOD IT WAS SO EMBARRASSING. But it was also an adventure and the first "big thing" I'd ever really done on my own. I have to laugh out loud when I think of poor Matt who, a few years later, made the same bus trip from Eastland to Helena but he had to go with Mom Jo. I love Mom Jo more than almost anyone, but I bet that trip was pure h-e-l-l.

Speaking of Matt, he and I took a road trip, driving from Denver to Helena and then to Templed Hills and back in 1984. That wasn't a very pleasant trip. Unfortunately, Matt and I didn't really get along during those years. He was always angry and belligerent and I was always knitpicking and trying to "fix" him so we were oil and water, to say the least. I was 17 and Matt was 14 so it was pretty cool that Mom and Dad let us go but often times I wistfully think about how much fun that trip could have been had we had a more loving relationship. Oh well -- there were still stories, none better than Matt showing up to Templed Hills with his face swollen to the size of a watermelon after being in a fight that I'm sure Jesse somehow started.

The summer we drove from Helena, Montana to Washington, DC to Eastland, Texas to Helena, Montana was a pretty big deal. I'm going to write about that some day so I won't say too much here other than that was one heck of a road trip complete with travel logs, a Corn Palace, scenes straight out of Chevy Chase's "Vacation", prostitutes, national treasures, a Grand Ole Opry group named Riders in the Sky, and a big southern woman shouting "Pass the bee-skeets and greye-vee daddy". Mom and Dad should win the Purple Heart of Parenting, for sure, after that road trip.

I've had so many other great road trips...

Steve and I driving to Los Angeles in 1987. If you looked in the dictionary under "tourist" you would see Steve and my picture with us grinning broadly holding a map to the stars homes in one hand and a Hollywood bumper sticker in the other. Seriously. Funny. I might write about that one some day.

My solo trip to Los Angels when I was "moving" out there was not very pleasant. I was so disengaged from reality and my mind was so "staticy" with the stress and anxiety of that HORRIBLE decision that I really don't remember too much about that long road trip, there or back. Not one of my better life choices. Live and learn.

Then there were my beloved New Orleans road trips. First with mom, then with Beth Doughty and her friends and then twice with Beth Bryant. Each of these trips were incredibly fun and I carry so many funny memories of each of those drives.

We've always been fairly lucky on our drives and I can only hope that will continue into the future because you know the Hollidays will be taking road trips for many, many years to come.

Now be quiet, we're going through Post...


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