Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Go West Middle Aged Woman!!

O. M. G. Ten hours of sleep!! That literally hasn’t happened in years for me. Most of the times sleep is an elusive sprite, out of reach, hovering on the edge of my exhausted consciousness, taunting me, whispering ‘nanny-nanny-boo-boo you can’t have me’ as I toss and turn in bed. The reason for this glorious somnolence is simple, I am on vacation.

Nothing beats a good vacation, and by good, I mean memorable which, in retrospect does not always equal good in the popular sense of the word.

One such vacation was a road trip out west with my two daughters, one sixteen and therefore miserable and one five months pregnant and therefore miserable, which was not good but had some truly unforgettable moments.

We had not been gone from home an hour when the griping started in earnest from the back seat. Food is an unbelievably relevant issue for teens and people that are building new people it turns out. Even though we had said at least ten times before leaving to make sure they ate something neither had and they were objects of abject sorrow by the time we passed Nashville. Torn between laughing at their constant stream of woe is me one-liners and the urge to tell them to JUST SHUT UP we stopped at fast food places, pulling in to St. Louis a grease stained, bloated, hot and wrinkled mess.

We had dropped a pretty penny to stay in one of St. Louis’ old hotels, the Drury Inn, right at the Arch. It was 4th of July weekend and the town was full of people from all over the USA. It turns out that they have the worlds longest (I can vouch for that) Independence Day parade and a magnificent fireworks show over the river with seating on the lawn under the arch. I learned that this part of St. Louis shuts down, absolutely and utterly when the sun goes down or the baseball game ends, whichever comes first. I learned who Dred Scott was. I learned that keeping Midwestern corn fed boys (and men) off of my two daughters was a full time job.  From our hotel room window we watched the meltdown of MCI Worldcom in the high rise next door, men and women in meetings with shredders and all the lights on at 2 AM, frantically waving their arms and apparently yelling into telephones.  St. Louis was a trial for us, and we were glad to wave good bye to it.

Corn, corn and more corn. You know you are in corn country when the sight of a dirt driveway or the silhouette of a single tree makes your heartbeat pick up a little! Lincoln Nebraska looked like a megalopolis after spending the day driving through tens of thousands of acres of corn. It was still early so we decided to Go West, assuming, being from a well populated state which is a pit stop on the way to Florida, that there would be hotels or motels we could stay at all along our route. Wrong. At ten PM we found a motel with a vacancy next to a horseracing track. The parking lot was full of cowboys and Indians, literally, waiting for the next day’s races and the room had a broken window and holes from gun fire in the bathroom wall but the AC worked and the sheets on the double beds were clean. This, as it turned out, could almost be called luxury accommodations.

The next day, sort of refreshed and ready to get to our destination, Crawford Nebraska,  we excitedly set out on the last leg of our western trek. We had been driving for what seemed like for-ev-er through the center of the state when my husband decided it was a good time for our 16 year old to practice her driving skills.

We were on a country road; she was doing 60, when a very slow moving farming type piece of equipment pulled into the roadway some distance ahead of us. He told her he wanted her to pass it, she argued, we all started chanting ‘Polly, Polly, Polly” as the rear end of the huge machine quickly began to fill up the windshield. She gunned the minivan and screamed as she pulled to the left of it, she screamed as she passed it, she screamed as she pulled back into the right hand lane. We all screamed with her, even though she did just fine. Her terror bred terror in us. When it was done, and she pulled over into the dust bowl that was the side of the road to switch places with my husband she was white and shaking and furious at us. We were laughing and proud but also not arguing about the change in drivers.

Our  vacation included a side trip to Mt. Rushmore (sadly disappointing), to the mammoth dig where they discovered a (SURPRISE) mammoth and have preserved the dig site, very cool and educational, to the wood working museum of some phenomenal artist who’s name I have shamefully forgotten and a drive by the still under construction Crazy Horse monument. Our Nebraska trip ended with a little rodeo, held at Fort Robinson where we were staying. How wonderful it was to watch the cowboys and girls! The children all oohed and aaahed and pointed and squealed when a bucking bronco went a little too crazy needing a cowboy hero with a lasso (really! A real lasso!) to ride out and reign him in.

We had huge bison grazing just across the two lane macadam in the mornings and hares playing in the twilit evenings on the lawn in front of our barracks. Long evenings were spent on the huge front porches in gentle and often hysterically funny conversation with family, reminiscing, boasting, sympathizing and crying while the kids rolled in the grass in front of us, as free and happy as the rabbits. It was a truly memorable vacation, even though I never knew there were so many shades of tan in nature and I feared I would never see a flowering tree or shrub again and Oh My God it was in the middle of absolutely NO WHERE and sleeping on a single cot-like bed in a renovated (yet, oddly, not air conditioned in July) barracks with 40 of your relatives is probably akin to some mind bending here-to-fore undisclosed experiment done on unsuspecting soldiers by the military of an evil empire.

It has been quite a while since we took a trip just for the sake of going somewhere. For the last several years vacations have been spent babysitting my grandchildren on spring breaks or hiding in my shuttered house while the anniversary of my son’s death drags ponderously through my life, upsetting everything, putting it all off balance and out of place. This time, this week, I have taken for me and me alone, to putter, to doze, to watch stupid TV and read and maybe, may-be make cookies if the desire hits. In short, this is my first time off in 3 years that is actually truly and completely a vacation, nothing more. How cool is that?