Road TripsPublished 9:06am Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Column: Angie Barker, Entertain Me
This is the first part of a two-part column.
My husband’s family are road trippers. Vacations were planned with an atlas and a Best Western catalogue. My father-in-law, Garth, loved the open road. Riding with him was a quiet affair broken only by the occasional chatter of public radio. I was unaware of his intentionally unspoken rule of silent cruising when I went on my first trip with them. I thought I hit the jackpot when my mother-in-law and sister-in-law quickly volunteered to ride in the second car with two toddlers. S-U-C-K-E-R-S!
Then I paused.
Not one toddler, but two toddlers. Volunteering to ride with young kids in a car was like jumping on a grenade, which could only mean that I was riding shotgun with something worse than a grenade. I clicked in the seatbelt hoping the safety harness restraint was going to be all the protection I needed. I don’t think I would describe anyone in the Barker family as chatty, but I’m not sure Garth and I spoke…for 18 hours. Eighteen hours was a lot of quiet even for a Barker, but for an avid reader and a self-imposed mute it was pure bliss. We knew in the first hour that we had found our road trip soul mate in each other, but of course, we didn’t say it out loud.
Finding the people you can road trip with is essential. It’s not the vacation for everyone. In fact, I think it’s not for most people. I’m not talking about a weekend jaunt to Duluth or a holiday in Des Moines. I am talking about a full-on multi-state, stamina-draining, how-could-I-possibly-have-married/be related-to-this-person trek. It takes a certain mindset to fully embrace the road trip experience. They are physically demanding on the old body and sometimes the mind. They take patience and the ability to easily forgive when the patience runs nil. Most importantly, it takes the grace to crack the window for someone else’s fart without adding commentary
This past September Josh and I celebrated our 10th anniversary. While enjoying a romantic, hideaway dinner, Josh gives me my gift: a vacation to the destination of my choosing. Immediately my Type A personality emerged and demanded the guidelines for choosing. Length? Climate? Price? Before dessert was served we knew it would be over the holiday break, and I had a mental list of exotic destinations started. In my first minutes of research I learned lesson No. 1: vacations double in price the week between Christmas and New Years. Ouch. I couldn’t justify the increased cost. When I told Josh that we would have to postpone until summer, he suggested we go on a road trip.
This was when I learned lesson No. 2: road trips are the easiest vacations to plan. Step 1: Pick a direction. Step 2: Get gas. Rinse and repeat.
We didn’t pick a specific destination other than warm, which meant south. The goal was to get out of the snow ASAP. Kansas had little to no snow, but the temperature was still jacket-wearing cold. As we continued south we learned lesson three: tolls suck. Thank you, Minnesota, for spoiling me with free roads and driving uninterrupted by tiny booths that demand random change amounts. A dollar forty is not an acceptable fee. I’m talking to you, Oklahoma. If I had a nickel for every toll we over paid at…then I would have had exact change and not overpaid.
Our first real destination was the Four Corners Monument. This is where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona meet. At first New Mexico reminds me of North Dakota, despite my never having been to North Dakota. I hear not being there is almost the same as being there, so I figure I know what I’m talking about. It’s flat and surrounded by more flat. But as we travel west the landscape starts to roll and then jut and finally explode into real beauty. I realize the horrible mistake I’ve made. Clearly with its dull eastern half and amazing western counterpart, it’s much more southern than northern Dakota. Right state, wrong direction.
To be continued…
Albert Lea resident Angie Zoller Barker’s column appears weekly in the Albert Lea Tribune. Email questions, recommendations, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.