Road trip lessons

Published 9:09 am Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Column: Angie Barker, Entertain Me

This is the second part of a two-part column. The Barkers had begun their road trip adventure:

Lesson No. 3 came at the Grand Canyon: a big hole is sometimes an even bigger hole. Technically this realization came in the hotel room the night before while I was researching our options for the following day’s adventure. I jump on the Grand Canyon Skywalk website and was surprised at the $30 price tag. Then I saw that admission to the park was an additional $43.05. (Again the cursed nickel returns.) As cool as the Skywalk looked, it wasn’t $292-cool. What did the Grand Canyon think it was? Made of gold? It’s a rock. Actually, it’s the absence of rock, a place where rock once was and now is a big hole. We went to Hoover Dam.

Angie Barker

Email newsletter signup

We decided to blow the money we saved on the Grand Canyon on a queen suite at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Lesson No. 4: spend money on what matters to you. It’s always worth it. I knew we made the right choice when I soaked my road-weary bones in our Jacuzzi tub while watching “Dirty Jobs” and eating chocolate-covered coconut cheesecake. If I could have a superpower it would be the ability to eat my way through the dessert menu at the Cheesecake Factory.

As we left Las Vegas with our “Pawn Stars” Chumlee bobble head, we decided to go to the San Diego Zoo. When at a zoo I always rate the hilarity of the animals escaping. Tigers are not funny. Monkeys are funny. Rhinos are not funny. Penguins are awesome! Lesson No. 5: read the signs, signs, everywhere there are signs. When we approached the first cage there wasn’t an animal to be found. We all instinctively stepped forward searching for movement. Then I saw the sign, “Beware: Animal marks his territory. Expect 3-5 foot sprays.” Stay classy, San Diego, and thanks for the warning.

Before we left Minnesota we thought Disneyland would be a fun destination, especially Disneyland at Christmas. What could be better than the happiest place on earth during the most wonderful time of the year? It was the perfect storm of time and place. It turned out the only thing missing was space. Lesson No. 6: hyperbole is the worst thing ever. Just hours after opening, Disneyland reached max capacity. To compensate for the massive crowd they began closing pathways to control the flow of traffic. We would elbow our way in one direction for minutes only to discover it was roped off. The mouse had made a people maze, only there wasn’t any cheese at the end. Just more people.

Road trip lesson No. 7: Technology is your best friend and your worst enemy, just like your spouse. I named our GPS unit Penelope. Penny for short, since she is always giving us her thoughts. Without her we would have been lost. Literally. Once, we decided to take a different route than Penny suggested and for a half an hour she attempted to redirect us to her idea of the proper highway. Josh and I found this so hilarious that we left it on to see how long she would keep fight us. Now, I realize that our GPS is not actually a she. It/she doesn’t have real opinions. It/she doesn’t have emotions like anger and pouting. But after that half an hour the GPS froze and had to be restarted. Penny was giving us the silent treatment.

The good news is having Penny as a common enemy brought Josh and me together. Twelve days and 5,000 miles later we were still laughing, at each other and together. Our tapas-style road trip allowed us to sample the local flavors without filling up on any one specifically. We were happy to keep moving from place to place and face to face.

Albert Lea resident Angie Zoller Barker’s column appears weekly in the Albert Lea Tribune. Email questions, recommendations, or comments to