Oh you. Look at you. You look different. Did you do something with your hair? Is that a new mask? I’ve missed you. I’ve spent the past few weeks gathering blog-worthy content as I trekked cross-country once again. This time, I drove from Oregon to New Jersey to try to convince my parents that homeownership is all a massive ploy to turn carefree joy into anus-puckering fear.
Driving 2,798 (x 2) miles -not counting the extra seven miles inevitably driven trying to find the DAMN entrance to the DAMN truck stop like seriously you put it THERE?- always comes with certain, ah, learning opportunities, and this particular trip was no exception.
Lesson #1 – You Can’t Build Dreams on a House of
On the return trip to Oregon, I planned to stop in Iowa to
drink beer table a vegan market with my Business Partner Extraordinaire, Robin.
“I think I’m going to buy a canopy,” Robin texted while I was still in New Jersey. “It looks like it’s going to be hot.” Babs caught wind of this text and said,
“I think we have one. We tried to gather all of the pieces after the flood and put them here.” She guided me towards a large Tupperware bin now nestled in my parents’ shed.
I spread out all of the parts on their lawn, hoping nothing was missing. If I can make this work, it’ll save us a ton of money. I was in charge of our business budget and I took my role very seriously.
I soon discovered that a critical corner piece was missing, but, no matter, that’s what duct tape was for. Babs and I spent a solid half hour wrestling the world’s cheapest canopy together, and, once it was precariously perched in all of its DIY glory, I triumphantly snapped a photo for Robin.
“The only issue,” I wrote. “Is that we’re going to be on concrete, so we can’t stake it into the ground.” No way was I buying bags of sand or kitty litter that would cost more than the tent itself. I took the canopy apart and organized all of the pieces, loading them into my trunk for the long haul from New Jersey to Iowa a few days later.
When event time rolled around, it was nearly 90 degrees and sunny. “Thank god we have this tent!” we declared. And then, as though on cue, a huge gust of wind rattled through Des Moines. We sprawled our arms out, octopus-style, grabbing hold of tent corners and merchandise.
“Well,” I said. “I guess we’ll both just have to stay here at all times to make sure it doesn’t blow away!”
Ninety minutes later, I let my guard down for seven seconds to guzzle a gallon of much-needed water. Mother Nature -that fickle mistress- seized the opportunity and let loose her most massive fart yet.
We got lucky. And by that I mean our NJ sourced flying projectile didn’t impale any passersby.
Lesson #2 – When You Assume, You Make an “Ass” out of “U” and “Me” Latte
While in Iowa, I stayed in a tiny
one zero-light town. I was surprised to find a modern coffee shop right around the corner called The Daily Grind. Better still, I could order my beloved oat milk latte online! Score!
I begrudgingly paid the extra service fee for the privilege of pulling up to the coffee shop and skipping the line. I forgot where I was, and that there wouldn’t actually be a line. In fact, there was only one other car in the lot when I arrived. I parked next to my fellow java drinker, and as I got out of my car, a woman came out of the coffee shop holding her cup, hopping into the driver’s seat of the neighboring car.
A moment later, a second woman came out of the shop. She was wearing a black hoodie and also holding a large cup. She smiled directly at me as she approached.
“Oh, wow, you bring it out, too!” I exclaimed, beaming at the woman. “That is so awesome!”
She tilted her head and pointed to the other car.
“Um. No. This is me,” she said as she opened the passenger door and climbed in to join her friend.
Lesson #3 – Never Make Eye Contact
As you’ve probably gathered from Lessons 1-2, I only enjoy spending money on things with calories, which means when it comes to booking roadside lodging, I’m often wrestling between, “Do I spend an extra $50 to reduce the likelihood of finding pubic hair on the plastic cups in the bathroom?” and “Can’t I tolerate anything for just one night?”
Unfortunately, there’s a pocket of hell just east of Chicago -at least for single female travelers with a spoiled, senior Labradoodle- which always has me choosing the same Motel 6 with a sticker price so questionable it’s a wonder I’m still alive.
On my return trip to Oregon, I pulled up to my (un)trusty Motel 6, wondering if it could possibly be any worse than the last time I’d laid my weary eyes upon it. Stepping out of my dusty Subaru, in two day old clothes, sporting unwashed hair and a formidable scowl beneath my wrinkled mask, I tried not to step too close to the patch of grass littered with cans, broken bottles, and cigarette butts. An overweight, middle-aged gentleman in a stained gray t-shirt caught my eye.
He was chain-smoking near the front door and grinned.
“Not much to do in this town is there?”
“Yeah, guess not,” I muttered, charging towards the entrance.
Later, as I filled my ice bucket -utterly shocked it wasn’t bearing a tattered “OUT OF ORDER” sign- I heard the same voice from behind. Stale cigarette stench hit my nostrils as he drawled,
“If you’re bored later, I’m down the hall.”
I darted back into my room without acknowledging him, wondering if it was smart to let him see which room I went into.
“Pretty sure I just got propositioned by a man who definitely goes by Bubba,” I texted to my girlfriends, detailing his advances. “Are these still the sweet nothings a lady of the night can expect?”
Any lessons from the road you care to share?