Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tales from the Road

As the year 2010 comes to an end, I can't help but think back to the two round trips Lisa and I made to Colorado in late August.

Driving there the first time, taking Kate to school (see previous post) was fun. Everyone was excited, full of optimism. We spent the night in Park City, Utah, at a Marriott  Resort literally steps away from a chairlift. Summer price? $140/night for a room that had to be at least 1500 square feet. Just for fun, we looked up the December price for the same room ... $950 + tax. Yikes. Got on the road the next morning and marveled at the change in scenery. Hours (and hours and hours) later, got to Greeley and the nightmare ... um ... magic (again, see previous post) began.

On the way home several days later, the trip had a much more sad, somber mood. We had just left a tearful Kate and decided to drive straight through. It's amazing how fast you can go in Wyoming when no one's around! Got to where we could hit a rest stop or do a fast food drive-thru in less than two minutes. Eating in the car is an acquired skill, one at which we now excel!

Roughly two weeks later, after learning about Kate's feelings towards her new school, we decided to drive back and get her. This time, the mood took on a rescue mission vibe. We enlisted the help of Kate's dear friend, Jackie, to go with us. Family friend Shannon baked us cookies, we stocked up on water and off we went ... leaving around 1 in the afternoon with the intention of arriving at Kate's dorm between 8 and 9 a.m. the next morning. Mission Impossible: Greeley.

This is the segment of the trip that I most remember ... for all kinds of wacky reasons.

Somewhere near the Idaho/Utah border, Lisa suddenly realized we were very very low on gas. Late at night, in the middle of nowhere, frantically fiddling with the navigation system to find something — anything — in the area. Finally did, and not a minute — or mile — too soon. The best part? Here, at this gas station time forgot, at well-past midnight, there were two huge tables out front selling flip flops, slippers and other "gift items."

In the dead of night, with Lisa asleep in the passenger seat, Jackie asleep in the back and me at the wheel, we came around a huge hairpin onramp turn, where I-80 becomes I-84. At the bottom of the turn, in the middle of the road ... one big-ass deer. I swerved to the left, hit the brakes and did a quick prayer. The van stopped, literally, a foot or two from the deer, who gave us a good stare, then ran off. Stopped hard enough to wake Lisa up and toss Jackie around in the back. If that doesn't get your heart pumping, nothing will! No sleep for me the rest of the night! 

We saw thunderstorms and prairie dogs, big mountains and big rigs. And when we rolled into Greeley at 9 a.m. on the dot, this phase of the drive was over.

Then, after picking up Kate, emptying her dorm room, withdrawing from school and having a series of unpleasant "chats" with the swim coach and athletic director, we were off for home. Tense, but happy. Knowing deep down that we did the right thing. And the one stop we'll never forget? "Little America," somewhere in the middle of Wyoming. To call it a super-sized truck stop is not nearly enough. This place was a small city unto itself. Cafe. Restaurant. Grocery store. Souvenirs. Playground. Hotel. Gas. Car wash. Bathrooms. You name it, Little America had it. We enjoyed lunch, 50 cent cones (one of the services they tout!) and a visit to the restroom. In the middle of nowhere, it was nice just to be out of the car for an hour. 

Yes, that's a trip I will never forget. And one I hope to never repeat! Here's to a healthy, happy and amazing 2011, wherever the road may take you!

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