I am a road trip person from a road trip family. When I was young we’d drive coast-to-coast for family vacations, stopping at the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, Mount Rushmore, etc. We’ve driven to Mexico and Canada multiple times. We’ve traveled for weddings, funerals, and BMA conventions.
Long intense road trips are our jam.
However, I don’t think I’ve ever done a road trip quite as long or quite as intense as the one Jenny and I just completed. Our dad and brothers like to drive along speedily for hours on end, while Jenny and I tend to be more passenger-types. But this time we had to do all the driving. Our car was too jam-packed to sleep well in, so we stopped every night, which added time.
Also my car isn’t the fastest thing ever, especially full of stuff and going over mountains.
So all-in-all it was a 52-hour trip, split up over five days. (We could have spit it into four days, but who wants to arrive late at night to an apartment with no beds?)
The journey began on Tuesday, August 3, but it really began on Monday as we attempted to pack our life into my little Toyota Corolla. Jenny packed her things neatly in boxes, put them in her half of the car, and then filled the extra spaces with garbage bags of clothes. She was done around 11 am.
In my half I put my record player, printer, serger, and a plastic bin of clothes, and then just kind of shoved everything else in around it. Night came, and I was still rushing around. But in the end we got it all in and could still see out or back window, so we counted it a success.
We left at 6am the next morning. As we passed through Brownsville, Jenny said, “I wonder what’s the weirdest thing we’ll see on this trip.”
“Good question,” I said.
“Well I know what’s the weirdest thing I’ve seen so far,” she said. “There was a dead deer in Brownsville.”
“In town??” I asked.
I’m not sure how I didn’t see it, but I didn’t.
After that we started counting all the weird things we saw. We also counted all the dead deer we saw. We made bets on how many dead deer we’d see before the trip was over. I bet three. Jenny bet seven.
I drove over the Cascades and then we switched and Jenny drove most of the rest of the way through Oregon. We saw a random guy from our parents’ church jogging beside the road, so we thought that counted as a weird thing, since he was the last familiar face we saw before leaving. In Central Oregon we saw some very strange rock formations that I don’t even know how to describe. Then in Eastern Oregon, past the vast wilderness and into the farming country that boarders Idaho, we saw a field where someone had haphazardly driven a disk around a few hay bales that were still on the field. Weird!
But then we saw multiple fields where they’d left the bales on the field and disked around the edge. Why? We couldn’t figure it out. Any smart farmers want to let us in on why someone would do that?
I drove through the last part of Oregon and all the way through the corner of Idaho. “Hey look, an Alaska license plate!” Jenny said.
“Oh wow, Alaska is rare,” I said. “Since we’ve seen Alaska, we should start keeping track of how many states we see.”
So we did, but to be honest it was mostly Jenny. I don’t tend to notice license plates much, and sometimes it’s hard to read the tiny state names. I guess Jenny has better eyes than I do.
Later, in Utah, Jenny suddenly exclaimed, “look, another Alaska plate!”
“Oh wow,” I said.
“And it’s getting off at the Snowville exit!”
We thought that was hilarious. It went on our list of weird things.
My cousin Keith and his wife Taylor live in Salt Lake City. We found their place fairly easily, but something under my car scraped ominously as we tried to drive in the steep driveway. Oh well. We’ll live if we don’t die, we thought.
Between the time change and the 14 hours of driving, it was 9 pm when we got there, but they had tacos and good conversation waiting for us. We considered getting up at 5:30 am and seeing them before they left for work, but it wasn’t absolutely necessary, as our next leg was a bit shorter and we were planning to stay with people we didn’t really know.
Jenny actually got up at 5:30 though. I woke briefly but fell asleep again.
Then I woke suddenly at 6:51. “What time is rush hour in Salt Lake City?” I asked.
Jenny googled. “It’s usually between 7:30 and 9:00 am.”
“Would you be ready to go in, like, ten minutes?” I asked.
“How about 15,” said Jenny.
It ended up being more like 20, and then we got all turned around while trying to find a gas station, but whatever. The traffic out of the city wasn’t too terrible.
We went Southeast, through Provo and into the Utah wilderness. You don’t realize quite how much wilderness is in the West until you drive through it. Jenny needed to stop to use the bathroom, and we finally saw a sign for a rest area coming up. But before we quite got to it, suddenly we heard a scraping sound.
“Pull over pull over pull over!” I mildly yelled.
Jenny pulled over.
We got out and examined the car. Oh dear. The muffler had half-fallen off and was scraping along the road.
“Do you think we jarred it loose when we went up the steep driveway last night?” I asked.
“Probably,” Jenny said.
It was hard to examine it too closely, because of course it was quite hot. But we did notice that a bolt had apparently fallen out. Was it something we could temporally fix, or should I call roadside assistance? I tried calling Dad, but he didn’t answer. So I tried calling Mom, but she didn’t answer. So I tried calling Matt, and he answered, but then Dad kept trying to call back while I was on the phone with Matt, and then sent a text saying he was worried. What a mess.
Just as Matt was telling me I needed to call roadside assistance, a pickup truck pulled up and out hopped two guys. “Looks like you’ve got a bit of a problem,” They said.
Yes. Yes we do.
They spent some time examining my problem and going to their pickup truck to get supplies. First a bolt, then a long metal pole to help lever the muffler back into place, and then some wire. “We don’t have the right size of bolt,” they told us, wiring the muffler back into place.
Then of course we enthusiastically thanked them, and climbed back into my car.
“I think they were Mormans,” I whispered to Jenny. “Did you notice how their shirts didn’t gap when they were working under our car? Because they had those white undershirts!”
“Oh, you’re right!” said Jenny. “We are in Utah after all.”
We drove off, our muffler no longer scraping. Just up the road was the rest area, but Jenny didn’t want to stop there anymore. “What if they see me pulling off and think something is still wrong with the car, and follow us to investigate?” she asked.
So we kept going.
Soon we came to an area that wasn’t quite so isolated, although the billboards were a bit odd. One was for “igotpoop.com,” and another claimed to have the “cleanest bathrooms of all time” or something of that sort. “It’s like everyone around here is obsessed with poop,” I said.
Then, up the road even further, we saw a little grocery store and pulled off. “They have Starbucks inside this grocery store!” I exclaimed. So while Jenny bolted to the bathroom, I headed for the Starbucks.
The counter was blocked by a guy kneeling on the floor with a mysterious machine. He was wearing a green-and-yellow polo shirt, and for an instant I thought it was an Oregon Ducks shirt. But no, it was an igotpoop.com shirt.
Oh! igotpoop.com, just like the billboard. This was weird. Um. Was he…pumping poop? In the middle of Starbucks?
It was very awkward because I couldn’t really stand in front of the counter. Poop guy blocked my way. So I stood off to the side and tried to order. I have a Starbucks account, you know, so I can get points and stuff when I order, but the account was almost out of money and I needed to add some $$$. So they tried to do it but then couldn’t after all and had to void my order, all while the smell of raw sewage filled my nostrils.
The guy in the igotpoop.com shirt was just there, and there was a hole in the floor, and his machine was poking into it.
Why would you pump sewage out of the floor in the middle of Starbucks? Surely that has to be some sort of health code violation?
Anyway. I got my tea, we checked the oil, and we took off again.
“That place kind-of creeped me out,” said Jenny.
“How so?” I asked.
“Everyone in there knew each other,” said Jenny. “Literally every single person. They were all greeting each other. It was bizarre.”
“You know, now that I think about it it was also very weird that someone was pumping poop in the middle of Starbucks,” I said.
So we put it on our list of weird things.
Then we got to Colorado and I started driving. Generally I’ve been doing the mountain passes on this trip, and now we had three of them. My poor little car, stuffed with stuff, was struggling. But the engine didn’t overheat and my brakes didn’t give out, so we were good.
We got to Canon City Colorado about 6:30 pm. It was a shorter day for us…just 11 hours, and no time change this time. But even with the extra evening hours, we ended up just eating some Wendy’s and going to bed. There were a number of people we could have hung out with that evening, since I used to live in Canon City and still know some folks, but after the muffler and the mountains we were exhausted.
“And we’re not even halfway done!” I moaned to Jenny.
Neither, it seems, am I even halfway done with the tale of this trip. Tune in tomorrow for part 2!