A Hiccup in Relaxing Getaway leads to Road Trip Anxiety
They always start off fun. You finally have the car packed, there’s no more arguing about leaving on time, gas tank is full, and you no longer have to avoid promising your poor, poor under-sugared children that you’ve stuffed enough Red Dye 40 food products in the van to make the trip interesting.
When I was a child, road trips occurred regularly since my grandparents lived five hours away in St. Louis. This was before we had Game Boys, Kindles, DVDs and tablets filled with mind-numbing games. We actually had things called books, and boxes of crayons to color on our Big Chief writing tablets. We also had a game called, “Who can sing all of the songs from the musical ‘Oklahoma’ 50 times?”
Our last family trip to Gulf Shores, Ala., was a lengthy affair; but traveling with our kids wasn’t unpleasant. We had the Disney DVD babysitter, which kept the girls from bickering or whining. It was a travel win.
So last week when my dear actor friend from my past life told me his touring show was coming to St. Louis, I grabbed some tickets, my husband, a babysitter and quietly prayed my hilarious friend wouldn’t share too many stories of me from my young and stupid days.
Since I had driven this trip numerous times and knew the way there like the back of my hand, I thought this would be a nice time for my husband and I to catch up. So we ironically headed east for our “Gateway to the West” trip and bonded for hours.
Our weekend was fabulous! The show was charming, and our time with my buddy was full of laughs. After wishing him safe travels, we hopped back on the interstate in the correct direction according to history books, with plans to breeze home in four hours.
Then the ammonia hit the fan — or the highway. One hour into our return trip a farmer decided to accidentally release two 1,000-gallon tanks of ammonia onto our path. Normally, I can easily forgive an accident, but Mama Bear had to pick her cubs up by 6 p.m. You don’t mess with Mama at dinnertime when it involves her children.
To avoid the toxic fumes and three-hour stall time, we were forced to pull out our phones, so I could compare multiple map apps and find an alternate route. Did I mention that I am a wiz with a map, but phone map apps are the bane of my existence?
Since we weren’t going to make our ETA, I was forced to find a willing and able neighbor to foist my daughters onto, while feebly manning two pathetic phone maps.
I won’t go into detail, but my husband, who doesn’t have two angry bones in his body, managed to locate one of them since I wasn’t doing my job effectively. He was right. But you can only push a theater major so far in cartography.
After stopping in “Mayberry U.S.A.,” we entered a grocery to find a map. Instead I found a mailman, while mumbling how there are no maps made of paper anymore.
Assuming postmen would be familiar with local back roads, my plan was to avoid 60 miles of gridlock traffic, and our potential untimely demise via toxic fumes. This baffled my husband because 1) I stopped to ask for help, and 2) the roads Mr. Postman recommended didn’t exist on our phone maps.
I can’t tell you exactly how far off the beaten trail we drove, but it added an extra hour and a half, and took our blood pressure to new highs. The back roads of Missouri wine country were lovely and could have been relaxing if we had the time.
It would have been better if we had had the energy to stop and buy a bottle of their wine to open at home.
Because nothing pairs better with road trip mania than a rousing chorus of “Oklahoma!”
(previously printed in The Kansas City Star on Saturday, April 25, 2015)