The phrase strikes fear in the heart of most parents. A road trip. . . .with my children? You have got to be joking. And without my husband to administer the necessary discipline? Stark. Raving. Mad.
I’m here to tell you that it IS possible. I've done it and I survived. Just barely, but I survived.
5 a.m. We were up and at 'em, ready to travel 425 miles to Grandma's house. 5:20, we were making last bathroom trips and piling into the car. 5:30, I turned the key…click, click, click. Crap! I called my husband who was fortunately only 10 minutes into his commute to work. Around he turned and came back, pushed the van back in the driveway, drove his car onto the lawn, and hooked up the jumper cables - all in the pouring rain. What a guy! So, we got on the road around 6:10 - not too bad, considering past experience, I didn't think we'd have it all together until and get out the door any earlier than 10.
Ahhh, once we were on the road, I was much more peaceful. And extremely tired. I never get up at 5 a.m. NEVER!!! Unless I am coerced by a 4-year-old who threatens to continue pulling at my eyelids until I get up and go downstairs with him. And then I only stay awake long enough to talk him into watching a movie or give him some matches to play with. So, about an hour into the trip, I was failing miserably at staying awake. I was so sleepy, I actually wanted the little turkey to hold my eyelids open. What the heck was I thinking??? We stopped at a rest area and I closed my eyes for about 20 minutes - tremendously helpful.
Still, it was a long trip. I kind of miss the diaper days. Back then, we could schedule 2 stops total, and take care of soiled diapers at the appointed times. This is so not the case any more. I estimate we stopped about 13 times - I lost count. Evan was the primary culprit. We had just crossed the Mackinac Bridge, which is our half-way point. We had just eaten lunch and used the bathroom. 20 minutes later, Evan said, "I really need to use the bathroom." Now, if you've never had the privilege of traveling through the Upper Peninsula, US 2 is pretty much THE major highway - 2 lanes through extensive stretches of wilderness. 55 mph speed limit. The most barren section is just west of the bridge, and 20 minutes into it, Evan had to go, and it wasn't the kind of bathroom issue he could take care of on the side of the road, if you know what I mean. So, I was gently encouraging him, "Don't worry, we'll find a place to stop soon," and "Try to hold it." Meanwhile, I was hoping he could actually isolate the muscles necessary to keep the stuff in his body for a few more minutes as I was frantically scanning the trees and small animal carcasses for some sign of a restroom in any type of public establishment. I didn't care if it bore a name such as "Bubba's bar, tanning salon and tax services" (and believe me, there are these types of businesses strewn throughout the UP). This kid needed to go and I could tell by his occasional grunting and whining. Finally, we found a rest area, which was miraculously open (most of them are still closed this time of year). Whew! Disaster averted.
20 minutes later, "I gotta pee!" Again, I tried to reassure him and tell him to hold it, which he literally did. When we found yet another rest stop, he ran in, holding his little self so he wouldn't pee all over.
So, what about those closed rest areas? I cursed several of them as we passed their smug, barricaded entrances. "Closed for the season" was the most common reason, although one had a hand-painted sign saying something about Myron and his pet raccoon that he was trying to fish out of the pit. But let's get back to "closed for season": hmmm, why on earth would they close a rest area, the only one of its kind on a barren 50-mile stretch of highway. Oh, yeah, it's a well-known fact that humans don't have to use the bathroom during the winter.
The other interesting portion of our journey was road kill. I'm assuming that road kill exists in every state, but the majority of road kill in Michigan is deer. And I was quite surprised to witness dead, decaying deer carcasses in lower Michigan approximately every 2.37 miles. Then, in the Upper Peninsula (UP), which is a much more wilderness-oriented area, I only saw deceased deer every 40 miles or so. That got me to wondering, "why the heck would there be so many dead deer in the Lower Peninsula, but only a few in the Upper Peninsula. One theory I arrived at was that Lower Peninsula deer must be insanely stupid. Oh wait, scratch that theory: all deer are insanely stupid. All you have to do is think of the term "like a deer in the headlights" and you'll comprehend how dumb they are. Yes, they really do stand there, frozen, when they see headlights approaching, wondering in their little deer brains, "WTF?" Only when the car is about 10 yards away do they realize that it might be something dangerous, so they decide to run. . . .in the direction of the oncoming headlights. Not the most brilliant animals in God's herd. OK, so back to the question at hand: why so much more road kill in the Lower Peninsula? Another theory I had, which is probably a lot more accurate, is that when a Yooper (this is the official term for people who live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan -I'm explaining this for the benefit of my non-Michigan readers) hits a deer, he or she knows they've just scored a free meal - or several depending on the extent of the damage to the animal. If you live in the UP, you NEVER leave a deer on the side of the road to rot. It's crime against nature. You've got to go out, slit it's throat, and throw it in the back of your pickup. "What if I don't have a pickup truck?" you may ask. If you don't, then you are obviously not a Yooper. If you are a recent immigrant from one of the other 49 1/2 states and truly do not own a pickup yet, you would go to your nearest friend, neighbor, or family member and borrow their pickup truck so you could bring the deer home, butcher it and freeze the meat for many tasty venison meals. And what if you don't do your own butchering? Oh, please, you really don't know anything about the UP, do you? And what about the deer that were left lying on the side of the road? Clearly, they were hit by foreign drivers (foreign, meaning anyone outside of the UP). I live in fear that one day I will hit a deer and go to look for help from local law enforcement officials, who upon discovering that I am a native Yooper, will require that I slit and butcher my own deer. I know, I’m an embarrassment to Yoopers everywhere, but I do not hunt, fish, wear flannel, or own a pickup truck. That's why I live in the Lower Peninsula. That's why I have to make this insane drive every time I want to visit my parents and get back to nature.
The Yoopers kicked me out.