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July 4, 2003
a year ago
two year ago
four years ago

We Start West

Our Journey to the West started with a frantic morning of packing. Joan was nice enough to take Jet for the morning while we packed. There was a parade in Fredrick that she was planning on taking all the kids to. It reminded me that today was a holiday, the Fourth of July that we would normally celebrate by staying at home and BBQ'ing, lounging around, talking with people, and basically taking it easy. We'd, maybe, go to the effort of going to a fireworks display, but that would be the extent of our efforts. Instead, we had something like a 500-mile drive before us.

Not exactly a relaxing prospect, especially as I sifted through all our Stuff in order to figure out what Stuff we needed for the journey. It always makes me think of Carlin's whole thing bout ones Stuff. There was so much stuff, too, since we were leaving for a whole month. I didn't want to leave anything we needed, but I finally had to calm myself by thinking of the things that just couldn't be bought.

There were only three. Our passports, my contact lenses, and my toothguard, everything else could be bought along the way, pretty much. that helped put it all into perspective. That helped a lot. Whatever we did forget could be figured out otherwise.

They'd had a blast at the little parade, and, as usual, everyone in the parade threw lots of candy, so Jet suddenly had a big bag of candy. We'd finished what we could, and gotten to Joan's at 11:30 to pick up Jet and his stuff and off we went. We'd double-checked the whole house, the van, and all the locks. The neighbors are all on the lookout for the house, which is very nice. We also closed it up and turned everything off, since there were no plants to kill with heat it was just fine to close everything up and turn everything off for a month.

So we got Jet and just hit the road. Jet went right to sleep after his busy morning, and I tried pretty hard, too. I finally got to sleep half an hour into Jet's nap and woke up when he did. We stopped at a "Happy Donald's" as Jet put it. I nursed him for a while to wake him up from his nap, and he woke up pretty well. By the time we were done I was able to ask him if he wanted Happy Donald chicken and he said, "Yeah" and slipped down without a protest. That was good.

There wasn't a play area, though,, Jet did find a Lego table. The Legos turned out to be plenty to entertain him while he plowed his way through a whole six pack of Chicken McNuggets. We were both pretty surprised. We normally just buy him a four pack. But this McDonald's only had a six pack Happy Meal, so that's what we got him. It turned out to be a good thing, as he ate five of the six pack while playing with the Legos. I was very impressed.

I got one of the California Cobb salads, and was quite happy with it. It seemed more like a fried chicken sandwich without the bun, rather than what I think of as a salad. There were a few good greens. There were also a few sweet current tomatoes. It was good, not great, but better than having a Big Mac, especially since I could put as much or as little salad dressing as I really wanted on it.

Jet played. John ate. The two of them played happily after John finished. So Jet was pretty happy by the time we went back to the car.

He and I sat in the back. He was awake. I, on the other hand, was still pretty tired. So I went to sleep next to him, and he'd occasionally shake me or poke me to wake me up when he needed something. He ate some candy, too, and liked it enough that he would ask me for a new one every once in a while. It wasn't a steady stream of sugar, but he was pretty consistent about asking for it and giving me the deitrus.

The landscape was very boring. Wyoming is not particularly interesting. Mostly green though, this tie around, rather than in early March, which was the last time we came through. It's still mostly ranch lands, rolling, not too interesting geological features, and lots of nothing between tiny towns. We were also just going as fast as we could. I was pretty bored by it all, but Jet was watching everything and commenting on what he saw.

The next stop was at a McDonald's play area as that was what was easy to get to. No need to find a local playground, especially since it was air-conditioned, and Jet was quite happy to just go, go, go in the play area. John and I shared a chocolate milk shake and an apple pie and watched Jet go around and around and up and down. The play structure was a good three stories high with about five layers of tubes and climbing things, but in just the first five minutes, Jet had gone all the way to the top and slid down the circular tube slide. He knew what to do when let loose. Pretty soon he was joined by another two-year-old. The two of them practically wrestled each other down the slide. That was pretty amusing, since they weren't hurting each other as they did it.

We spent a good hour there, and when Jet came out he was pretty content. He also fell asleep nearly instantly when I took over the wheel and started going.

John had been driving about 85 along the 75 MPH highway, and it was very doable, as the freeway was dead straight. There were only a few very well behaved trucks on the road, and the flow was really easy. I spent the fist ten minutes all stiff and scared and trying to nerve myself up to get all the way up to 85. I spent a lot of it at 75. Still, after those ten minutes and seeing a few people pass me at a good clip, I upped the cruse control and away we went.

I remembered what it was like. All those trips with John up and down the West Coast came back. The flow of the freeway that is never that far from the house, but we hadn't entered the real currents for quite a while. Those short runs to the downtown never really invoked the reality of the river that his the U.S. freeway system. Those ribbons of highway that connect everyone and everything. Once I was back on it, though, I remembered the etiquette, the feeling of it, and the sheer Zen path of negotiating such a current.

It was fun. I love driving this kind of drive, and watching the hundreds of miles unroll before me. Even with boring landscape. It's just fun to be a part of all these people going somewhere under their own power with only their own friends knowing where they're going and when. It's neat to interact with the trucking system that flows things everywhere so efficiently. It's fun to just experience all this again.

Jet slept. When he woke up, he woke up made. It was too hot in the back, so we got the AC cranked up, John found some suckers, and Jet was happy again, when it was cool enough. We did, however, look for a place to stop, and found a little playpark tucked away in a schoolyard. We had benches to sit on, and I drank a lot of water.

I have Jet's cold, too. Yeah. Jet has a head cold. Sneezing and sniffling. I am, too. So it is. So I took a couple of Tylenol, drank a lot of water, and kept Puffs tissues ready for both of us. We'd blow Jet's nose between turns on the slide. He was happy, though. After the play park session, John setup his laptop and the two of them watched Monsters Inc. while I drove the next 100 mile leg. Neither John nor I were hungry, and Jet ate part of a ramen block, and refused any more. So we decided to just skip on dinner.

When I finished my 100-mile stint we hit a rest stop, did the necessaries, and John took over for another 60 miles to the next rest stop. We had a decision to make, so he pulled over there. It was 9:45, the next stop was 15 miles, but then there was another 150 miles before the one after that. So it was stop now or, maybe, go for another two hours. Jet had just fallen asleep, and if we were going to get any sleep, it would have to be while he was asleep.

So we stopped. We popped the top, hung the kid netting, changed Jet, nursed him, and put him upstairs. He just sighed, turned onto his side and went back to sleep. It was colder up there, nosier, too, than in the body of the van, as there was only cloth between him and the noise of the rest stop. Still, it didn't seem to bother him at all.

I brushed my teeth while John pulled the bedding from the upper storage, got all the curtains up, and created the bed. When I got back, I put all the bedding into place, and mildly cursed my decision to put Jet into his full sleeper as it was *warm* in our part of the van, still. It had been pretty hot all day, but I'd hoped that it would cool off with the dark.

I got my wish, eventually...

Jet woke up once, and when John went up to get him, he looked really confused. John brought him down, and it was only after I called him that he realized that I was there. He crawled over, sprawled next to me, smiled, and went back to sleep. Luckily, there's plenty of room on the bed in the van for the three of us. So we just slept the rest of the night that way.

The bed is kind of hard, and we didn't tuck away all the seatbelts quite as well as we could have, and I have a divot in my hip from one of them. But it was better than sprawling in a car seat all night, as John and I have done numerous times in the past. It sure beats that, especially with a rest area that actually has hot water for brushing ones teeth.

I think that's one of the things I love about being on the road, it simplifies everything. From the amount of Stuff one can bring to the things that are necessary for happiness. Warm water at a rest stop, a chocolate shake with a fun play area, and 500 miles under our belt on a short day.

It was interesting driving during the last afternoon, going into the sun, thinking about the other two Journeys to the West, the novel and the TV series from the manga. How the characters were always heading the way the sun went. We're going a thousand miles in just three days. The world's only 25 thousand miles around, so the thousand thousand miles of the myths are clearly myth. Still, it's interesting to knock off a thousand so easily after all the difficulties of both parties. Yet, as in the Saiyuki TV series, a lot of this is desert, with a few towns that appear only for water or trade, peopleless wilderness. I wonder if the makers of the manga or TV series were travelling in the US West just to get the scenery right?

Interesting, all in all.

So we head West, on no more divine a calling than to visit friends and family, and see the ocean again..

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