Yesterday morning we woke up in a hotel in Chadron, Nebraska, around 6:30am. We packed our things into the minivan one last time and headed southish — destination, home.
GPSes are funny little devices; according to ours, there’s no major highway between Chadron, Nebraska and Oklahoma City (or at least Salina, Kansas). For roughly seven hours we took two lane highways and back road main streets through a dozen towns, regularly alternating between 65mph and 20mph as we made our way through a dozen speed trap towns. We saw a dozen flea markets, thrift stores, and antique malls that, on any other given day, we would have stopped at. But not today. Not on the 14th day of a 14-day vacation. Today, the primary mission — no, the only mission — was to get home.
Susan decided that she and I should take two-hour driving shifts, a system that worked out well. While one of us drove the other doled out snacks and drinks and kept the electronic devices rotating through the makeshift charging station on the van’s center console. A casual observer might assume our trip was sponsored by Apple by the pile of iPads, iPods, and iPhones constantly being charged and discharged. As the battery of one device would be depleted another would rotate into service as the now drained one would attach itself to a spaghetti mess of twisted chargers and wires. After twelve hours of driving our car’s battery was as worn out as we were.
The last day of our trip was fueled by sugar-filled snacks, soda, coffee, potato chips and fast food. Long gone were any aspirations of eating at unique holes in the wall across America. Dinner consisted of soft chicken tacos from Taco Bell with a Monster energy drink for dessert.
The only stop we made yesterday that wasn’t a food/gas/bathroom stop was in Cawker City, Kansas. I was mentally on autopilot with my glazed eyes looking dead ahead when Susan noticed something out the window and hollered “Stop!” We had just driven past the “Biggest Ball of Twine” in the country. A quick u-turn and a few photos later and we were back on our way.
(According to Wikipedia, there are multiple claims to the biggest ball of twine. The one we saw is the biggest ball of sisal twine made by a community. The one in Minnesota, as immortalized by Weird Al, is the largest one made by a single person. There’s another one in Branson, Missouri, owned by Ripley’s Believe it or Not, that’s the largest one made by machinery. Who knew it was such a highly contested title?)
With the biggest ball of twine (in Kansas) to our backs, there was nothing left to do but drive. With a can of Starbucks Double Shot in the cup holder and the last pack of Zingers on the dash, I put my foot to the floor and let the van guide itself home.
Fourteen days ago, the four of us piled in the Honda Odyssey heading toward Seattle, Washington. On the way there, aside from Oklahoma of course, we drove through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington state. From Seattle we boarded a cruise that took us to several cities in Alaska and a couple of stops in Canada. After a week on the open seas, we landed back in Seattle and drove the van across Washington to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and finally, Oklahoma. In 14 days we’ve visited 11 states (22%).
GPSes don’t figure in things like bathroom breaks or refueling stops, so its hopeful estimate of 12 hours in the car dragged into 14 by the time our van, now with 210,000 miles on it, pulled in to our driveway.
The cat, much fatter than when we left, was happy to see us, purring louder than I remembered she could. The house is bigger than I remember it being. So much space. The toilet’s bigger, too. And cleaner.
I’m writing this at 11am, the following morning. It’s almost lunch time, but we’re all eating breakfast. Switching back from the Alaskan time zone has been a gradual adjustment, one we haven’t fully made yet. We now have one weekend to fully recover from our vacation and go back to work.
As for now, our vacation, like that ball of twine in Kansas, is officially behind is.