The start of Memorial Day weekend began with . . . snow. Two inches of snow to be exact—on the lawn and on my car. This was not the way our road trip to Fort Collins, Colorado was supposed to begin. After cleaning the snow off the car, loading it up, getting the wife and the youngest son into the car we headed off at 6:00AM sharp! The great road trip had begun.
Now I am not sure that there is a coherent theme that runs throughout the road trip as there seemed to be a slew of random pictures and themes that occurred as we headed south out of Joliet towards Fort Collins to meet the new granddaughter. It was definitely an adventure . . . one, in which the temperature at the start was a whopping and bone-chilling 36 degrees and would end with a hellish 87 degrees in Fort Collins. So, I wore shorts and my new sandals. My neighbors probably thought I was hitting the microbrews a little early that day, but I wanted to be prepared for the worse. Besides, the temperature in the Jetta was a toasty 72 degrees! On the day that weather records were broken for Montana we headed south.
First image that pops out of my memory were the drivers on the road heading to points unknown just like we were—all with a destination in mind. Our destination was Fort Collins and I drove five miles over the speed limit most of the way there . . . and for the most part I thought I was doing pretty good. Unfortunately I did not realize that there were so many Indy and NASCAR wannabes on the highways. Vehicles of all types blew by us as if we were standing still . . . which I can handle, but what I couldn’t handle was that as soon as they blew past me they pulled directly in front of me and slowed down. Each and every time I had to brake, slow down, and let them basically cut me off. This is a pet peeve of mine, thus the birds were flying early and often. It became a sort of highway hop-scotch that I apparently was not too good at. But no one doubted my sign language. Luckily we made the trip safely and the only injury was my finger was a little sore.
Then there were those new hand driers—in the rest areas, gas stations, restaurants, and other fine establishments where one might want to dry his or her hands. What ever happened to those good old paper towel dispenser, you know the ones I am talking about—where you turned a crank and the paper towel came out. Now there are these fancy, ultra modern ones that strip the first layer of skin off your hands. Actually the force of the blower in those things blows all the water off your hands, out the side, and onto the floor. I was lucky I didn’t slip and break my neck. But not all the places had these wicked machines, some still had paper towel dispensers . . . but not with the cranks. No, they have those little electric eyes that dispense the paper towel when a hand is waved in front of it. At one stop it seemed that every time I moved a paper towel was being dispensed for my use. They just kept coming out and I just kept ripping them off. Piles and piles of them! I got stuck in there for nearly fifteen minutes trying to get that thing to stop before my youngest son showed up and pushed me out of the way of the electric eye. I might still be there if he hadn’t showed up and rescued me!
The further south we went the more the traffic picked up and the more people there were. From Cheyenne to Fort Collins seemed to be nothing but motor vehicles and people . . . and the people looked funny and talked funny. Then I remembered that we were driving through Wyoming! Just kidding . . . we still had Colorado to go! There were people everywhere . . . that is tough on an introvert. That is why I never liked cities of any shape or size—too many people. It was kind of overwhelming, but I must say, for the most part, they had manners. I must be looking old because I seemed to be called “Sir” quite a bit. That took a while to get used to and the wife said I had to quit turning my head so much trying to figure out who they were talking to—they were talking to me! Ouch!
Then there were the food servers—waiters and waitresses—at the restaurants. For the most part they were conscientious, courteous, and hospitable. Except for one. For the most part he did his job well—the food was served hot, he kept the glasses full, and he was always Johnny-on-the-spot . . . but in the end he was dishonest. When the bill came—over eighty dollars, he short changed me the change. Instead of giving me all of my change he gave me the paper money and pocketed the change—sixty-two cents. Now I know sixty-two cents is not much, and I might be making a mountain out of a mole hill, but it is the point of the whole thing. He should have given me all of my money. The end result? Well, I pocketed a portion of his tip. That sixty-two cents cost him a couple of dollars in tips. He could have kept the sixty-two cents if he just asked . . . shoot, by that time in our trip the change in my pockets was making me look like I was wearing low-rider jeans!
The most fearful moment during the trip was while we were waiting for the light to change at a busy intersection. Calmly sitting in the car I suddenly heard a loud crack and bang—just like a gun shot. My first thought was, “Hey, were in a big city. Big cities have gangs. It must be a drive-by shooting!” I yelled at everybody to duck and cover their heads! Turned out to be a blowout of a tire as a lady as turning in the intersection. The guy in the car next to us looked us over, shook his head in disbelief, and laughed. Silly hicks from Montana!
There were also Starbucks everywhere, but I guess that Fort Collins is a “hip” sort of place that way. Lots of Starbucks junkies running around with their insulated cups of java. The wife was in heaven as there were at least three Starbucks within a mile radius of the motel. She had to have her “fix” each morning and each morning we were there with Fort Collins’ best. She tried to sweeten up the experience for me by offering to buy me a hot tea since I don’t drink coffee . . . but I refused. I refused because I can’t see paying nearly three dollars for a cup of tea. I can buy a box of Liptons for three bucks and make nearly fifty cups of tea for that price.
At the same time I must confess, the day we headed back to Montana I broke down and allowed her to buy me a hot tea. The darn motel did not have any regular tea in the breakfast bar. I even asked. The lady told me that people always pick the regular tea over the herbal tea. I asked if there were more and she said no that was all that they had. I asked why they didn’t carry more if the regular tea was so popular . . . she said I could go down to Starbucks and get a nice cup of tea for three bucks! I think it was a conspiracy between the motel and Starbucks. The wife just smirked at me. That was a tough cup of tea to get down—took me nearly a hundred miles before I could even admit that I enjoyed it!
These are just a few of the thoughts, impressions, and themes that I remember from the trip—a mixture of “road trip potpourri”. As unimportant as these were, we did have a wonderful trip to meet our granddaughter—little Emily. It was fun to be able to spend time with our son. Good to meet his friends. I will write more about that in my next blog. In the meantime, I have to admit it was nice to get home. Since being home no one has shot at me while driving by . . . I have gotten all my change when I’ve eaten out . . . I have a huge stash of Liptons . . . and there are not too many people . . . plus I can understand them when they speak . . . no one has called me “Sir” more than once a day. Plus my dogs gave me a royal welcome home. Road trips are nice, but nothing beats home!