An unplanned three-hour road trip with the guys
With the guys, getting there is way more than half the battle.
I dread lengthy trips of any type – even the novelty of a plane wears off after about an hour – and make sure we have plenty of "fun" to keep them occupied. Snacks, crayons, books, Hot Wheels and tiny Thomas trains, anything to give them something to do besides whine "are we there yet?"
Little did I know that we’d embark on the longest road trip of their lives with no diversions and only leftovers for snacks.
A friend who knew I was heading south this afternoon tried to warn me: Stay off Highway 99, there’s a huge wreck, read an email that arrived at 4:11. "It’s probably too late," the email added.
I’d left 11 minutes earlier, shortly after posting the first story to modbee.com about the fatal accident turned blaze turned freeway into parking lot. The information we had indicated a wreck in the northbound lanes near Keyes and a small brush fire.
By the time I hit the Central Modesto on-ramp, I suspected the information was hopelessly out of date. Cars were backed up nearly to the overpass at H Street.
We were in for a long haul, and I had only three things in my favor: An ample supply of big rigs, Big Guy’s newfound love for "I Spy" and my unfinished lunch.
Watching big rigs kept them occupied for the first few miles. That doesn’t sound like much, but it took more than an hour to drive that far. My average speed for the trip was about 4 mph, a misleading figure because the giddy 40 mph of the last mile padded it. Who knew that 25 mph below the speed limit could feel like Indy qualifying?
Then my lunch disappeared. Tortilla chips, an apple and a Sun Butter and jelly sandwich. That’s the Big Guy-safe peanut butter substitute he refuses to eat. Little Guy gobbles it, though.
Unfortunately, Little Guy was in the mood to gobble everything. He plowed through my stash and begged for more. I found four lollipops and a small bag of pretzels – all left from two Halloweens ago – in the glove box. I dug baggies of Cheerios and Cimmamon Toes Crunch from the console. Only the Cheerios remained by the time I parked the car.
Next, we moved on to "I Spy," a game Big Guy loves but doesn’t completely grasp.
"I spy with my little eye … something black," he said.
"The steering wheel?" I guessed.
"The pickup in front of us?"
"The big truck beside us?"
"No! It’s our tires!"
"Goofball. ‘I Spy’ means ‘I see.’ You can’t see our tires."
I wisely let it drop.
We’d been on the road for 2 ½ hours at that point. Misery was beginning to set in, and the only thing that kept us from going nuts was our determination not to. "No need to gripe," I kept saying. "There’s nothing we can do about it."
At that point, there was nothing to do, period, other than let the guys play with their windows and crank their favorite CD up a few notches higher than I’d normally allow.
I'll admit I did whine momentarily. "Just shoot me. Just shoot me right now. Anything would be better than this," I phoned a friend near the 2 ¾-hour mark.
But I realize others had it far worse.
A woman who called The Bee early on, panicked as flames approached her car that carried small children. The man in the tiny blue trucklet trying desperately to push it onto the shoulder. The woman in the burgundy Camry whose baby flung a bottle out of its car seat. That kid is about to wail, I thought. The dozen truckers who gave up and pulled off at Exit 220, sacrificing precious road time in favor of saving fuel. One of my brothers is a trucker – I know what a tough call that is.
And the person who died and those who were injured.
In the end, thoughts of that person kept me in check. Me, who normally is so impatient I glare at the microwave because 42 seconds is too long to wait for warm coffee.
I knew I eventually would get to where I was going. Someone else would not.
When we finally arrived, I felt like kissing the driveway. The guys ran for the bathroom. Both were so zonked they spent what little was left of the evening vegging in front of a TV. Amazing how tiring it can be to sit on your fanny for hours.
It all turned out OK in the end for us. The guys were near-angels, which means I’m due for an Armageddon tantrum soon that I really won’t deserve. But that’s all right – for a 2- and a 4-year-old, they did great today when I needed them to.
I hope, though, that the next time we’re in a car for three hours and seven minutes, we at least make it out of the county.
Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.