Today I hope to be able to exist in Bliss.
Actually, I hope to be able to stop everywhere. We are on a road trip that must pass through southern Idaho, where we are supposed to drive long distances without stopping. My wife is opposed to repeated delays on the way to our destination, but how do you tell a hard-working guy on vacation that he doesn’t have the right to exist in Bliss, Idaho, for a few minutes? I know that detours to other exotic Idaho locations will be more difficult to sell to my wife, who is one of those “driver people” who want to make good time so we can better enjoy our destination.
Traveling by car is not an easy thing for me. I have the capacity to travel for long distances without stopping as long as there are no exits to tempt me and as long as the time trapped in the car doesn’t exceed 15 minutes.
I like to stop at big truck stops because lots of times they have stuff I need. For example, they often have a section with glass products that appear to be targeted at hard rockers who play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. We don’t have a single crystal ashtray, and at a good truck stop, you can buy one that comes with a glass dragon with bright red eyes that are, I believe, made out of rubies.
I don’t actually drive much when we travel, in part because my wife likes to skip exits. She finds no magic in truck stops, either. The thought of a juicy hot dog that’s been rolling and cooking all day in one of those display cases at a gas station does not appeal to her. I have never purchased one of those rotating wonders, but I think about it often as I travel because I eventually begin to think about eating everything that doesn’t eat me first just to stave off the boredom.
We do bring snacks and although each time I am convinced I will not eat in the car, once the monotony sets in, things change. Soon I’m eating to the bottom of a potato chip bag just so I can make it into a hat.
Food isn’t the only thing I bring to prepare for the severe boredom of a long road trip. Like a child in church armed with Cheerios and cloth play books, we stock our car for me with dozens of diversions that I can use to distract myself if we have to drive by more than one exit without stopping. We have books on CD, books on cassette tape, a fully loaded iPhone, a rubber-band gun, several kites, a few real books and a stack of newspapers — most of which cannot be accessed without pulling over and unpacking the car on the side of the freeway.
Since we adopted an iPhone pet, I spend a good percentage of my time on road trips online, trying to make a case for stopping at a hotel after we’ve put in a good day of two or three hours on the road. I do this by looking online for a very inexpensive hotel.
Sometimes, after I put on a chip-bag hat and start flying kites out our window, while zapping her with rubber bands, my wife starts to think that maybe a break wouldn’t be so bad after all. She begins to consider that perhaps we could afford to stop in a bare-bones clean hotel where she could lock herself in the bathroom and get all the collateral damage potato chip crumbs out of her hair.
Once I get her comfortable considering such a low-budget alternative, I suggest that for just $25 more a night, we could stay across the street at a slightly nicer hotel. If I can subtly repeat this step in small increments several times successfully, I then will go into the hotel and see if I can upgrade our room for a small additional fee of just $20. Eventually, we are staying in a grown-up hotel suite with multiple televisions and an in-room jacuzzi. Such hotels often have permanent phones in the bathroom, which allows me to communicate directly with my sweetheart while we rest.
This has worked so well that on one trip, we ended up just $20 shy of staying in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House — but it all fell apart when Barb, who is not a big Obama supporter, insisted the White House should pay us to stay there. It’s her contention that we have paid enough into the pot to fund several overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom.
I know most guys pride themselves in seeing how far they can drive without stopping at all. Clearly this is not my strength. You might wonder, as I’m sure my wife has, what good I am on a family vacation if I’m always doing things that thwart forward momentum and I’m consistently scheming to figure out ways to incrementally spend more money than we have.
You are ahead of me, aren’t you? I say, why aim low for Congress? Why not shoot for the top spot? If I’m so good at thwarting progress and incrementally increasing spending, I could make the transition quite easily. And, besides, I’m still sore about not getting that last White House upgrade.
Today I just need to focus on existing in Bliss while the rest of you speed on by — and then tomorrow I should probably start heading east. The election is coming up in 2016 and there are a lot of exits between here and Washington, D.C.
Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at [email protected]