Flashback Friday is where I post some writing of my life as a younger me. When I was 13, we drove across the country, from Utah to Vermont, to visit my dad’s family. We went on this vacation for 3 weeks, so I’m dividing this post up into 3 parts. This post is about the drive there. I would like to point out that I’m telling this from the perspective of my 13 year-old self and I’m sorry if I offend anyone. Especially people from Kansas.
You know what’s better than flying 2000 miles? Driving. That’s what my dad tried to tell us by saying it wouldn’t feel like 5 straight days of driving if we stopped to see sites on the way to Vermont. He was kind-of right. It was fun seeing sites on the way, but it was still 5 DAYS STRAIGHT of driving. Oh, wait. It’s actually 4000+ miles because you have to drive back. It’s 2000 miles from Utah to Vermont one way.
We left in our white Dodge Caravan from Utah on a June day in 1997. We had everything prepared. My mom had the suitcase full of cassette tapes next to her in the front seat and we all got to take turns picking what tape to listen to. I made a bunch of awesome mix tapes with Star Wars on them. We bought a trailer for our stuff. Not the stuff we were taking there, but the stuff we were taking back from Vermont. Our whole driving route was highlighted in an atlas that we were bringing with us.
The first day of driving was the shortest because we had to drive over a little thing called the Rocky Mountains. Our little-van-that-could was okay at first, but pretty soon it started overheating. My dad turned on the hazards and drove 40 miles an hour up the steep hills, but it just wasn’t enough. That little arrow kept getting closer to the red zone. So he did the only logical thing – he turned on the heater full-blast and opened the only two windows in the van as far as they would go (which is like, 2 inches). It was already hot without the A/C on. We complained and moaned loudly at first, but after a while it got so hot that you went into this state of lethargy. Oh my gosh…it’s so hot I can’t move…Oh my gosh…it’s so hot I can’t think…Oh my gosh…it’s not hot enough to just diiiiiiie……..
Luckily, even the Rocky Mountains have a summit and when we reached the top we were able to coast the rest of the way down the mountains (with the heater off) and we all made it alive to our first stop in Colorado at my Aunt Cathy and Uncle Charlie’s house.
We had to drive twice as far the next day, so we all got up at 6:30 am to leave. My dad is known for being late so I didn’t think we’d actually get up at 6:30 am, but we did. So we wouldn’t get stranded in the middle of nowhere, my dad had called ahead to every Motel 6 he could find along the way and booked strategic hotel rooms so we’d always have a place to stay. Our next hotel was at Middle-of-Nowhere, Kansas. Kansas was boring. There were no cities, no mountains and lots and lots of golden fields. It felt like we weren’t getting anywhere because it all looked the same.
It’s funny. No matter how much stuff you bring to do, after two days you will be bored. I brought books, my GameBoy, coloring, travel games, crafts, mix tapes to listen to – you name it. And by Kansas I was dead bored. My mind just clocked out for the day and I stared out the window for miles. Time lost all meaning. You can sleep a lot in the car, but sleep gets boring, too. I’ll never complain about driving to California again. How many times have we listened to this John Denver tape?
The next day, we got to do some sightseeing. We saw some LDS church history sites in Independence, Missouri and then drove to Nauvoo later that day. We spent the morning at Liberty Jail in Independence. If we did other things in Independence, I don’t remember them. I was more excited to see Nauvoo.
When we finally got to Nauvoo, everything was closing. We went to the last brick making session and got to take one home. We walked in half-way through the last blacksmith presentation and got to take home prairie diamonds, which are rings made of horseshoe nails. We barely made it on the last carriage ride through the town. In short, we saw all of Nauvoo in five minutes. We also got to see the temple site where the Nauvoo Temple used to be.
Then, we went to Carthage Jail, which was nearby. It looks more like a house than a jail and guess what? It was closed. But, we saw the missionary couple walking by and they gave us a private tour of the jail which was so nice of them. The jail still has the same door with the bullet hole in it that killed Joseph Smith.
We drove to Ohio the next day. I lapsed into a semi-coma and stared out the window some more. The drive was a lot more interesting than Kansas. These states had cities. I know, Kansas has a city. I don’t mean to pick on Kansas. When we got to Ohio, we saw the Kirtland Temple. It was closed, so we got to see the outside of the Kirtland Temple. It was really pretty and we had a picnic on the grounds.
Oh my gosh, is this trip over yet? We drove to Niagara Falls today. My dad complained about it being a tourist trap. You have to pay for the road, and then the bridge, and then the national park and then a ticket for the boat. But you get a free plastic poncho to keep you from getting wet on the boat, so I don’t know what he was complaining about.
The falls are amazing. And really loud. Riding the boat around the horseshoe-shaped falls really gives you a sense of how big and tall these falls are. The spray is so intense that you invariably get wet no matter what. The free ponchos have hoods for a reason, I found out later, because my hair stunk like dead fish the rest of the day.
Then, to keep with tradition, a tire blew up in the middle of New York state. We ate a picnic at a random park while my dad got a new tire. It wasn’t until the next morning that we actually made it to Vermont. How many days of driving is that? Count them. There’s six. It seemed like no matter how early we left in the day, we always got to our hotel at 1 am. And then we had to get up at 9 am to make it to the next hotel room that was 13 hours or so away.
The first thing my dad said to us in the car on the first day was, “I don’t even want to hear the question ‘Are we there yet?’ for at least 3 days because we have to drive for 5 days.” We obliged him by constantly asking him if we were to the hotel yet. How satisfying it was on the last day to ask that forbidden question. Eventually, the answer was yes. We are in Vermont.