Driving Across the USA

A few years ago, my sidriving-across-the-usaster’s daughter was having a wedding, and we couldn’t afford to fly our family from Washington to Tennessee. So we decided to take the long road trip. Because of our tight budget, we stayed at Motel 6 in most cities. The first night (Rapid City, SD) our room was the size of a closet, with two supposedly double beds against each wall with one foot between them. Two kids with sleeping bags were on the floor. Needless to say, they occasionally got stepped on. The air conditioner stopped working, and it was the month of July. Sweat trickled down my face as I stared at the bullet hole in the curtain. I didn’t exactly feel safe. All four children were asleep, and I was glad that my husband had his gun.

After seeing Mount Rushmore and other fun sights, we spent the second night at the same motel. I dreaded going to bed. The children were all happy and tired from a day well-spent, full of bright and interesting adventures.driving-across-the-usa-2

For some reason we left the next morning without getting coffee. I hadn’t gotten much sleep due to the sweat on my skin and the occasional sound of sirens. My husband agreed that it was a bad part of town when I pointed out some shady-looking characters as we packed up the car.

As we drove for mile after mile with nothing in sight in either direction, I asked my husband when we would be stopping for a potty break. He said there was nothing anywhere for a long time. Oh, my. I needed to go diarrhea, and I was going to have to go behind a tumbleweed in full view of my boys. No, I was not going to let this happen. I prayed like crazy.

Suddenly there was a billboard in the middle of nowhere. It said, “Coffee 5 cents; Wall Drug; Exit 8 miles; Restrooms.” If a rainbow appeared behind it with a pot of gold, I couldn’t have been more happy. Billboard after billboard proclaimed the same happy news. My husband said this wasn’t on the map. I said, “Drive faster.” After all, I’ve given birth four times, and you mothers out there know what I’m saying. You just can’t hold it forever.driving-across-the-usa-3

We finally got to the exit. My husband slowed down to 20 mph. I said, “Alan, I’m not going to make it if you don’t speed up. Every second counts. You think I’m kidding. I’m not.”

He sped up slightly, saying, “I’m going to get pulled over.” As if on cue, a police car flashed his lights and pulled us over. I’m not making this up. It really happened. As the policeman came to my husband’s window, I said to him, “Please, I need to go diarrhea really badly!” He walked back to his police car with my husband’s license and registration and proof of insurance.

I waited as the precious seconds ticked away. Miraculously, the policeman returned to the car and only gave my husband a warning. We were on our way again. When we arrived at Wall Drug, I got out of the car. It was too dangerous to run, so I just walked quickly.driving-across-the-usa-4 When I reached the restrooms, they were closed for cleaning. I’m serious.

I said, “Excuse me, I’m sorry. It’s either diarrhea in the toilet or right here on the floor…” I didn’t stop walking. I barely clicked the latch and didn’t even care that there was a man in the bathroom. I think he exited right away.

I tried to find my family by going out to the car. The van was empty. I had no money and no keys. I felt like I was going to faint not only because of the heat, but because of my lack of coffee. All I needed was 5 cents. I looked at a pile of pennies and had no access to it.

If you have ever been to Wall Drug, you know that it is an enormous mall that seems like an amusement park. There is a dinosaur that roars, panning for gold, teepees, and many other amusements. I walked through shop after shop after shop. I couldn’t find my family. I wanted to cry. I thought to myself, at least I found a bathroom.

Finally after what seemed like an eternity, I found my family. “Coffee,” was the only word I could say, holding back the tears.

That is not the end of this story. After I had coffee, we looked around the shops because I was collecting Christmas ornaments that represented our trip. For example, I had bought an ornament with Mount Rushmore on it. Oddly, I found an ornament of an outhouse. I didn’t buy it at the time, and now I regret it. What a hoot that would be! How symbolic of that experience! (My husband couldn’t believe I didn’t get it. I told him as we were entering the on-ramp for the freeway.)

I’d like to say that things got better, and maybe they did. But that night my husband and I slept in a broken bed. I felt like I was trying to pull myself out of a ditch all night. The following night the toilet overflowed all over the floor, and my son hadn’t even put any toilet paper in it. Thankfully, we were given a room next door for free, so we had two rooms with a connecting door. We felt rich. The bed wasn’t broken, the air conditioner was working, and we could close the door and have some privacy. Maybe this trip wouldn’t be so bad after all.

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