Written by T. Ann Ludwick

Wednesday, 25 May 2005

I love to travel. Except in the old tri-colored Plymouth (all shades of green – pale, vomit, and sit-by-the-toilet-till-you-feel-better) that we owned when our family moved across the country for 63rd time. While my husband drove his new 4x4 Chevy truck (insert sound of bass guitar pings here), I drove the Puke Mobile, hauling an ancient, homemade plywood utility trailer piled with two stories worth of furniture and junk, and Granny Clampett sitting on top of it all in a rocking chair.

Of course, my husband’s excuse was that only his truck could haul our 26 ft. camper trailer, and only he could handle such a haul. Accepted. Still, it was the kind of car that made you want to wear a bag over your head, especially when you drove through public places, such as the United States.

“Look, Bill, the Unknown Driver!”

So we left our hometown and before we even got out of the state, the right tire on my trailer blew. Fortunately, we were on a back road and not traveling any more than, say, 70 miles per. We pulled over, hubby deftly changed the tire, and we were off again (incidently, when we arrived in Colorado Springs a week later, the left tire, lonely for its counterpart, committed suicide in the middle of heavy traffic).

The long and winding back roads of New Hampshire (apparently the Beatles visited once) were obviously surveyed and built by the method popular during colonial times: throw a large snake on the ground and follow it, marking its trail as it slithers away in zigzag fashion around huge boulders and over steep hills. The greatest difficulty with this method, of course, was to get the snake to go in the general direction of the next town. Otherwise, a whole new town had to be created. This is why there are many remote and barely populated towns and villages with names like ‘Dummer’ and (even dumber) ‘Snumshire’. After a long day of snake-trailing, I guess no one felt like being creative.

Elkanah: Are we near Concord yet, Jedediah?

Jedediah: Naw. Concord’s 50 miles off in that direction.

Elkanah: (heavy sigh) Aw right. Let’s just call the place, ‘Snumshire’.

Jedediah: I’ll sure be glad when they invent blasting caps and bulldozers. Hey! Where’d that snake get off to?

Another fond memory of this particular trip was inching up and hurtling down the mountain roads of West Virginia. We thought this would be an enjoyable and scenic route to travel and, mostly it was. Except for the constant up and down and down and up and up and down and –well, you get it. And besides that, John Denver was no where to be seen (he was probably on the side of the road trying to recover from motion sickness).

Using two-way radios, my husband and I were able to communicate while on the road as long as our vehicles were less than 3 inches apart. Otherwise, a conversation went something like this:

Husband: Porcupine to Honeypatch. We’re (silence) rush hour traffic. Take exit number (silence) and I’ll meet you at (silence). We’ll wait out the traffic there.

Me: (terrified) Porcupatch to Honeypine! WHAT?!?!? Repeat!

Husband: (silence).

Now and then, using the two-way radio went to my husband’s head, and he talked like a detective on a stakeout.

Husband: Porcupine to Honeypatch. I have the suspect in sight. He’s passing me now, driving an ugly, plywood utility trailer with an old lady sitting on top in a rocking chair!

Me: What?!?!? That’s our trailer! How did it come unhitched from the Puke Mobile?

After 5 hours of driving across Kansas, I went into a coma. A welcomed respite (for about 3 seconds) was the roadside Fort Hayes Museum in Hayes. According to the historic marker, Leutenant Corporal George A. Custer was stationed at Fort Hayes for about 15 minutes. This was before he became a dead general. Though the actual site of the fort was many miles from the museum, you could pretend you were standing in the same spot where Custer watered his horse or combed his hair. Then, you could go inside, as we did, and look at old memorabilia that had absolutely nothing to do with Custer or Fort Hayes. In one glass-encased display was a nondescript rock with a hand-typewritten description on a yellowed, curled-around-the-edges index card that stated: “This rock taken from near where pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.” I kid you not.

Missing my coma, we hit the road again. It was on this long, last stretch of driving that my left arm suffered a severe sunburn that resulted in skin damage in the form of a million freckles. To this day, it refuses to speak to me.

There was only one word to describe the mountains of Colorado as they appeared on the horizon: altitude sickness. What I initially thought were clouds high up in the sky, were actually mountains, and what I thought was a regal bald eagle soaring imperiously above his domain was a mosquito on the inside of my windshield. This could mean only one thing: I had brought Lyme Disease to Colorado. But, not to worry. Lyme Disease was no match for Rocky Mountain Fever, Black Widow spiders, rattlesnakes, or scorpions. Not to mention fire ants.

Returning to New Hampshire was, in some ways, like Dorothy awakening from her dream in ‘The Wizard Of Oz’. She looks quizzically at those gathered around her bed (even the weird guy with the crystal ball) and says, “If you can’t find happiness in your own back yard, it really wasn’t there in the first place.” What?!?!? Anyway, like she says (click, click), “There’s no place like home.”

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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