The Big Trip: Day 2

Dad and I 2.jpg

We cruise into Day 2 with the Blue Heron in the rearview mirror.  Even though our sleep was restless, our energy remains high.  We start our second audiobook, The Identicals, by Elin Hilderbrand. Dad seems to only choose New York Times Bestsellers, and they haven’t disappointed. The sheer number of CDs is overwhelming, but as we drive, with every new CD, we are officially hooked. What will happen next to the twin sisters from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, two islands off the coast of Massachusetts. I’m reminded quite frequently throughout this book that maybe we should choose an all action story next, as this story is littered with extremely detailed sex scenes. I peer at the map. Yesterday we drove through Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. Today we continue West on Route 80 passing through Indiana and Iowa, with plans to spend the night in Nebraska. The dry, brown corn fields span miles with only a few farm homes in the distance. My dad gazes out the window and contemplates the past. He mentions that these open plains were once roamed by buffalo, yet today, we don’t see any signs of wild life. I take a second to drift off and envision times before we commercialized the lands. We call ourselves family explorers but that seems a little silly right now. I am driving cross country with a smart phone, guiding us down a well paved highway. What would it be like to have roamed these parts years ago with such tribes as the Pawnee, the Omaha, the Lakota or Cheyenne? On occasion I’m interrupted by the computerized voice of waze telling us the location of the nearest cop. I giggle at the amount of technology that surrounds me, a laptop open on my legs as I write the prior days adventures, all the while using my cell phone as a hot spot. I often try to lead a simpler life with much of the day free of technology, but I myself am my own contradiction today. Are we really explorers? We might have to change our name to Modern Day Family Explorers. I take a moment to google the definition of explorer and they define it as “a person who explores an unfamiliar area; an adventurer”. Yes! We are explorers. We take the boys to unfamiliar territories and ask them to be wild and free. These areas may have founded by others, but they are being discovered by us for the first time. This is our interpretation. My mind is at ease, I settle back into the audiobook.

In the distance I see a cloud of dust billowing and realize it’s a car barreling down the country road. It was like scene from a movie. I tried to catch it on my camera phone, to no avail. I realize that pictures don’t always paint the true picture as I sit back and scan the horizon. This is a whole part of the country that is barren and unknown to so many people.  “Look at the lakes” yells Dad suddenly. I gaze around and don’t see anything but corn fields. I realize he is pointing to the gps on his phone with enthusiasm.  I look at him puzzled and enquire to what is he referencing. He points to the green on the gps and I nearly double over with laughter. I explain that the green areas are trees, not lakes. Lakes and rivers are blue on the gps Dad. He starts to crack up at his misunderstanding and waives it off with a humorous comment that maybe it’s algae. Tears of laughter fall down my face.

Prior to embarking on this journey, I shared my story of my previous Westward road trip and all the interesting people I met along the way. Today I had my first interesting person encounter except this time it wasn’t over free beers and jovial laughs.  As we pull over in some small Nebraska town, Dad jumps out to the convenience store while I pump gas.  A small black car pulls up to the pump beside me. I didn’t pay much attention at first. I soon realized a man was yelling at me. “Please tell me your husband is with you” he shouted. I tried to ignore him, but he wasn’t going away. “What’s it to you?” I said. Or else what? I wondered. This isn’t worth hanging around for.  Only half full, I remove the pump and close the tank up and head into the store. At this point he is still yelling nonsense and I hear him say as he pulls away “this is what happens when Trump is president. You can’t even talk to a girl….” He trails off as I walk into the store anxiously waiting to see what will transpire next. He zips out of the parking lot and back onto the highway. We get back in the car and I tell my dad about the encounter. We laugh as I tell him I almost said “I am with my father who is a big dude who can kick your butt” but then realize opening the hatch and having Chuma rush out would probably be a better bet.

Finally, we pass some buffalo on the side of the road, unlike the song “Home on the Range” these Buffalo were not roaming. “Well Dad, there are your buffalo” I chuckle to myself. It’s sad how the land is still wide open, yet the animals no longer roam. The skylines are now peppered with massive windmills and solar panels.

Today we are more calculated. We plug in the miles per hour and decide on a set endpoint of North Platte, Nebraska. At 7:30pm we pull into the Best Western with relief. It looks like a brand-new hotel. The front desk recommends a restaurant down the road. We stroll into Canteen Bar and Grille, sit near the bar and order a round of drinks. While looking at the menu my father spots Rocky Mountain Oysters. Are those what we think they are?  We are near the Rocky’s. The waitress confirms our suspicion that they are in fact bull’s testicles. We all have a good laugh and decline ordering them. I sit there for a while, then look over at my dad and say, “you know we really should try them just to say we tried them”. He agreed and hailed the waitress down. Shortly thereafter, the deep fried Rocky Mountain Oysters are placed in front of us. We crack up with multiple lewd jokes as we open our mouths and slowly take a bite. It’s official, neither of us like bull testicles. 

After dinner we make our way back to the hotel, take Chuma for a quick run around the parking lot and then hunker down for the night. Tomorrow is a new day.

Jenna Szyluk