Thursday, November 10, 2005

Driving Miss Laura

The drive to Utah from southern California can, I suppose, be made in leisure. I have never done it that way. Ten hours is little enough to be easy to do in one day, and long enough to want to do it all as soon as possible and reach your destination .... in just a few more....miles.

It has, on occassion, taken me longer than 10 hours to do, but only if the traffic between here and Vegas is bad. ("Bad" = filled with idiotic southern Californians who think that the rules of highway courtesy are the same as freeway driving. They're not. And you're crowding the road and making it unsafe for the sensible ones of us who took actual family trips in a station wagon with no air conditioning, in the years when an interstate meant that you had to go through every town because that's how it was built. The days when truckers owned the road and respecting their considerable size meant living to see another day. Go away, modern road-trippers.)

This time, I was determined to do it in less than the usual 10 hours. My mom was in the hospital. Again. Some more. And even though it had been happening so frequently over the summer, though intermittently, this time was different. This time my sister was hedging when I asked if this meant I should come, which meant I should come. This time, my brother was coming too.

So I left work, threw some clothes into a bag, grabbed all my toiletries, bade goodbye to the cats, and left. I didn't want to leave my cats. I seem to be doing an awful lot of saying goodbye this summer. Some of it is the good vacation-kind, and some was the bad see-you-on-the-other-side kind, but neither one is terribly fun. "Why can't we get all the people" (and cats) "together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work. Someone always leaves and then we have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I need more hellos." -- Snoopy.

As I drove, I thanked the traveling gods that it was early Friday yet, so the crazies hadn't all left for their weekly emmigration to the city of billion-watt store fronts, lost money and empty facades, so my traffic was good. Except for a little bit of rush hour traffic through Las Vegas, I was in good shape.

I stopped in Mesquite for gas. Could've made it to St. George, I suppose, but didn't feel like pressing it. Besides, I wanted some travel snacks before I stopped for dinner in St. George. I loaded up on trail mix, Cheeto-s, bottled water and chocolate-covered pretzles. I put the bag on the floor in the front seat and didn't look at again until my drive home.

St. George, with its red rocks and canyons, loomed around the corner. Sonic beckoned. Diet limeade, Sonic-sized tots and a hamburger made dinner, with a peanut butter fudge sundae anticipated as dessert.

Twenty-one miles into Utah, I see a car go off the road. I immediately brake and pull over, especially since the other five or six cars in the nearby vicinity don't. I didn't see what happened, I just saw a car no longer attempting to stay between the lines, spin out and take out the road-side sign. A truck also stops. "Good, I think. Someone else can help give first aid. Those truckers -- they're the salt of the earth." That particular salt, however, stopped because he thought he caused the car to go off the road. Come to find out, he did, although it took the highway patrol officers looking at the damage on both vehicles to determine that and break the tie between the two drivers. I wasn't any help since I hadn't actually seen anything, my view being blocked by the 18-wheeler. I had just called 9-1-1 and stayed with everyone until UHP showed up.

And I looked at the stars. The sky is closer there. Part of it is the higher altitude I'm sure. And all of you scientists can tell me all about light pollution and smog down here ruining the view of those celestial bodies for me. But if it weren't for the smog, what would cover up that huge hole in the ozone? And the lights -- well, I could see the stars just fine even with the police flasher lights piercing the darkness. The milky way was indeed milky looking, and reminded me of something....Oh! My sundae! Officer, you don't mind if while I'm waiting for you to take my (non-) statement I just go and finish my dinner, do you? She didn't and I did. De-lish-us.

I'm now only about five hours away, and as I drive and listen to my audio book ("Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell"), I contemplate the miles falling away beneath me and who I'm missing out on seeing. Jill and Tonya in Hendersen. Allison in St. George. Another Jill in Hurricane. There are others, I'm sure, but those are the ones I think of just then. But I don't stop now for the same reason I never do and more. Besides having a mother in the hospital and a sister who needs support, I just want to get there.

At 11:05 local time, I take the 2nd Payson exit. I cruise through the hospital parking lot, but seeing that my brother is not there, drive the final two miles down the highway to my sister's house. It is 11:15 when I pull in.

I made it in just less than 10 hours. Could've made it in 9 if the wait at Sonic hadn't been so long and if that stupid trucker had given more room to that car's bumper and if I didn't have a bladder that only holds a certain amount of liquid before making demands.

The stars say hello.

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