(Part 1 in a 4 part series)
By Megan Ritchie
I recently moved from my hometown of Minneapolis allll the way out to Los Angeles, some 2000-plus miles away. Here are a few tales of the drive across.
First, let’s lay out our cast of characters: We have me, Megan, age 23, and the one theoretically “in charge,” and Chris, my younger brother, newly 21.
We’re driving across the country in a red Ford Focus, character #3, and finally, our star to fill out the quartet, the whiney one, the high maintenance one, the one who weighs us all down: the 5’x8’ U-haul trailer packed full to the ceiling with all of my possessions, being pulled behind the car.
We left on a Monday morning at 6 am. My dad and I had been pouring over Google Maps stuff trying to decide the best route. We’d gotten in an argument, as young adult children are apt to do with their parents at times, especially when they’re being overly protective and you’re super strong and brave (and have lived in a foreign country…okay, Dad? I got this one.). I wanted to take the shortest—and therefore cheapest, as far as hotel stops and gas—route, right through Denver, where I could stay with a friend, and on through the Rockies, Vegas and finally to L.A. This idea nearly gave my dad a heart attack. “Driving through the Rockies? With a trailer behind a Ford Focus? Megan, are you insane?”
I relented, after looking at the elevation map and throwing a fairly unusual money temper tantrum (emotions were running high, okay?). So, our route was decided: Take Interstate 35 down to Oklahoma City, take a right, and take Interstate 40 to Los Angeles. That’s it. One turn. Thrilling, right? It was.
Now, Chris and I quickly discovered that driving a well-packed trailer behind a sedan was an interesting challenge. The U-haul folks in Minneapolis had warned me not to take the trailer above 55 miles per hour. I’d nodded along with them, but secretly scoffed at this at the time, thinking I’d be pushing at least sixty-five the whole way…I mean, I had 2100 miles to cover.But as we quickly discovered on the barely rolling hills of Iowa, the car couldn’t get to sixty-five with the trailer. The car couldn’t even get to sixty. And so we inched along at a (super pathetic) fifty-four miles an hour…for five days straight. Any change in elevation and the car would scream in protest.
As it was, the car was going through gas at an impressive rate. Binge drinking, really. Instead of averaging about 300 miles per tank, we were checking in at around 180. Still, despite the gas and the speed, Chris and I were having a grand old time, mostly because of books on tape…which I guess we call audiobooks now because no one uses tapes anymore…or CDs, for that matter. Okay, fine, I just dated myself.
Anyway, on our first day, we listened to all of Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants. If you haven’t had the privilege of hearing it, I’d highly recommend doing so. Fey herself reads the book and does all sorts of voices for her characters. Plus they use the actual Saturday Night Live clips that she discusses, which was extra fun.
That night, high on giggling along with Tina, we stopped in scenic Emporia, Kansas. We were, I admit, feeling quite proud of ourselves for having made it through three whole states (MN, IA and MO, for those keeping track) in one day.
After checking into the hotel, I was quickly reintroduced to any Americana I may have missed in a dining experience in China by our nearby restaurant selections: Applebee’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King and Wal-Mart (does that count?). We were no fools; we chose Applebee’s and man, did we eat good in the neighborhood. Chris got a burger approximately the size of his head; I went a little less risqué and ordered the Southwest chicken salad because I’m trying to watch my figure. As it was, it was covered in tortilla strips, cheese, and creamy dressing. And was delicious. While we ate, someone across the restaurant had a birthday so the whole restaurant got to sing; I ordered about three Coke refills (for free!); and the waitress tried to get us to sign up for the Applebee’s reward program. Can you get any more American than that? No, no, you can’t. It was glorious.
I couldn’t wait for the next day…
…And neither can we. Coming Soon (we hope!)
The Next installments:
In the meantime, enjoy a few other stories by Megan Ritchie: