Six impossible things

Interlude: On the road

As my regular readers know, I’m currently on a three-week (roughly) road trip with my father, from Chicago to San Diego for Conjecture and then back. I let my Dad plan the route. If I ever do that again, I will double-check it a week in advance and find out whether there is anything going on that might necessitate actual room reservations at various planned stopping points along the way (we’ve already had one town nearly full-up with a state-wide convention and another full because of a free music festival). Dad tends not to worry about stuff like that.

Some things I expected to hear on this trip:

“Nebraska is very flat.”

“Didn’t we already cross the Platte River? Twice?”

“Did you remember the charger for the iPad? I forgot mine.”

Some things I didn’t expect to hear:

Dad: “This isn’t the right place! There’s a lake here, I don’t remember a lake!”

Me: “Dad, when was the last time you were here?”

Dad: “1938.”

Me: “So that would probably be BEFORE they built that nice new-looking dam over there?”

Also, while I’m driving on a twisty mountain road with a sheer drop on one side:

Dad: “I can drive if you want.”

Me: “Not now, there’s nowhere to pull over. Why do you want to drive?”

Dad: “I like this road. It looks just like the spot where your Uncle Richard and I ran over the edge when our steering went out.”

Me: “Why are you still alive?”

Dad: “Oh, there were some pine trees that caught us about twenty feet down and some guy came by in a truck and pulled us out.”

Me (with some trepidation): “Who was driving when you went over the edge?”

Dad: “Oh, I was! But it wasn’t my fault.”

Me: “I think I’ll just keep driving for a while.”

So far, we’ve been to Estes Park and driven the high road through Rocky Mountain National Park, then spent a couple of hours at Bryce Canyon before we got to Zion National Park this afternoon. Which seems like a lot to me, but apparently Dad and my uncle hit 32 national parks in a 2-month driving trip in 1938 that should, from the sound of it, have killed both of them several times over. So he’s showing me the high spots. Literally, in some cases; according to the signage, we were 2 miles above sea level at a couple of points on the trip. He’s currently peeved because he bought a lifetime National Parks membership about 30 years ago when he turned 62, and didn’t remember to bring it (that’s assuming he could FIND it, which I doubt, but it’s really kind of a moot point).

If the hotel internet connection I’m currently using were more reliable, I’d probably try to twist this into some sort of writing point, but I’m afraid of losing it (again), so that’ll have to wait. With luck, I will be able to return you to your regularly scheduled blog post by Wednesday, by which time we should be in LA or San Diego, which I trust will be a bit more reliable as far as connection goes.

  1. I didn’t count National Parks on my epic trip with my Mum, but on our eight week trip we hit ever continental state bar Alaska and Florida, as well as a number of Canadian provinces.

    It sounds as if you’re having a fantastic trip – enjoy it, and if you can, share some photos, please?

  2. That sounds like a great trip. I’m glad you and your dad got to see Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park; it’s an amazing experience. The signs don’t lie; you were more than two miles above sea level.

    As for writing, well, I believe it’s true that “it’s all material”.

  3. I would give anything for a road trip with my Dad again. The last one we took in the late 1980s we had a flock of wild turkeys almost crash into us. I still remember road trips when I was a kid, my mother slept in the back seat and I got money for every bit of road kill that I spotted.

  4. Thank you so very much for not letting your father drive. I want to keep reading new books from you. 🙂

  5. I think the writing point is that stories have to have some of what the reader was expecting and more of what they’re not to be good stories.

  6. This made me laugh. Hard. Thanks for sharing. It brought back a lot of memories of my own family’s road trips through Nebraska and elsewhere.

  7. In 5th grade I did report after report about our national parks: Glacier, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and on and on.

    Which meant that…

    The family road trip 5 years later from Maryland to California and back again included every national park remotely along our path. It was fun enough that when I got married, my husband and I decided to go camping in Glacier for our honeymoon.

    Our plans hit a forced change, but that’s another story!

  8. Have fun!

  9. Your dad sounds like a trip unto himself!

    (There’s going to be a character going off the edge of a road and getting caught in a tree in some upcoming book, isn’t there?)

  10. LOL! Husband and I are leaving Wed. for a road trip from St. Louis to Colorado that will involve driving through the Rockies from Great Sand Dunes to Rocky Mountain National Park. I”ve never been out west before and I’m looking at this part of the trip with a certain amount of apprehension (I grew up in the flat parts of the Carolinas and don’t particularly like driving through the Appalachians, which I’m informed are much smaller than the Rockies). This post has made me feel both better and worse about the prospect. :-). Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  11. You are following us down. We did Bryce, Zion (both bits) last week. The bit beyond that to Victorville is strenuous on the vehicle — on one hill the engine temperature approached the red line but there was really no warning that it might. (I5 north of LA warns you and offers stops for cool water.)
    I hate heights. I really hate canyons that you see from the top with hardly any guard rails.

  12. As part of our annual spring training pilgrimage, we went through northern Arizona to Zion National Park this year. The pictures are here:

    Most of the bottom half is Zion.

  13. You’re so lucky you still have your dad, and you’ll always be glad you took this trip with him. Too many people put things like this off until it’s too late.

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