Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Welcome to the first installment of another special MCC miniseries, representing the original travelogue from our 2005 drive from Indianapolis to San Antonio, Texas, and back again in far too short a time…
Eight states, seven days. That was our goal. San Antonio is roughly 1,145 miles from Indianapolis, the second-farthest point we’ve ever visited away from home, a minimum 17-hour drive without obstacles. The eternal specter of road construction ensures intermittent hassles and delays no matter how many contingencies you plan.
By the end of our week we were exhausted and exasperated, tired of highways and ready once again for the comforts of home…which was still hundreds of miles away. In a smart move our Day 6 itinerary concluded with a kind of special attraction we’d never before stopped to see on any of our previous road trips: family.
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After the long haul from Oklahoma City, we reached our Missouri destination shortly before sundown — Anne’s sister’s house in Webb City, where we were treated to a delightful dinner of homemade white chili and an evening of just plain ol’ visiting.
While sisters caught up on family events, my son and my brother-in-law bonded over Jak 3, and I finally had a few waking moments of peace and quiet to myself. It was time at long last to commence with a long-delayed vacation objective of my own. After five days’ worth of failed attempts, I finally managed to start reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Anne, whose voracious reading appetite shames my own relatively measured speed, had naturally finished it before we left on vacation, mere days after its release. She was kind enough not to spoil anything for me (especially not that horrid shock at the end), but now it was my turn to catch up to her and the rest of Potter fandom.
I finished four chapters before my eyelids slammed shut on me.
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DAY SEVEN: Friday, July 30th.
We slept in till 8:00 or so, but we needed it. Heather saw us off right with a round of diet-busting homemade biscuits ‘n’ gravy (*swoon*). We hated to leave so soon, but home was so, so far away. Also, Anne and Heather had been kicking around the idea of taking a gander at the Precious Moments Chapel in nearby Carthage, which we might consider doing some day, but on Day 7 of a 2000-mile odyssey I’m hearing a voice in my head like OH SORRY DEAR LOOK AT THE TIME WE MUST BE OFF NOW MAYBE NEXT TIME OKAY LOVE YOU BYE.
Another stop for gas added up to a mere $15.17. At a pitiful $1.99 per gallon, Webb City won the award for Cheapest Gas of the Week. I was tempted to fill an extra suitcase with some and smuggle it out of town. Upon returning to I-44, we drove and drove and drove through the Ozarks but were mostly numb to the sights around us. When home is your primary goal and homesickness is your biggest problem, the opportunities of the open road don’t seem quite as enticing. Hours passed without a word or and with nary a reason to point out the window at anything. We stopped for lunch in Rolla at Sirloin Stockade, another steak/buffet chain that once attempted entry into the Indianapolis scene but retreated far too quickly. It wasn’t exactly haute cuisine, but it was the right overindulgence at the right time.
Later still came another gas stop in St. Clair ($22.23), then on to St. Louis for our last planned tourist attraction: a return engagement with the Gateway Arch.
Anne and I were no strangers to this towering monument, but this was my son’s first time there. I missed the turnoff I’d wanted and ended up parking two blocks down the road, but the extra walking helped counteract all that wretched sitting and sitting and sitting in the SUV, the only benefit of which seemed to have been that the ergonomic seat had eliminated the chronic lower back pain I’d been suffering the last few weeks.
We skipped around the lobby of the Jefferson Expansion Museum underneath the Arch but didn’t actually pay to enter the museum proper. We’d done that in 2000 as well and hadn’t exactly been overwhelmed by it even then, so we saved my son the trouble. He wasn’t picky and made do with the free lobby decor.
As far as actually taking the tram up into the Arch itself, we hit the same snag as in 2000: it’s an expensive couple hours’ wait, one we still were unwilling to bear. Stretching our legs was one thing, but we weren’t interested in too long a delay. We peeked into the same gift shop as last time, picked up a mini-Arch keepsake for my son, then walked along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River for a closer look than we’d managed in 2000.
Anne and my son insisted on partaking in their shared vacation ritual of running up to large famous bodies of water, taking off their shoes and socks, and shuffling around in them for a bit, regardless of temperature and pollution levels. They too may have been a bit punchy.
We also briefly boarded a nearby riverboat for the sole purpose of using their souvenir smashed-penny machine, another of Anne’s vacation rituals. She’d indulged all week long at a record number of locations throughout the week, about which she could doubtlessly expound at length if we reviewed her collection and retraced her steps. We tried photographing the Arch from various angles, only capturing one section at a time until we got the notion to head across the street toward St. Louis’ Capitol building, which proved to be the perfect vantage point for our lead photo above, taken by my son in a rare moment of letting the married couple share a pic.
Mission accomplished, we raced across the St. Louis sidewalks in the middle of evening rush hour back to the SUV. We climbed aboard, did a lap momentarily lost on St. Louis’ cobblestone streets, then spent half an hour craaaaaawling our way onto I-55/I-70. We eventually crossed back onto the eastern side of the Mississippi, and were in Illinois mere seconds later.
State #8 on our road trip passed along the same way it had passed back in 2000, languorously and featurelessly. I-70 through Illinois is just that dull, albeit with one new addition we didn’t recall from last time: a giant-sized cross. It even had its own interstate exit, which looked freshly dug and paved and had nothing else nearby on the landscape to justify such an exit, not even another road.
Quick stats learned after the fact: 198 feet tall, 113 feet wide, made possible by a nondenominational foundation that earned over $1 million in donations and private funding. For us that gleaming white steel was a magnificent signpost we found comforting in the final, finite, flat leg of our journey.
After a stop in the town of Casey for one last gas top-off ($17.54) and dinner (yet another McDonald’s), we sped out of Illinois with the sounds of “Back Home Again in Indiana” echoing in our memories just the way Jim Nabors used to sing it at the start of every Indianapolis 500.
We reached home well after sundown…where, among other minor changes, I found the rear right tire on my Chevy Cavalier 100% deflated. I also realized, as I began putting things away, that the souvenir cross pendant I’d bought in La Villita had disappeared from my neck sometime earlier without my knowing it. Rats.
Saturday, July 30, and beyond.
As early as I could manage it, I put my spare tire on the Cavalier, then took the SUV downtown for sorrowful farewell, stopping one last time on the way for a goodbye fill-up. Our final sum: $12.64.
I rode the bus back home, then took my car down to Tire Barn for the second free tire repair I’d had to have them do in the last month. We spent the rest of the day catching up on household errands, assuring relatives we were alive, and unpacking all our junk. It took three days before we realized that the Post Office neglected to restart our mail delivery on time. It took me at least that long to shift my appetite back into post-diet “maintenance” mode, which meant once again returning to the non-magical Land of No Biscuits and No Gravy for the foreseeable future.
Struggling to choose self-control over relenting to every merry impulse. Overlooking the little things for days on end till one of us finally notices. Slogging through overdue repairs and damage control because no other adults will do it for us. Reviewing our trips in hindsight and tallying up all our mistakes and overreaches so our next vacations will be even better.
We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!
Coming soon: our 2007 road trip to Florida, like any ordinary family except not exactly…]