DAY 39 a.m. Lava Hot Springs, Idaho
The children, limp as noodles after leaving the hot springs, contentedly draw pictures on 3 x 5notecards with pens (inertia has prevented Old Mother from stopping at a dollar store for crayons aspromised) while itemizing cuts and scrapes that have magically healed and disappeared in the mineralwaters. We had the run of our beloved ramshackle hot springs inn on a weeknight, and the kids (whoapparently don’t get out that much!) seem to view it as a combination of Lourdes and Disneyland:strings of lights twinkle in weeping willows during evening swim...the full hot breakfast buffet in themorning includes a platter of
cream puffs drizzled with chocolate sauce
.Highway 30 South. Sound track: Deft Punk, perfect for waving fields of grain. Used to be Raffi, BurlIves, and Woody Guthrie, with some Stan Ridgeway thrown in to keep Old Father sane on the wayhome. Two pre-teen feet in blue socks materialize on my armrests. “It’s too early for that, Penrod,” Isay. I begin playing “This Little Piggy” on one of them and they are swiftly retracted.
Almost July and lilacs still in bloom all over southeastern Idaho. Lots of pretty LDS churches. “Look to the left, kids, there’s Bear Lake. A puddle left over from the great prehistoric lake that covered thiswhole area in the Miocene Age.” “
a puddle?” ForeverBaby exclaims. At Montpelier we turnright at the junction of 30 and 89. On this spot in 2001 Daddy made me laugh so hard I wet my pantswhen he asserted he’d rather give himself a lobotomy with an ice pick than listen to the piccolo soloin “Watch the Doughnut, not the Hole”
one more time
. Morning snack: three baby carrots, a piece of beef jerky and a baggie of Cheerios. Penrod refuses Cheerios, is on strike for some store-bought junk food but mother has economically packed all the snacks from home and is holding firm.
Welcome to Utah, briefly. First plea for orange soda heard from the rear. I’ve brought twenty-fourcans of orange soda, to be dispensed at timed intervals. Sparkles asks me what my favorite kitchenutensil is. Narrowly miss a prairie dog while considering this question. “A spatula,” I finally say.Miss O. furiously scrivening her debut novel, “Travels With My Mother” (apologies to GrahamGreene) in an 8 ½ x 11 spiral-bound notebook.
.Second plea for orange soda. This is the third day of the three-day trip, the longest and the hardest.“Attention campers, at this time the orange soda is for display purposes only,” I joke. I rememberwhy Old Father always stayed home to feed the chickens, flying into Colorado Springs mid-month to join us. A sudden high-pitched wail from the rear of the van makes that new place in my head I’ve just recently discovered snap like an old dried-up rubber band. I pull over, stop the engine, andhyperventilate over the steering wheel. The children are silent except for the wailer. I get out of thevan. Swoosh gets out too and finds me doubled over by the rear bumper, crying “I can’t do thisanymore, I can’t do it anymore!” He opens the side door, makes the wailer get out, gives her a salestalk, and puts her back in. “Be nice to her,” I say. He glares at me. “I’m TIRED of hystericalwomen,” he snaps. I’m ashamed.
.Emergency McChickenburger stop at the McDonald’s in Evanston, Wyoming. Our color-codingdraws smiles from an elderly Mennonite couple. (Key to a successful road trip #1: wardrobe color-coding. High schoolers may opt out). Before eating, each child reapplies sunblock and then washes