Friday, October 15, 2010

An Hour Drive That Lasted Three and a Half Hours. Three Hours and Forty-Two Minutes, to be Exact

Have I ever told you that I have a paralyzing fear of heights?

I'm not talking about "climbing up the ladder" heights. I'm talking about "driving on a on-way dirt road looking over the ocean/a steep canyon/a severe drop into sharp conifer trees" heights. Whenever I know that there is going to be a road like that in my future over which I absolutely must travel, I make MacG drive. I close my eyes, hold onto the door handle with a force that turns my knuckles a bluish white, and say really bad words under my breath. I don't open my eyes until he tells me we've survived. Unfortunately, we live in a state, which is home to many, many beautiful mountains and we find ourselves traveling on these awful, quaint roads too often for my liking.

I got to drive myself across three such roads, this week. Well, okay, two such roads: I was hopelessly lost and went over one of them twice.

Peanut (she's eight) was going on a school camping trip to one of our state parks, with two 3rd/4th grade classes. Yes, that's forty-seven eight through ten year-olds. I volunteered to go with them. I was in charge of all the food for the kids and around fifteen adults - and I had forgotten the peanut butter. I figured that the odds of someone in this particular group needing peanut butter for making their lunch sandwich the following day was pretty high, so I stopped at the grocery store on the way out of town. I would only be ten or fifteen minutes behind the rest of the caravan, I figured.

Big mistake.

Really big.

I should have brought another parent with me to navigate, but every seat in my little (totally not-a-mom) car was completely filled with food. Along with my duffel bag, the front seat had several condiments lined across the seat and piled up on the floor. Do you know how much ketchup this age group eats? The back seat was covered with twelve watermelons. And they were heavy! I could feel my car accelerating quite a bit slower than usual. The trunk looked like a fruit cart: 90+ Gala apples, three bags of oranges, enough grapes to feed... well around 70 people. There wasn't any room in that car for someone to hold the map. Barely enough room for the map!

So I ended up on the wrong side of the coast. On a one-lane, dirt road. Overlooking the ocean. Twice.

The drive started out quite wonderfully: I had moon roof open, windows down all around. I had my favorite teen vampire soundtrack on superloud. There was a Cherry Coke Zero in my drink holder. Since I don't normally go on solo road trips, I was relishing the breeze and the music.

I had used an online map service, which had given me the direction to travel up the coast, find this nightmarish road and turn left onto a street - which hasn't existed for around 40 years. Apparently, it would have brought me into the back entrance to my destination. Forty. Years. Ago.

I had become desperate enough to ask an old man on a motorcycle for some guidance. He had a giant handlebar mustache, which bounced when he said, "I don't know what- in- the- hell you are talking about. I've lived here for half of my life and I've never heard of that road." He was yelling through my window: "You are at least fifty miles away from where you want to be."

Since I was in charge of cooking and it was almost time for our little campers to eat dinner - I began to panic. Just a little. As I headed back down the highway, I noticed that the fog was closing in on my little silver car, making it look like I was driving on a thoroughfare in the middle of the ocean. It was so awesome.

You realize that I'm being facetious, right?

I was sick to death of teen vampire music, at this point. I had listened to all three movies (don't hate) and I was done. My own racing heart accompanied the raucous bouncing of melons on the backseat, setting a rhythm for my trek across the coast.

I stopped at the first McDonald's that I could find and bought a giant Coke, so I didn't feel like a dork being there. But not one person who worked there "ever knew that we even had state parks". They referred me to an





who had a crumb of something McFried on his lip. He told me to goheregothereandturnleft (only much slower than that). It turns out that he really meant to turn right, because when I next stopped at Burger King (I interrupted a domestic dispute to ask for directions) they sent sent me back the way I came. I bought a cup of coffee before I left.

On my way out the door, a much younger motorcyclist than the first one said, "Listen. I'll tell you how you can get where you're going. For real, this time." And he did.

I made it to our campsite by 5:01pm. The school camping schedule had stated that we would begin to cook at five. "You're late!" One of the kids said, beginning to unload the watermelons.

He had no idea...

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