Sunday, January 2, 2011 in , ,


Not what Robert Johnson had in mind
(This is a road trip story. Don't expect too much.)

Recently my dad and I went on a road trip. I guess it wasn’t a real road trip, he was just picking me up in Wisconsin and driving me home for the holidays. But really they’re all the same, aren’t they? Sitting in a car, driving on a few highways, trying to stay awake and eating crappy road food.

Quality time with the old man
This got me to thinking of road trips my family took when I was a kid. My mom would always try to find little games my brother and I could quietly play in the backseat to make the time go by quicker. My dad would always buy us Mountain Dew and Skittles, of course, ruining the quietness of my mothers thoughtful planning. I don’t know why every road trip my dad thought Skittles and Mountain Dew was a good combination for two little kids. We would get really hyped up on sugar and then I would usually get car sick. It also didn’t help that my father liked to “play a game” by accelerating at the top of hills so the car would lift slightly and my tiny child body would get flung into the air.

So anyway, my dad drove 8.5 hours from Missouri to Wisconsin, picked me up, and then drove another 8.5 hours back to Missouri in the same day refusing to stay the night. Did I offer to drive some to give him a rest? Of course. Did he let me drive? Of course not. I decided if he wasn’t going to let me drive, it was my job to help keep him awake.

For probably the first two hours we talked off and on about what we’ve been doing in the last few months. By the third hour, I decided we needed to listen to some Christmas music. Unfortunately, my dad doesn’t share my enjoyment of bad pop Christmas songs and he definitely didn’t enjoy my imitations of them. After about two hours of our Christmas Song Marathon or "This Horrible Crap" (his words, not mine), I think his mind was starting to break.

Before leaving Wisconsin and driving through Iowa, we passed this little town that had one of those drive through light displays. You know the ones where they string lights across the road and have light scenes of reindeer jumping over your car or Santa climbing up a chimney. They’re like a tacky, roadside, Christmas gem.

I’ve never been through one before so I told my dad that we had to do it. He looked really unhappy but took an exit and drove up to the entrance.  I immediately started snapping pictures. But as we drove up to the entrance my dad realized he didn’t want to waste money on driving through a Christmas light display and turned around. I shamefully told him he was ruining Christmas. He laughed.
A little while later the conversation started to take a nosedive. I had run out of good topics to talk about and that is never a good situation for me. I get kind of uncomfortable and then the endless chatter begins and I spit out whatever comes to mind. One of the first signs of this was after we stopped for gas we saw a giant bronze statue of a jaguar. The conversation went as such:

Sam: So which one is it that doesn’t exist? Jaguars or panthers?
Dad: (Confused silence)
Sam: You know? Which one is made up?
Dad: (More silence, heading toward disappointment)
Sam: I saw on PBS one night this special on wild cats and they said something like jaguars or black panthers don’t really exist. I don’t really remember. But isn’t that true?
Dad: (More silence) No.
Sam: (Confused silence)
Dad: The push mi- pull yu is a made up animal. Is that what you're talking about?
Probably extinct
In my defense, I really did see a special on wild animals; however, I was slightly confused. It’s the black cougar that is believed by some biologists to not exist.
Not this kind of cougar:

but this kind:

I wish I could say I redeemed myself later by starting an intelligent conversation but I didn’t. After saying something else stupid this was the conversation:

Sam: I should get a leather notebook to carry with me so I don’t forget all my ideas.
Dad: Like a moleskin notebook?
Sam: Yeah! That’s something that white people like.
Dad: (He made a strange face followed by silence)
Sam: Haven’t you seen that website?
Dad: (Exasperated face and more silence) Why would I look at something like that?

All in all it wasn’t a bad road trip and I got to spend some time with my dad. But I think now he is questioning how I ever made it through six years of college.

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