Archive for the ‘Cross-Country Trip 2010’ Category

The Kindness of Strangers

September 20, 2010 @ 6:45 pm | Filed under:

One night en route to our family reunion in Virginia, our hotel room was near the laundry and I decided to do a quick load. I’d packed light and our wardrobe was getting pretty grubby by that point. I scrabbled for quarters, carried a sack of clothes around the corner to the washer, and discovered I’d have to go down the front desk for detergent. But when I got there, a woman with two towel-wrapped, wet-haired children had just made the same purchase. My heart sank: I was so very tired, and now I’d have to wait until her load was done before I could start mine.

The clerk smiled expectantly at me as the woman turned away from the desk with her tiny cardboard box of Dreft. “That’s what I came for too,” I murmured. The pool-kids woman turned back, her forehead creased in apology.

“You needed the washer?” she asked.

“No worries,” I said. “I’ll get in there when you’re done.”

But she insisted that I go first. Her kids needed to shower, she said. She’d be busy for a while anyway. We argued politely for a few minutes—you—no, you—and she won. Which is to say, she did me the immense favor of letting me use the machine first. In my exhaustion, I was grateful almost to tears. We were traveling east, losing an hour every other day. It was close to midnight, Pacific Time, which was the clock my body was still ticking to. I offered to call her room as soon as our load finished, but she said not to worry about it, she’d just peek in after a while.

She ushered her kids toward the elevator and the clerk slid my Dreft across the counter.

“That’ll be a dollar,” she said. I unzipped my little money pouch and realized all the cash was in my purse, upstairs. But I had the laundry quarters in my pocket, so I dug them out and handed them over, adding with a rueful laugh, “I’ll probably be back down here in a little while to buy them back for the dryer.”

At which point another hotel guest stepped forward. He and his wife had arrived at the desk during my exchange with the sweet pool-mom. This man, a burly lumberjack-looking fellow, handed a dollar bill to the clerk and said amiably, “Go ahead and give her back her quarters.”

For the second time I turned to a stranger in grateful protest. For the second time, the stranger’s kindness prevailed. The lumberjack paid for my detergent, and I thanked him, and I went upstairs and did my laundry.

I bumped into the nice pool mom on my way back from moving our wet things to the dryer. She had her daughter with her, a sack of clothes, and two little dogs. Adorable little dogs. Rescued dogs, it turned out. This family had six dogs in their room, plus a guinea pig. They were delivering the animals to new homes on their way to their own new home in Texas, having just moved out of New Jersey. We wound up chatting for quite a while as we waited for my clothes to dry—it took three cycles, and even then they were still a little damp. She was astonished to hear I was traveling alone with six kids. I was impressed to hear she was shepherding seven animals across hundreds of miles. My younger children ran up and down the short laundry/vending hall with the doggies. The baby was fresh out of the bath and tore off down the hall naked. The children guffawed too loudly and we quickly hustled our small animals into our respective rooms before the other guests complained.

We met up the next morning in the parking lot. She was walking three or four of the dogs, and I was reloading the minivan. I thanked her again: she must have had a very late night, waiting for her three-cycles-worth of drying to tumble her clothes to an acceptable level of damp. She shook her head: no trouble at all, I don’t know how you’re managing it, it’s amazing to travel so far on your own. The little terrier at her feet wagged encouragingly. I thought about her all the way up I-81, this exuberant smiling woman who rescues more than dogs.

There and Back Again

August 26, 2010 @ 7:11 pm | Filed under: ,

21 days, 16 states, nearly 5800 miles by minivan. We left home on August 4th, the six kids and I, and got back this afternoon. It’ll probably take me another three weeks to tell all the stories. I started posting about the trip while we were still on the road but didn’t want to say we were away from home until we weren’t anymore.

We got to spend time with beloved family on both sides, Scott’s and mine, and had delightful visits with friends all over the country. This was an August we’ll not soon forget.

Tomorrow we’ll tackle the mountain of laundry, but tonight I’m still thinking of the mountains west of Tucson this morning, as we moved out from under a heavy blue storm into the bright desert light.

(Grainy cellphone photo.)

Tonight we are happy to be safely home, reunited with Scott (who flew out to Virginia to join us for a week of our trip, but returned home ten days ago). Kids are bathed and still mostly on Central Time, so bedtime is nigh. Scott says we have three episodes of Mad Men to catch up on. There’s dulce de leche ice cream in the freezer. I loved our grand adventure, but I am happy, happy, happy to be home.

Road Trip Day 1

August 20, 2010 @ 9:13 pm | Filed under: ,

Wednesday, August 4th: ready to roll.

Facebook log:

Just discovered Rilla has filled her travel backpack with milkweed fluff. “So I can frow it in the air when we get there and chase it.”

Oh he’s cruel! I’m loading the car. He puts “Every Time You Go Away (You Take a Piece of Me With You)” on iTunes. ::::sob::::

Flagstaff AZ smells like pine and stars.

OK, so one teeny tiny little hiccup…I have lost my voice. Don’t know why. Don’t feel sick. Dry air? Faded gradually all day. I didn’t talk much. Luckily we know a lot of sign language but it’s hard to sign while you’re driving.

Today: chaparral to sand dunes to saguaro desert to pine forest. 17 audio chapters of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Older girls assigning one another shifts for answering the little ones’ “Are we there yet?” since I couldn’t do it myself. Strawberry lemonade. Incredible mountain view south of Flagstaff. Wired baby.