Day Three: The Right Wrong Turns
When: Monday, August 15
Where: Meecham Ore. to Grangeville, ID
Miles Traveled: 371
Best Thing We Ate: Fresh Pears from the Tree
Song of the Day: Paris by The 1975
It's Day Three of our Road Trip to New York from Oregon. Here's another peek into the adventure!
I pressed my palms into the warm pastry between the hardwood countertop and a tin biscuit cutter. Natural light flooded the 19th century kitchen through tall windows revealing the song of a meadowlark and a hillside scattered with pine trees and amber grass.
It was Monday morning and mom and I still had a long trek ahead of us. We’d already been on the road for two weeks after moving out of Oakview, so our snack supply was dwindling.
Ronda had helped me set out a few things the night before so I could get up in time to bake some oatcakes for the road. With the hundreds of people that come through Ronda and her husband, Lon’s, retreat center each year, the kitchen has been well seasoned to say the least.
A full wall sits on the corner of the pantry with numbered shelves where the regular truck drivers and passersby would reserve a space for their own coffee cups. The commercial sink has grown to shine from decades of people bent over it, scrubbing dishes, slowly rubbing at the silver edging.
As much as I loved Ronda’s kitchen, the rest of her home was even more fun. There was a moose rack positioned above the entryway, hanging over a dimly lit living room with red embossed wallpaper and two variations of pink and orange patterned 1970’s carpet.
“Lon’s parents couldn’t decide which one to go with,” Ronda explained. “Finally they just decided to split it down the middle.”
It was hard to leave such a quirky and charming place, but Ronda had people for us to meet and places for us to go.
We made a few stops around Pendleton where we met several of her friends who follow my fashion adventures.
In a conversation with her friend Rene, they were telling us about a trip the two of them had taken to Vegas, and the fun things they saw there.
“There were all these impressive giant ceramic cows around,” she said from under her blonde bangs, an “It ain’t easy being queen” sign hanging beside her desk. “They must have been pretty sturdy because we climbed up on them.”
I could see that Ronda keeps herself pretty well surrounded by fun people.
Next on the Agenda was a trip to Jett’s salon. I first met Jett, bubbly mother of four, at Los Angeles Fashion Week in March. When Ronda told her treasured hairdresser that she was going to come help me out for the fashion show, Jett asked, “Well can I come too?”
She summarily canceled her appointments for the whole week to come to L.A. to be our team’s personal hair stylist. It wasn’t until she draped a silk apron over me reading “World Hair Team” that I realized exactly how good I’d gotten it.
Since our week together in L.A., I’d been growing my hair out in order to present her with a blank canvas for my new hair for my new life in New York.
After months of anticipation, I walked into the salon, sat down in the chair, and told her my hair was her canvas.
“Do whatever you want,” I said. He eyes lit up the way mine do when client gives me cart blanc with a dress. Soon enough my hair was glowing with florescent pink foils and Jett was telling me about her globe trotting with the World Hair Team from New York to Korea in 1997.
While my foils were setting, mom had a seat and let Jett work her hair over as well. There had to be at least ten inches of hair on the floor by the time she was through with both of us.
We bounced out the door with my new shoulder-length curls and mom’s sophisticated a-linejust in time to grab lunch and say goodbye to Ronda before hitting the road again.
I grabbed my stuffed bear and fell asleep as soon as we got into the car. When I woke up to a big sign blaring “Ontario,” my stomach flipped.
“Uh, mom…” I had been planning this road trip for weeks, and I knew that Ontario, Ore. was not on the route. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who’d needed that nap. Punched drunk with exhaustion, she’d driven three hours in the wrong direction in relation to the equator.
We were supposed to arrive at our friends’ place in Kalispell, Mont. that night so we could explore Glacier National Park in the morning. Now it was 3 p.m. and we were a solid nine hours from our intended destination.
After all the moving, remodeling, and drama that comes with all weddings, mom had hit the wall. Our night with Ronda was one of the first nights we’d had more than four hours of sleep since we’d left Scio two weeks before, and we hadn’t exactly been laying around eating bon-bons.
We mourned our lost day for a good ten minutes before I saw a sign that read “Welcome to Idaho.” I couldn’t sit up in my seat fast enough. I’d seen that same sign a hundred times before on week-long summer fishing trips with my grandparents.
Every summer from the time I was packing up my polly pockets and army men at five years old, to the summer I started shopping for a car, my mom’s parents had taken my brothers and me camping on the Idaho boarder outside of Ontario.
“Stop the car!” I crammed my feet into my little red shoes and scurried up a wooden post to get a picture with the sign. The Snake River rushed along below my Converse, the smell of the murky water and the tar on the railroad flooding my mind with a deluge of memories.
I closed my eyes and I could taste the hardboiled eggs and pepsi that had kept the five of us fueled through the week. I could feel the water splashing my skin as my brother stuck a net under trophies too large for me to pull in, and I could hear us laughing as he dove in the water after our loose stringer of catfish.
After the boys finished high school there just wasn’t time for trips in the summer anymore. Every June since then, when the grass starts to dry and they days begin to lengthen, my body reminds me that a piece of my heart simply isn’t being filled.
How fitting that without even planning, I was able to say goodbye to the place that had been home to so many of my best childhood memories.
Mom and I drove until about eight that night, stopping at some scenic points along the way, when I pulled out my smartphone to look for an inexpensive place to crash that night. I picked a place giving off a shiny log-cabin vibe. It looked charming and the rate was almost too good to be true, so I made reservations.
Siri directed us down a dark alley where we pulled into the parking lot. The “quiet and charming cabin” facade from the internet was more accurately a little single-wide trailer office connected to a half dozen wooden rooms and a neon sign with a couple letters burnt out.
The grey pile that was the rest of the hotel I assumed was awaiting renovation, due to its complete and utter state of dilapidation.
“We are not staying here.” Mom peered over the steering wheel, eyeing the tattooed herd of bikers that filled the parking lot.
I, however couldn’t have been more pleased with our new neighbors. Out of all the people I ever served waiting tables at Hampton Station, there wasn’t a more genuine, kind soul than that of a biker. They always tipped well too.
“Too late!” I grinned. If she rolled her eyes at me I didn’t notice because I was already out of the car bouncing into the shower-sized office inside the dingy trailer. Mom stumbled up to the counter, beyond desperate for a full night’s sleep, when a woman sporting a short grey mullet greeted us.
“Cash or check?” Mom’s jaw dropped at the obsolete question. The walls were plastered with a decade’s worth of world championship wrestling and fighting photos, starring the same tall, dark young man who happened to be the owner’s son. There was another photo of the same boy at about five years old, sleeping on the couch with a Playboy magazine over his chest.
So I may not have picked the classiest establishment in town, but the rooms were spotless and the beds were soft.
Before I went to sleep I turned toward mom’s side of the room.
“I hope the bikers are still there in the morning. They’re fun to talk to.”
She was half asleep, but through the dark I could hear her say, “Yeah, I hope so too.”
And that concluded Day Three of our adventure. We were a little frustrated to have lost a day, but as I sit here writing this, looking at the pictures, I’ve realized that my favorite moments from the day were in driving past the McDonalds where my grandpa had once bought me ice cream after receiving my first bee sting, and in sitting in the white sand where the salmon-colored sky reflected off of its accurately named Salmon River.
It was in the bouquet of sunflowers picked along the road in the mountains outlined by a magenta ribbon of sunset that I had felt so fully alive.
The lesson I drew from Day Three was that although a wrong turn can cost you your plans, your comfort, or seventy bucks for a questionable hotel room, they also come with sunflowers and candid adventures that you don’t find on an industrial interstate littered with pop cans and clockwork time tables.