Day Four: Feisty Cacti and a Real-Life Ursula
Day Four is in the bag, and so far mom and I are still friends! And I'm not even tired of road trip food yet. Check out the latest from our cross-country road trip below!
It was a sunny Tuesday morning in Central Idaho. The nicotine cloud that clung tightly to our dingy motel had lifted enough for Magellan the plant to stretch his pointy green arms toward the sun in a sleepy yawn.
He’d spent the last 72 hours in the back seat of the Jeep under a bag of socks, and was not impressed.
While mom and I packed up our things I left him to sit on the pavement beside the car to soak in some sunshine and get some fresh air.
“That there yo plant?” A wiry man resting up against a red harley asked.
“This is Magellan the explorer!” I declared, throwing the last of our bags in the back seat and closing the door.
I skipped back into the hotel room for my lunchpail as a couple more men donning black leather and chains walked onto the scene.
“What’s with the plant?” one of them asked, spitting into a cola bottle.
“Careful, there Earl! That’s Magellan. He bites!”
His friend piped up beside him. “Yeah he’s a right dangerous little feller.”
I loaded Magellan back into the car, trying to find more comfortable seating for him this time. “Where are you guys from?” I asked, not at all surprised to learn that their southern accents were from Tennessee.
Mom joined us and they gave us some good advice about places to see along our journey and some travel tips for our next couple days in Montana.
“Are you happy now?” Mom asked as we pulled out.
About an hour down the road we stopped for some waters in Stites, Idaho (population 220). We came a skippin’ through the grocery store doors, stopping dead in our tracks as we came nose-to-nose with a tall wide-eyed woman who’d probably been wearing the same hairstyle since 1947.
“What are you looking for?” she demanded.
Confused, mom and I looked around the grocery store, taking in the empty shelves and burnt-out light fixtures. There were two men of similar vintage sitting at a dusty card table in the doorway, hard at work devouring the stacks of newspapers before them.
“Uh, are you open?” Mom asked, giving me an “are you as sketched out as I am?” side glance. “We were just looking to buy some waters.”
The gruff mid-century mystery villain standing before us suddenly blossomed into everyone’s sweet little old grandmother.
She took me by the hand, leading me past two aisles of completely empty shelves and pointed toward a refrigerated wall in the back.
The glass doors revealed more bare shelving, except for a door toward the middle that was completely stocked with beer.
It was the first actual product I’d seen for sale in the whole store.
“Oh yes, help yourself girls.” She sauntered back to the front of the store, sliding back onto her perch behind the door, waiting like a spider for a fly.
“Well that was… odd.” I whispered to mom, dodging a mass of cobwebs and a stack of well-read newspapers. We both laughed, trying to keep our composure.
I tiptoed around the back wall, trying to figure out what the deal was without being noticed by Walt Disney’s real-life Ursula. A few rows down I found some shelves that were occupied by dusty cleaning supplies, and in the next row there were a dozen or so cans of fruit cocktail that could have very well also been from 1947.
The next row had entire shelf of recipe cards, set out in flat stacks for anyone to take. I pocketed a recipe for an avocado corn salad that mom and I later agreed would be our first meal once we get to New York.
I could hear mom paying for our waters and the old men were working away at their crossword puzzle, so I continued my snooping.
Around the corner was a row of caseless video cassette tapes and, to my delight, a stack of records. Oh, and there were a few bags of corn nuts sitting there too.
We shuffled outside with our waters, trying not to step on the men in the doorway as they argued over the correct spelling of “deft”
It was silent when we got into the car. “Did that really just happen?” Mom asked. I shrugged and we chuckled the whole 45 seconds it took to get across “town” and back on our merry way.
We drove up Hwy 95, enjoying the river and the windy road that hugged its every curve like a good pair of jeans. A few hours into our drive we came to the orange blare of roadwork signs, and were soon brought to a stop. Half asleep from the bacon burger-coma that came with lunch, I hardly noticed when mom got out of the car. Confused, I watched her march up to the man holding the sign and point toward the river.
“Come on! He said we have time to get in!” she said.
My head flopped to the side and I pulled my pillow over my face.
Her liveliness sickened me.
I watched her disappear into the trees through the corner of my pillow. It took all the strength that I had and about five minutes, but with the little angel (or maybe devil) voice chanting “YOLO” in my head, I knew I’d better go join in the fun.
Confused looks from the string of cars parked behind ours shot my way as I tumbled over the bank, swatting at the net of vines and branches before me.
When I made it through the foliage to the water, my heart stopped. Trees of every shade of emerald blanketed mountains that shot out of the banks like arrows, with a wide sheet of glasslike water suspended between them.
And there in the middle of it all, splashing like a child, was my mother.
I sat on the beach, white sand under my red toes as the sun kissed my neck. Much better than napping in the car.
We made it back up to the road in time for the pilot truck to lead us back to reality.
I turned up the radio, put my sandy white toes on the dash, and gave Magellan a long drink of cold water from the city of Stites.
Read more in tomorrow’s post!