I wasn’t sure if I should start this column quoting Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” (I just can’t wait to get on the road again) or if I should recite the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road.”
After driving over 2,500 miles and spending 37 hours on the road over the course of the past 10 days, the Beatles win the music challenge. It was a long and winding road.
The journey began on late Friday afternoon, Aug. 30. I pulled out of Gonzales and set my GPS for Ankeny, Iowa. I was leaving to go to my cousin’s son’s wedding in Des Moines on Sunday, Sept. 1. It was going to be over 1,000 miles of I-35: Dallas, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City and then ultimately, Des Moines.
It was not a bad journey, except for the usual traffic jam in Waco where they are doing construction. WHERE THEY ARE STILL DOING CONSTRUCTION! Every time I drive through there it doesn’t look like they are making any progress at all. It has been a mess for over a year now.
After Waco, the traffic was heavy due to it being Labor Day weekend, but I had expected that. There were a few slow downs north of Dallas and Oklahoma City, but nothing that lasted more than 5 or 10 minutes.
Now you may be wondering: Why didn’t you just fly up there?
Good question, but the economics didn’t add up. I called the airlines and told them that my itinerary included flying into Des Moines, renting a car to drive up to Minneapolis to go spend time with my son’s family and latest grandson, then flying back from Minneapolis to Austin. Folks, the numbers were astonishing.
One-way flights on Labor Day weekend are expensive. Dropping a rental car at a different destination than where you rented it from is even worse. Add in nine days of parking in Austin and I was looking at a bill of over $1,400!
I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can assure you the elevator does stop at the top floor for this cat. I did the math on the mileage that I get with my Jeep Cherokee 4-banger, and it hit me that I would not spend more than $300 in gas going both ways. So, when the calculus came back that I was saving over $1,100 for 37 hours of driving, I figured I was saving about $30 an hour.
I was not looking forward to it, but whenever I got tired and irritated with crazy drivers, I just started multiplying the number of hours by $30 and then whatever self-imposed or imagined agony I was experiencing quickly evaporated.
The I-35 drive is not as bad as I expected it to be. Kansas City is a great town with great barbecue and lots of fountains and museums. The World War I Museum is located there, and it is something that I have always wanted to see. The people are friendly, there are lots of fun things to do in the neighborhoods downtown, and I highly recommend it to y’all for a visit.
Des Moines is much the same way. It used to be a sleepy little city that serviced the corn industry, but the millennials have turned downtown Des Moines into a hip little corner of the corn belt. After the wedding ceremony got over on Saturday evening, the entire bridal party and family descended on downtown Des Moines and partook in some hopping (pardon the pun for craft beer lovers) joints. We stopped at one place near the railroad tracks and every time a train went by a bell rang inside the bar/restaurant and everyone was ordered by the staff to pick out their favorite shot of alcohol. Well, that’s not my normal cup of tea, but when I saw my 81-year old uncle who is battling bladder cancer throw one back, I lost any hope of declining the auspicious onslaught of libation.
On Monday, Sept. 2, I pointed the Jeep north on I-35 and headed to Minneapolis. There, I was reunited with my son, his wife, and my 15-month old grandson Theodore James. Little Theo stole the show—and his grandfather’s heart. This little gem of a human being enthralled us with his laughter, eagerness to learn and his speech. Yes, the little tike was thanking us for everything we handed him.
Now I don’t know about you, but in all my life I have never seen a 15-month old talk, say thank you, and then listen to dance commands like he was an adult. One day while we were out shopping, my daughter-in-law mentioned that Theo loved a certain Mickey Mouse doll at Target. We walked by it, and Theo went crazy over it. Of course, grandpa had to buy it for him.
When we got home later that evening, we discovered that if you squeezed Mickey Mouse’s hand, he would dance and sing and ask you to play Red Light/Green Light. Much to our amazement, Theo stopped on command at red light and then boogied the night away when Mickey said it was time to go on green light. We all laughed loudly at this.
The next day, my son and I took little Theo to the Mall of America. I had videoed Theo playing with Mickey Mouse the night before, and I asked my son if he had seen the video I had posted. He had not. As we were strolling Theo through the Mall of America, I played the video for my son. When it came time to go—and dance—little Theo started rocking around like Michael Jackson even though he was strapped into his stroller.
It was great to spend time with my son, and I even made side tours to Paisley Park (Prince’s home and studio), the Minneapolis Institute of Art (which has an incredible collection of Impressionist paintings, Picassos, and Asian artifacts), the North Loop, and even a Minnesota Twins/Cleveland Indians game at Target Field.
When it came time to leave early on Saturday, no one wanted to say goodbye. Little Theo would not let his grandpa go. It was tough.
But I had miles to go before I could sleep, so it was off on I-35 for the 1,250-mile journey back to Gonzales. Thank God for college football, because that made the 14 hours of driving on Saturday go by real fast. Unfortunately, the Longhorns and Aggies both lost which made the ride a little less enjoyable.
I got back Sunday afternoon, and boy was I happy to be out of the car and back home. Now if I could only get over this car lag….