There is the mythos of the American road trip and then there’s the reality.
This American road trip is about the time I went the wrong way on a turnpike in Oklahoma and paid the toll three times, my rabbit peed on my seat, and an ice storm froze my wiper blades while I was driving.
This entire stupid saga was completely and utterly caused by me. I was too lazy to get gas. I even stopped to relieve myself, looked at my gas gauge and thought “eh, I’ll be fine.”
I mean, I was fine, but not until after some undue stress and illegal activity– but that all comes later, on the return trip.
I hail from the Midwest, home to long stretches of road that head in all directions. You can drive for hours and still be in the middle of one state.
Currently, I live in Dallas, Texas, which is awesome. What’s not so awesome is my boyfriend, 500 miles away in Kansas. He’s finishing up his master’s degree so I guess I’ll forgive him. After a month apart, I took a few days off work, packed up my car and our pet rabbit, and left to conquer the 8 hour drive.
The trip there was horrendous. I passed through at least 5 different weather zones:
Dallas: Hot and Sunny. I had to use my air conditioning even though it was the middle of February.
South Oklahoma: Looked like a tornado was imminent. High winds followed by eerie patches of calm.
North Oklahoma: Thunderstorms complete with rain so heavy, the fastest mode on my wiper blades wasn’t enough.
South Kansas: Freezing rain. Pretty and terrifying all at once.
Mid-Kansas: Winter wonderland. Pretty, calm and cold.
Somewhere past the half-way point of my drive, it got cold out. But I couldn’t turn on my heat because my car fogged up so badly, I couldn’t see out the windshield. Then the freezing rain started. On the tiny, two-way highways in northern Oklahoma and north into Kansas, the bad weather dialed it up to 11. Miraculously, the roads weren’t slick, but the freezing rain was persistent enough to freeze the entire outside of my warm car.
Foggy windows be damned. I turned the heat up until the temperatures equalized themselves and I could see out my windshield and feel warm. Except I couldn’t really see out my windshield because the freezing rain froze onto my wiper-blades, making them near-useless waving pieces of ice-covered plastic scraping against glass.
I needed to pull over and break the ice off them. But, I had reached the no-man’s land between Oklahoma city and Kansas city. There is nowhere to stop. Dirt and ice caked my windshield but there were two strips that I could see out of and no other cars to speak of, so I kept going. Eventually, after getting stuck for an hour behind four semi-trucks that were playing leap frog at 45 miles per hour, I spotted a gas station and stopped. The ice cracked off my car when I opened the door and for the first time, I got to see the full extent of the freezing rain’s handy-work.
My car was covered, hood to trunk, with a thin sheet of ice. The only clear spots were the little strip of winshield I looked out of and the hottest part of the hood. I cleaned off my windshield and made the rest of the trip.
Hours later and ready for a nap, I reached my destination. The outside of my car needed a good wash and I was about to find out that the inside would need one too. I lifted my rabbit’s carrier out of the front passenger seat to find that he had managed to pee on the seat. I’m not sure how he accomplished this feat as his carrier is completely enclosed.
It felt like universe’s last “f– you and your road trip.”
The Return Trip
Things started out swimmingly on my way back. The snow and ice from a few days ago had completely melted. The roads were clear and traffic was light. I was making good time. I got comfortable and made the first mistake. I decided not to get gas.
Everything was fine, even my dwindling gas tank as I entered one of Oklahoma’s many toll roads. I’d just get off at the next exist, no problem. Ok, my gas tank went from “fine” to “lol, you, ain’t got no gas,” in a five minute span. That’s not great. But the next exit has to be soon– oh dear god no, it’s miles away. I’m about to run out of gas on a turnpike in Oklahoma.
A mini-panic attack ensued during which I tried to figure out how best to carry my rabbit to the gas station. Do I lug his bulky carrier or do I take him out of that and put him in my backpack with a little opening for his head?
Somehow, I coasted into the nearest gas station– a tiny two pump operation that was about 10 miles down the only exit. I made it. Now for the rest of my journey.
I left the gas station and drove back to the turnpike. My GPS said “turn” and I turned. I entered the ramp and immediately realized it was the wrong ramp. I was headed north on the turnpike when I was supposed to go south. My GPS recalculated. I watched in suspense. The detour would add 45 minutes to my 8-hour drive. I wanted to cry.
But the worst part of this detour was ahead.
I couldn’t turn around until I was back at the beginning of the turnpike. There was nothing. Absolutely nothing. No exists. Just strait Oklahoma turnpike for miles.
Once at the beginning of the turnpike, I exited and had to pay a toll. Now, I had already paid a toll to get on this damn turnpike, so I wasn’t sure why I or anyone else needed to pay a toll to get off it. I rummaged around for change (note: on this turnpike, change must be exact. There was no change machine at the gate I was at. The machine only accepts coins but it does not accept pennies.)
I was 20 cents short. I dug through everything, lifting floor mats and plunging my hands in the little wells attached to the inside of the doors, looking for anything. Anything. Nothing.
Now at these gates, there are no barriers. There’s just a red light. When the light turns green, you can go. With no coins and no instructions on what to do if you don’t have any coins, I rolled forward. Bells went off, letting me know I did a bad thing. I slowed and waited, expecting a cop car or toll enforcement to ride up. No one did, so I drove away, ducking my head and saying sorry out loud to the universe.
I looped around to get back on the highway and to my dismay there was another toll. At this point, I was beyond frustrated. I called the number printed on the side of toll booth and it immediately went to an automated machine, telling me that it was past hours. I hung up, threw my phone down, and drove through the toll gate. It blared bells, I yelled sorry, my journey went on.
I’m not surprised if I’m wanted in Oklahoma. I’m still waiting for my toll violation notice.
Finally, I was in Texas. I was so close to home– a mere hour and a half.
Traffic got worse the closer I got to home but that was expected. There was a delay of some sort up ahead because of construction. My GPS reassured me it was causing less than a 15 minute delay.
Fifteen minutes later, I realized this was no minor delay. The highway I needed closed down to two lanes for construction. I had 12 miles to go. It took me an hour. Within the construction zone I saw five guys with a tape-measure looking thing. They might be doing important work but I was too pissed to care.
Finally, two hours later than my original ETA, I was home.
Whoever says the journey is more important than the destination has obviously never driven through Oklahoma or Kansas. Then again, it was the journey–not the destination– that was worth writing about.