My mother recalled that my sister, Linda, and I kept asking, "Are we there yet?" My dad hung a burlap bag full of water on the front grill of our midnight blue Packard so that he could pour water into the radiator, when it started to boil over in the Mojave Desert. My mother, the map reader, became know for 'Mother's Shortcuts,' which took us miles away from our nightly destination, and which made our trips even more fun because of the extra sights we saw. Linda entertained us in the back seat with road games such as License Plate Bingo.
I spent the rest of the time in the car making up stories about the Old West and the trail that became Route 66, the road my dad was driving on. I also called out at every quirky place that had a sign in the window proclaiming:
"Stop! Look! Rock Museum -- see Volcanic Rocks!"
"Monster Dinosaurs -- Paw Prints as Big as Houses!"
"Ft. Bridger -- Don't Miss Jim Bridger's Guns!"
I wanted to explore them all. My dad obliged me and stopped at a few along the way. What better way to collect a few souvenirs of the Old West?
By the time we got to South Dakota, we were all tired and fairly grumpy. We made a short stop in Pierre to see one of my dad's sisters and her family, but our final long driving day meant we had to cross the Badlands, a place of moonscapes, and no water or gas until the other side.
My dad stopped at the last gas station to fill up the Packard. I ran to the restroom and waited as an elderly woman took her time in the single stall. When I was done, I walked out the door. My heart skipped a beat as my eyes looked at the gas pump -- no Packard there. "Where'd my family go?" I didn't look beyond the pump.
Thinking that I was in the back seat already, my dad had started the car out of the station. When Linda yelled, "You forgot Martha!" he backed up and came right back to retrieve me. My poor dad must have been thinking of that last, hot, difficult drive through the Badlands to the state border of Minnesota when he almost left me in the middle of nowhere -- and me without a horse.