Friday, August 27, 2010

Coast to coast with Colleen

"This is the longest we've been apart since we were married...." sighed Mr. Hall. Mrs. Hall gave him a big hug and tried to reassure him. "The cats will keep you company and the dog will, well.. keep you occupied. Watch over the hall; I'll be home Tuesday afternoon."
Mr. Hall slid into the big black car and streamed out of sight. He was off to the New York State Funeral Directors Association convention in Saratoga while Mrs. H. was left to finish the packing. Colleen had been busy saying goodbye to all her friends for the last three days and was now getting all misty eyed at the realization that in a few short (very short to be sure- they had scheduled to leave at 4 am!) hours she would no longer have Wookie with whom to commiserate.
At 4:15 AM they loaded up the little black car and hit the high roads. Loaded to the absolute gills with bedding, books, school supplies and munchies, the two rolled along through New York. They picked up Route 80 in PA and took that all the way into Illinois. Poor Colleen drove until she could keep her eyes open no longer and Mrs. Hall took over the last leg through Gary and Chicago. They made the trip in record time and that was no surprize; their destination that evening was Rolling Meadows and the home of host and hostess extraordinaire Mr. and Mrs. Leo Pranitis. After a wonderful dinner and lots of catching up, they headed off to bed. Up with the sun they began again, but they weren't fast enough to beat Mrs. Pranitis; they were planning their own excursion for that day and she had prepared a hearty breakfast for everyone already. As the Pranitis' went off to see the tall ships downtown, Colleen and Mrs. H. set out themselves, with full coffee mugs and lots of deli sandwiches. Waving good bye as the little black car rolled out of the driveway, they jumped into the rush hour jam and headed west.
The open road is a wonderful thing. The weather gods were with the little band so all their pictures featured clear skies and beautiful blue backgrounds. Farms whizzed by and truck stops beckoned; it seemed like there was an attraction just waiting to be seen around every corner; but the two had determined to fly like the wind, stopping only to fill the tank and drain the main sumps. Still, there were always things that held them up. In Iowa, there was a long backup because a huge recreational vehicle had just gone off the road and flipped over in the ditch. In Nebraska, they stopped to refill the gas tank and found a stray dog panting in the sun. Its tags said it was registered in Ohio. After giving it some water and turning it over to the gas station's manager who promised to take it in if its owner couldn't be found, they moved on.
Finally, as the sun dipped low on the horizon, Grand Island, NE came into view. It was easy to see that Grand Island was not one of those towns that fell prey to the usual preconceptions that country folk are uncultured bores. In fact, various corners of the town had been decorated with different organizations artistic interpretations of that classic art medium: hay bales. The voice on the GPS system (which Colleen had specifically programmed to have an Australian accent) kept telling them to go another half mile down the strip, but, happily ignoring it, the little black car with the NY plates decided to pull into the Western Store instead. They did eventually check in at the hotel. A quick dip in the pool and it was time to retire. Two days had only made a dent in their itinerary- they still had thousands of miles to go.
Next episode: Across the Western plains. Stay tuned.

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