Rush hour in Tonopah, which as Simon said, has less life than Bodie. Image via Wikipedia
Simcat flew home last Wednesday after a hugely successful five-day road trip across the barrens of Nevada, preceded by a three-day trip to Glen Ellen for wine tasting and visiting the beach and Michael’s.
I should explain Simcat is how my brother-in-law Simon and his wife Cathy, my bestest-most-favouritest English sister-in-law are known to my husband and I in cyberspace. Has sort of a ring to it, don’t you think?
The last time they visited was nine years ago. Since then we moved to the UK and back and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen them.
Cathy is an inveterate list maker: Honestly the woman makes lists of the lists she needs to make. This has been a difficult adjustment for me—my idea of planning is to show up and see what happens.
After a four-way telephone conversation, we settled on what to do while Simcat was here: Visit Sonoma, the coast and craft stores over the Labor Day weekend. That would be followed by a quick stop at home for laundry services and an appearance at the paper, and then we would hit the road again for Las Vegas and points south.
Now I don’t know how many of you have been road trips with family and friends, but let me tell you it’s not to be undertaken lightly. There are personal idiosyncrasies and shortcomings to be overlooked, personal tics, flatulence and other boorish behavior from the brothers. Usually it all begins to appear as you pull out of the driveway. Cries of “Are we there yet?” and “I have to go to the bathroom” echo in the collective consciousness.
My own sister and I can do well on road trips only as long as she controls the map and I control the motel choices.
There are also cultural differences apparently, despite the fact Steve is English. Simon scrambled eggs for breakfast our first morning in Glen Ellen. I was late to table and was saved. What Simon had thought was olive oil in a cute dispenser, was, in fact, dish soap in a cute dispenser. Who, I want to know, uses olive oil in his scrambled eggs?
I have cooling issues; my preferred environment is about 68. Cathy likes it to be hot—poor thing, never sees much sun in Blighty. The very idea of Las Vegas in September (been there, done that) gives me heat stroke.
What’s more the dear girl wanted to do all the casinos on the strip—in an afternoon. I declined to join them before dark; they ventured off about midday. By 5 p.m., they were back; absolutely wrung out from heat—it was 117 on the Strip that afternoon. I was really proud of myself: I merely thought “I told you so” as I lay up to my neck in the swimming pool.
What then was I doing two days later? Driving into Death Valley, where the afternoon air temperature was 122-plus. It was so hot, the birds were panting. Mad dogs and Englishmen, bah! Give me A/C anytime.
On our way down to Las Vegas we stopped overnight at Tonopah. I can highly recommend the Best Western there as clean, pleasant overnight accommodation. However, take a picnic dinner. My parents eat at the hotel, but I allowed my husband who had told me how bad the food was to take us to the Ramada.
I swear zombies staff it. Our waitress, and I’m using the term loosely here, appeared to be human but had the gumption of a bump on a log. I keep trying to think of where the stereotypical roadside diner waitress image came from. She could have been the prototype: completely listless, exuding an air of resignation and hopelessness that was really depressing.
As we were driving away, all I could think was “OMG, people live here!” We stopped to visit Bodie on our way home from Death Valley. As Simcat observed, “There’s more life in Bodie than in Tonopah.”
Then there’s the music issue. I think the music died when the Beatles broke up; Cathy is the original Dancing Queen and Steve and Simon, well the kindest thing is to not discuss their lack of musical discernment—I think it must be genetic.
He doesn't look like one of the Fab Four! Image via Wikipedia
According to Cathy’s list, Simon was in charge of road music and he arrived with a dozen CDs: Billy Joel’s greatest hits, Peter Gabriel’s greatest hits, Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” U2, UB-40, Chris Rea, Dolly Parton I & II and, wait for it, ABBA.
I just could not believe Simon would own a Dolly Parton CD, let alone rip it to share. It was fortunate he did however because Cathy and I taught them the Kenny Rogers-Dolly Parton duet “Islands in the Stream.” Uh-huh!
“Uh-huh” turns out to be a very useful lyric: ABBA uses it extensively. I almost know all the words to “Super Trooper” and “Voulez vous.” Uh-huh! While this may sound like the road trip from hell, there was never a cross word. We laughed and sang and enjoyed each other’s company in a way so few people can in such close quarters for an extended period of time.
We were glad to be home, but we weren’t. It was fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Take that Kerouac, uh-huh!