Leaving Colorado Part 3: Long Stretch of Nothing

I should have stayed in Brigham City. From what I saw, it was a friendly little place. I sat with my kids at a Panda Express watching my baby throw noodles on the floor while my four-year-old reclined on the booth. It was six p.m. and we’d been on the road since four in the morning. I had traveled 450 miles with two kids and two dogs. A rational mom would have called it a day.

But I didn’t want to spend the night in Utah. This was an ungrateful attitude considering the events of earlier that morning, but Utah had always ranked high on my list of Places that Gays Should Avoid. It was kind of a silly fear, I reasoned with myself. It’s not like I was wearing a t-shirt that said “DYKE”. Without my partner at my side, I looked like any other run-down parent. But I couldn’t get past my uneasiness.

I should buy this hat to wear when I'm traveling.  source: http://www.zazzle.com

I should buy this hat to wear when I’m traveling.
source: http://www.zazzle.com

Besides, the sun was still high and Idaho was only sixty miles away. Driving on was a commitment though; from the TripAdvisor map, it looked like we’d have to drive deep into Idaho before finding a sure place to spend the night. I bought myself an iced tea and loaded everyone back into the Honda. The dogs, who up until this point had reliably ignored the snack box, had finished the last of my chips and left the car smelling like a fart.

By the time we reached the freeway, the baby was already crying. A summer of long car trips had trained me to recognize the cry of no return. He wasn’t tired, he wasn’t hungry, he was pissed. The nearest listed motel was in Burley. I watched the road signs, translating miles into minutes: 120 minutes of crying, 112 minutes of crying. I prayed for a better option.

dogs

As we approached Snowville, the last town in Utah, the baby still screamed and my fuel tank had fallen to E. Though the road had been quiet, the gas station was full of travelers. Just a few feet beyond was the town’s one motel, set behind a lot full of dying weeds. I nearly cried with relief when the clerk told me she had a room. The baby, red-faced, snotty, teary, nuzzled into my shoulder as I paid.

The moment we settled into the room, fear kicked in. Who did I think I was anyhow, traveling alone with two young kids? What if someone climbed in through the window while we slept? What if the motel owner was a psycho and let himself in with a key? What if my fear kept me up all night and tomorrow I’d fall asleep at the wheel? What if I never made it out of Utah?

But then I remembered: the dogs. Until now, I had seen them as two more beings who took up room, requiring care and food and space. But now they were protectors who would bark like crazy the moment they sensed a hand on the other side of the doorknob. Oh how I loved them for that.

I slept soundly for six hours, which was all I really needed. When I woke up, I poured warm tap water over two green tea bags in a Styrofoam cup and let the dogs out to pee in the brisk morning air. Then I loaded my tribe into the car, and left Utah, kind Utah, behind me. There was just enough light in the sky to make out the shape of the mountains, and also the glow of a few remaining stars.

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29 comments

  1. Favorite lines… “left the car smelling like a fart” and “Utah, kind Utah”. Because of course we’d expect dogs to leave the car smelling like a fart but that Utah would be kind? What a lovely surprise. The first posts of yours I read were about this journey. I look forward to each new chapter.

    1. I don’t know why that “Nobody knows I’m a lesbian” paraphernalia has always cracked me up. I think it’s because it strikes me as a convenient but bizarre way to come out.

  2. I love reading the installments. I also think as a whole it would be a travel memoir I would hungrily devour. Do you have any plans for merging your posts into a short story or sumpin’?

    1. I didn’t start with that intention, but I figure when I’m done it would be fun to paste them all together and see how it reads as one longer piece. I’m enjoying the challenge of breaking the journey into 600 word chunks.

  3. I feel like I don’t have the patience to wait for the chunks! Let’s pull over now at that family owned fudge shop and buy an entire tray.

  4. I know that stretch of freeway well. There’s nothing ahead but “Exit ##, Farm Road, No Services” for the next 200 miles. Also, Idaho? Totally not less conservative than Utah. I’ve never whispered “at least I’m white” under my breath so many times.

    1. Yeah, when my partner read this, the first thing she said was: “Idaho’s no better!” But all I’ve of seen of Idaho is the Whole Foods in Boise, so I guess I didn’t pick up on that. 😉

  5. Good Lord! I’m scared to drive through Utah, and all I am is Catholic. I worry about ending up some sister wife in a compound without WiFi, and it goes downhill from there.

    I am glad you made it.

  6. We were robbed a few years ago and I did some research about an alarm system right after. I found that the best deterrent for thieves wasn’t the most expensive alarm system, but a dog! Hand down, says the research. Too bad I’m too lazy to walk one everyday! 🙂

  7. Three thoughts:
    Gotta love them doggies.
    Note to self: buy stock in zazzle.com!
    Idaho, for me, is wedged between Wyoming and Utah on my list of states that gays daren’t go. Do I need to recalibrate?

  8. I really love you you spin a tale – it’s the type of writing that looks effortless but clearly is precisely woven together. I felt like you were telling me a good story across a coffee table. Maybe we were drinking tepid not-quite-green-tea together.

  9. I know that stretch of road all too well. We always stop in Snowville as we head to SLC airport..much, much cheaper than Boise to fly out of. You missed nothing but not staying in Burley.

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