Squish


When last I posted, we were poised for our eastward trek. It’s now five days later, and we’re at home. I apologize for not keeping you updated, but most of what I would have written would have been along the lines of: “Drove 600 miles today. Sunny and hot. Stayed at a hotel.” Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t unpleasant, it just wasn’t particularly newsy.

The first day was a long one – we traveled from Newport, Oregon to Twin Falls, Idaho, about 688 miles. It was hard to say goodbye to Newport – we’d had such a good time and the weather was spectacular – but we climbed in the car and started our journey. We had nice views of Mount Hood and the Columbia Gorge on our way east, but once we took a more southerly route (I didn’t want to go back the same way we’d come) the scenery got fairly tedious. Just before we crossed into Idaho, we passed the big Ore-Ida potato plant and were amused to see that its smokestack pooted out a perfectly round smoke ring every minute or so.

We stayed at a Comfort Inn in Twin Falls, and on checking in I was informed that the king room I’d reserved was not available because “the hotel is overbooked.” The night clerk’s attitude was that we were lucky to have a room at all because everything in town was booked up. I wanted to smack her. She was the first person we’d met on our journey who was anything less than delightful, but I guess she’d been telling people all night that they were out of luck and was tired of it. We went out and got a late bite to eat, came back and went right to bed.

The next day we ate our Complimentary Continental Breakfast, got back in the car and continued east. We had a very short jog down into Utah and caught just a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake. We were glad to get back into Wyoming and see our friends the pronghorn antelopes again. It was also a relief to see buttes and canyons after the tedium of the high plains of Oregon and Idaho. What can I say – we just like Wyoming.


We had a slightly shorter day – only 615 miles before we stopped for the night in Cheyenne, so we had enough time to go out for a decent dinner. We stayed at a Comfort Inn again, where everything was quiet and organized and we got the room we’d requested, and the night clerk was extremely helpful. We wanted a steak, so on her recommendation we headed to Albany’s, which is near the center of Cheyenne. It wasn’t anything fancy, but we both had a delicious prime rib and the HOTTEST horseradish we’d ever eaten. It started off sweet on the palate and then kicked you in the adenoids. Wonderful. We shared a brownie sundae for dessert, then looked around town just a little before heading back to the hotel. Cheyenne has a lot of big boots displayed around town – here’s me with one.

In the morning we ate our Complimentary Continental Breakfast and continued east. Since we were stopping the night with my sister Liese and her family in Lincoln, Nebraska, and wanted to have a little time with them, we traveled only 452 miles that day. There’s not a lot to look at in Nebraska, although the western part of the state has its share of buttes and canyons before settling down into flat plains. We arrived in Lincoln just in time for a lovely salmon dinner, and then John took everyone else out for ice cream while Liese and I caught up. This photo is Liese and Craig getting dinner ready (the rice wasn’t cooperating, which is why Liese looks a bit frazzled). We hadn’t seen the Kennedy family since our visit last year, so it was good to spend a little time with them. The four Kennedy girls are either working, taking summer classes or waiting to start college, and they’re all prettier than ever.

In the morning we had fresh sweet rolls which my sister had kindly prepared, then reluctantly set off again on another long stretch: 685 miles to Greenfield, Indiana (about 20 miles east of Indianapolis). I mentioned earlier in our trip that the combination of Iowa, Illinois and Indiana makes for a fairly dull driving day; it seemed doubly dull this time around, since by now we were following the same route we’d taken out, only in reverse. John and I had been playing Punch Bug the entire trip and I finally started to get some points, although he was so far ahead of me that I had no hope of catching up, much less passing his score. We stopped for the night at a Holiday Inn Express, had a decent dinner at an O’Charley’s, then agreed that we’d sleep in a bit in the morning before starting the last leg of our trip.

I got up around 8:15 and let John sleep in while I showered and dressed. I woke him up and went downstairs to get our breakfast from the Complimentary Continental Buffet, since it was so late. We ate sweet rolls and biscuits, and by then it was nearly 10 AM. We loaded up the car and continued east, a 549-mile trip, first stopping for John’s obligatory bag of White Castle Slyders. We didn’t eat them until an hour or so later, and let me tell you – they’re not all that great hot, but they’re REALLY not all that great cold. We decided to stop outside Hagerstown, MD for an early dinner, and pulled into our driveway around 8:45 PM.

We got busy unloading the car. I turned on the a/c and then went downstairs to turn on the water. I stepped into the den and immediately knew something was wrong, as the carpet was squishing under my feet. We were dismayed to find that the main valve was leaking, and apparently had been leaking for some time. The drip had run between the wall and the paneling, pooled underneath the built-in shelves and cabinets against the wall, and leaked out to soak the carpet. I called my brother John, who told me he’d last been at the house the previous Sunday and hadn’t noticed anything wrong then. About two-thirds of the carpet in the downstairs den was wet; we moved the furniture out of the way and pulled the carpet back. The padding was soaked underneath, so we cut away the wet part and rolled it up. I called a plumber to see if someone could come out; the plumber told John how he could fix the leak (actually, it was pretty simple and saved us the expense of an after-hours plumber visit – thank you, Michael at F.H. Furr). We draped the wet carpet across chairs so it could dry, then carried the wet padding upstairs and out onto the deck. It was like carrying a giant wet sponge. We spread it across the deck to dry, then went back downstairs, mopped up, set up fans and the dehumidifier, and left them to do their work. Can I just tell you that it was the first time we’d seen the linoleum tile in that part of the house, and it’s really ugly and mismatched? I hope the rug dries out soon.

So that was our trip – 15 states in 20 days. Even though the very end of it was not so nice, I’d do it again in a heartbeat, wet rug and all. We were lucky to see so much of our beautiful country, and to have almost uniformly good weather while we did it. With the exception of the grumpy hotel clerk in Twin Falls, everyone we met was pleasant and helpful, which seems almost impossible but it’s the truth.

I think we took our trip at just the right time. It wasn’t too hot and it wasn’t too cold. Everyplace we went, we were pleasantly surprised at the lack of crowds (and everyone at those places told us that if we’d been a week later, it would have been crowded).

We probably could have packed a little less clothing – I know there’s at least one top and one pair of capris I didn’t wear, as well as one pair of shoes. We brought two big beach towels that I think we used once.

We did laundry twice. We had a dip in a hotel hot tub twice. We bought a lot of magnets and squished a lot of pennies. Other than wine in Oregon (and one mug I bought because I was tired of drinking my tea out of Styrofoam and plastic), those were the only souvenirs we bought. We took a LOT of photos. We breathed a lot of fresh air. We drank a lot of good wine and ate some very good food. We saw a lot of wild animals, big and small, especially rabbits – there seemed to be a resident rabbit everywhere we stayed. I remember Scallop, the bunny with the notched ear that nibbled grass near our cabin in Carlile, Wyoming, and Young Bun, who hung around the hot tub in Cody. We saw antelope and prairie dogs and buffalo and mule deer and elk and moose and bears and chipmunks and ground squirrels and lots of birds. We saw geysers and hot springs, mountains and canyons, sea caves and lighthouses, plains and the Pacific Ocean. We traveled 7,773 miles and visited 15 different states. Oh, and John massacred me in Punch Bug – his final score was 202 to my 136.

We met so many people who, when told of our cross-crountry trip, said: “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that!” Well, we’ve done it. And having done it, we’re so glad we did. And all we can say to you is: don’t wait to make that trip you’ve been putting off. Find a way to do it. You’ll be so glad you did.

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12 comments

  1. Q 5 Go

    Yeah, I am one of those who is very jealous!!sounds like a great trip!Its funny that you stopped into Albany’s… Untill he left Camroon (in the Peace Corps) my cousin was the manager of that place!! My aunt and her family lived in Cheyenne till about a week and a half ago. The moved to TN.Glad you had a great time… also glad I got to read about it.Love,Jess

  2. Anonymous

    That sounds like a great time, and if only I could wrest the hours away from the Giant News Monolith, I’d do it too — maybe I will yet.Mad props to your plumber, too.Perg

  3. K

    The narrative was delicious, thank you, Donna. I’m glad you skirted the storms that blew on Des Moines, poured on in Iowa City, and pelted my brother with hail in Michigan. While you were getting home, we took a mini-tour to Indianapolis and back, and discovered a great area to shop and eat when laying over in Columbus, OH — Easton. Check it out on your next tour.Karen R.

  4. Julianna

    So glad you are home safely. Your silence made me worry that you were spending time in some tiny town with serious car trouble. But what is Punch bug?

  5. Donna

    Oh, Juliana – you’ve never played Punch Bug? You’ve led a sheltered existence.I direct you to the Wikipedia article on the game here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punch_BuggyJohn and I play a more civilized version where we keep score rather than hitting each other. The hard part has been stopping since we’ve been back – since we spent three weeks “punching” every VW Bug we saw, by reflex we are still doing it. I drove in to an audition yesterday and found myself shouting “PUNCH BUG YELLOW” – it’s a disease.

  6. Anonymous

    Donna darling, for your transatlantic readers (well one of them anyhow) you’ll have to explain “Punch Bug” and “penny squishing”. I did think that I had more or less got a handle on American English but there are still some things where I understand the words, but not the meaning …I have enjoyed my vicarious journey.Love – Gordon (yup that one not the other one!)

  7. Armchair Actorvist

    I have so enjoyed reading all about your adventures. I hate to confess that I have driven cross country three times, but always put speed above scenery. Yep, I can drive from LA to the East Coast in four and a half days, but boy did I miss a lot out the window.Punch-Bug reminded me of my youth, when bugs were so much more prevalent on the street. In high school and college, we became accustomed to passing a car at night, going in the opposite direction, which had one headlight burned out. It seemed without fail, the car would be a VW Bug.They were called “padiddles.”

  8. Donna

    Gordon my love, Punch Bug is just a silly game involving spotting VW Beetles (see the Wikipedia article referenced above).Squished pennies, now – that’s a whole different story. Sometimes called an “elongated penny” (which is just too poncy for me), a squished penny is a souvenir item created at various sites throughout the U.S. Here’s a good explanation from PennyCollector.com: “An elongated coin is made by a coin, token, medal or metal blank being forced between two steel rollers. An engraving is on one or both of the rollers and as the coin passes through the rollers it is squeezed or elongated under tremendous pressure from the original round shape to one of an oval and the engraved design impressed into the coin at the same time.”The engraved design is usually something having to do with the place where you squished the penny – I squished pennies in the Badlands, at Mt. Rushmore, in Yellowstone – just about every place we went, I squished. The going rate to squish a penny is 51 cents – the penny itself, plus 50 additional cents for the privilege of mashing it. Like refrigerator magnets, it’s a cheap, portable souvenir and making them gives me a lot of pleasure. I squished nearly a dozen on this trip.

  9. Donna

    And Armchair (like your blog and moniker, by the by), you would have loved the Oregon coast. I don’t think I’ve seen so many vintage bugs in one place in years – some of them clearly cherished and beloved.

  10. Anonymous

    Hi Donna,Thanks for the posts about your holiday. Sounds like you had a wonderful time (notwithstanding the leaky pump on your return). This is about as close as I think I’ll ever get to travelling across the United States.As for squished pennies, I have one from the San Diego Zoo from years ago when I visited it. Not sure exactly where it is. Must go and have a look for it.JimW

  11. Emily

    Heyo, mrsmig. This is Emily typing, you may remember me from such forums as Finishing the Chat.Just wanted to poke at you via Blogger to say hi and how the hell are ya? I’m visiting my mom in NoVa from California and today we saw your face all huge and enormous in the new the lobby of Signature’s new building (at least I’m pretty sure that was you on the far right…or won’t I feel terribly silly?). Mom also remembered you from Into the Woods and thought you were just faboo.Glad to hear you’re still kickin’ with the best of ’em and having some fun cross country travels to boot.:) Emily

  12. Donna

    Hi, Emily!Yes, indeed – that is me in the lobby, with my mouth wide open and my head thrown back. It’s not a particularly flattering photo, but I love it all the same (it’s from “The Highest Yellow” a couple years ago).Hope you’re doing well!

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