blog - cross country road trip with my grandma!
When considering a travel partner for a 2,600+ mile road trip I knew it would have to be someone I loved to be around. Grandma was able to miss a few card games at the retirement home, she loves adventures and I’m the self-proclaimed favorite grandchild. So of course she would put up with long hours each day in the car to spend time with me. Grandma got on a plane in Dayton, Ohio at 78 years young and flew to LAX. We began our road trip the next day, but not before taking to get her first In-N-Out burger and milkshake for dinner!
We may or may not have immediately began bending laws. California is a state that allows the selling of medicinal marijuana, which has been proven to help patients fighting against cancer. Unfortunately Ohio has not passed this law yet. I have a friend battling cancer who needs help right now so I did the thing any right-minded individual would do… Put a book about drug cartels on in the GMC Yukon and broke the law by exceeding the speed limit to get home faster.
Grandma’s favorite actor is Harrison Ford. It was only fitting that she was guilty by association and now a “Fugitive" for speeding. I guess we are a modern day “Bonnie and Clyde.” We were headed to Las Vegas where all rebels go to get into trouble and make a quick dollar. We stopped at Tacos El Gordo for Grandma’s first authentic Mexican taco experience before hitting the casino.
After a couple of hours playing the slots we saw another couple heist the penny machines for $13k large. We got beat at our own game and there was no money left in those slots. We snuck away without paying for our complimentary drinks and called it a night. Instead Vegas robbed us with a $35 Resort Fee. Apparently, this is to pay the cost of the internet connection and fitness center. Neither of which we had the time or desire to use in our less than 12 hour stay. Vegas was on to us and it was time to get out of town.
We were back on the road again and this time we were headed through Utah where the speed limit is 80mph. Utah has some funny reputations and alcohol laws because of the large Mormon population, but it was the first state to let us legally drive a reasonable speed. The Utahns (term for people from Utah), Salt Lake City and the surrounding ski areas are one of the most under appreciated assets of the USA. The only law we broke in Utah was loitering when we stopped to take in all the beautiful views before we crossed into Wyoming.
The end of day two revealed even newly developed “fugitives” like my Grandma have a soft side and are kids at heart. Grandma was more excited to see the large white windmills (energy turbines) than a child gets on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. She counted them, "oohed and aahed" in amazement, commented on the direction they were spinning, was upset when they were not spinning, got sad when we drove out of site, and said “ohh, look at that” for each one we saw. We must have seen over a thousand of them during the course of the trip.
On day three this modern-day Bonnie and Clyde were speeding through the state of Wyoming taking in all of the wildlife and windmills on our way to Mount Rushmore. The authorities were nowhere to be seen when we arrived. We continued our fugitive lifestyle and entered the park without paying the $10 entry fee since no one was working the gates. The rain cut our time short. We took a quick selfie before heading to our secret hideout at the Rocket Motel.
If you are staying the night near Mount Rushmore. I would highly recommend the Rocket Motel in Custer, South Dakota. This motel is NOT another small town roach coach. It is a throwback in time to the 1950’s with great upkeep, comfortable beds, clean rooms with great décor, and the best customer service. It was the perfect spot for two rebels like Grandma and myself.
On day four we were speeding our way through the rolling hills of South Dakota when the authorities got hot on our tail. The cop said he had me clocked at 90 in an 80. He was suspicious of us almost immediately. I’m sure the word was spreading fast about a young man and his Grandma raising all sorts of hell driving through the Western states.
The cop asked me to step out of the vehicle and take a seat in his car while he ran my license. Did he find out about our free entry into Mount Rushmore? And then that is when I noticed he had a drug sniffing dog in the back seat. I’m driving a black SUV with tinted windows and California plates. He does not buy my story about moving to Vietnam in a month to teach English.
He leaves me in the car to go cross check my story with Grandma. His dog was sniffing me from the back seat like he knew something about California medication. Or maybe he he could just smell the same pair of jeans I had been wearing the past 4 days while Tez (my dog) rode on my lap. I am talking to the dog to get him on my side while the cop is at the passenger window double checking my story with Grandma.
Later she tells me she was praying to God, her palms were sweaty and was so nervous she could not remember the name of my previous employer when the cop asked. She thinks we are going to be locked up in the slammer for sure. She got it together and was able to talk the cop down. He bought our story and we got off with a warning ticket. I thank him for his service and we are back on the road. Grandma is a ringer and I start thinking in my head that we should start a smuggling business. Or maybe the book we are listening to on my Audible App about drug cartels is just making me think funny.
We revel in the fact that we are rebels running from the law and put our audio book back on as we settle in for a few more hours in the car. I decide to keep the cruise control set within 5mph of the speed limit the rest of the day. This makes Grandma happy because now we get to see the windmills even longer before we pass by them. We talk about life and tell each other stories.
Our last night we stopped in Iowa City and met up with my younger brother and sister-in-law. They took us to the historical Hamburg Inn No. 2 for breakfast. This is where all the politicians come to eat when they visit town. Grandma gets to sit in the same seat as one of her favorite presidents, Ronald Reagan.
We leave to finish our drive to Dayton. Grandma tells me all about her plan to start a windmill factory. I just hope Grandma can run the factory from her RAZR so we can take more road trips together!