“There’s a much shorter route to Wisconsin,” Kelly said looking at my accusingly. She rarely spoke to me since leaving Chandler, Arizona and we were now in Harmony on the California coast. I was wondering how long it would take for me to be busted.
Kelly was not happy about being dragged away from her high school graduation and from yet another place she called home to go God knows where with her mother. To make matters worse, we were not headed to another town for another job and another life away from the old one. Now, the destination was unknown. I knew that we would end up at my parent’s home in Tomahawk, Wisconsin but after that, there was no plan. In the mean time I wanted to go as far as I could for as long as I could on the approximately $100.00 left in my pocket. “But you haven’t seen San Francisco yet; we’ll see the Golden Gate Bridge and then head to Wisconsin.” I pleaded my case with the biggest look of hope I could put on my face.
When we dropped Kelly’s younger sister, Daryl off at the airport in LA to get on a plane to Japan to visit her Dad for the summer, I promised we would take the most direct route to Wisconsin that there was. Kelly had no interest in one of my crazy road trips. She was only talking to me on a need to know basis and had stopped showering. It was her way of showing me how pissed off she was. “I talked to this guy over in the bar and he showed me a map. We can get on a freeway right now and go straight across the country. San Francisco is way out of the way.” Kelly looked at me hesitantly fearing the worst. I could be very persuasive at times. By the time we got to San Francisco she was talking to me again, not yet showering but at least talking. It was progress. In Denver, we were back to our old selves. By then she could see that we really were going to make it to Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, the $100.00 I had in my purse did not go quite as far as I imagined, even with sleeping at campgrounds; usually, we arrived late and left early before the ranger came by to collect and we ate cheap, mostly at greasy spoon restaurants. We only slept once in a wayside next to big diesel semis leaving their motors running all night long. Dad was a trucker and I felt safe with several semis around. Even if there was one bad seed in the bunch, one of them would be a good old guy like my dad and would save a couple of damsels in distress. It became clear on the long drive through Nebraska that we were not going to have enough gas money. At the next gas station, I sent Kelly in with my last twenty to pay for a coffee and the gas. I told her to pick up a lot of creamer; I thought it could sustain me until the next day. I sent out a prayer to the universe to get us to Wisconsin.
“This is the change they gave me. It seems like too much.” She handed me some bills and coins and nearly the whole twenty was there. “Show me the receipt,” I said. Sure enough, they had only charged Kelly for the coffee. Nearly the whole twenty was still there. We were about a quarter mile from the station by the time I figured out what happened. Kelly insisted that she told them she was paying for the gas too. At that point I looked to heaven and thought that was a rather un-kosher way to get me to Wisconsin but I took it as a sign and pressed on the gas pedal. We looked in the rear-view mirror for the next hour expecting to see a cop pull up. We rehearsed our story about how we had no idea that they didn’t charge us for the gas. We would put on our most inocent blue eyed, blond look.
We pulled out all the change from the seat cushions and put all the money we had into that gas tank. We commented on how the winds had changed in our favor and they really seemed to push the car along. The car rolled to a stop, finally out of gas, just as we passed the sign for Tomahawk, Wisconsin. We still had to make it to my parent’s house out in the woods on the other side of town. As the car stopped at the side of someone’s nicely manicured lawn, the Wisconsin friendly inhabitant came up to the side of the car (I swear this is true) with a gas can in her hand. “What’s the problem, out of gas?” Kelly just looked at me with that look of; “I know this shit happens all the time on your damn road trips, but really?!” We got a gallon of gas, just enough to make it to my parents house.