Two for the road

Wherein Martha and Jen take to the open road and discover it ain’t no Kerouac novel.

J – So a “funny” thing happened the other day.  My sister and I were on our way to a spa in Arizona to meet up with my mom for her birthday. We were all excited to get going (I’m a somewhat impulsive person) and instead of asking for directions from the rental car people (like intelligent people) we decided to stream them from the sky via satellite on our trusty iPhones. Big mistake. Our possessed-by-the-devil GPS sent us, instead of to the spa, straight to Hell. We ended up an hour and a half out of our way in “death valley,” a deserted canyon, surrounded by cactus, rattlesnakes (OK, I didn’t see any, but I heard them) and tumbleweeds. We had no water and our trusty iPhones were on their last leg of charge. And, I swear, there were vultures circling. We finally figured out that we had been led astray when the road ran out of road and we found ourselves on a dirt path with a sign confronting us that read “Drive at your own risk.” Word to the wise: Don’t trust Siri!

M – Sounds like you were in the Twilight Zone. Here’s my GPS story. Five years ago, I bought my first car with GPS from a friend’s nephew in New Jersey. He personally delivered the car and spent a couple of hours showing me how everything worked – as it was a bit more complicated than the series of minivans I’d been driving. My sons witnessed the tutorial and became convinced the salesman had a crush on me (as if). They couldn’t believe anyone would drive all the way from New Jersey to deliver a car and training if he didn’t have ulterior motives. Their suspicions were further sparked when I received a nice watch in the mail as a thank you present and a few follow-up phone calls to make sure I was happy with my new vehicle. My husband, who’d been laughing off their suspicions, changed course when we started using the GPS – which strangely yet consistently redirected me to New Jersey no matter what address I programmed into it.  After a frustrating few months, I had the GPS recalibrated, which seemed to do the trick.

J – Now that’s one of the best pickup strategies that I’ve ever heard. I don’t know why it makes me think of another road trip gone wrong (our family trip out West), but it does, perhaps because we were all squished into a minivan like sardines in a can. At every stop, and there were many, we were forced to stay in one room (most of which smelled like a mixture of garlic and dirty feet), because the national parks are booked a year in advance and I’m the world’s worst procrastinator. So there we were,  five large people, seven pieces of luggage (strategically placed and balanced on and under every flat surface imaginable) and a rollaway bed in a single, ridiculously small room. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part, there was only one bathroom for us all to share, with a shower which always seemed to back up so that the last person in was forced to stand in an inch or two of sludge water. Guess who was the first one up and in each morning?  Needless to say, we weren’t happy campers.

M – Reminds me of the trip that will go down as the worst in the Handler Family Annals by everyone but me – Iceland. I chose the spot, because I love natural beauty and I naively believed the rest of the family did also. We started off in Reykjavik, which we all loved. (For the males in the family, this probably had something to do with the fact that all the women were incredibly hot – thanks to the early settlers, who pillaged Scandinavia to populate the island.) From Reykjavik we boarded a bus to tour the rest of the island. Many miles separated each scenic stop, which didn’t bother me a bit, because I was enthralled listening to our guide describe the island’s geography, geology, history, customs and beliefs. (They seriously believe in trolls, and many areas are off-limits, because they’ve been designated sacred troll territories.)  My family, however, was bored to tears and rather than learn anything or simply sit back and enjoy the scenery, they all donned headphones and watched every season of “24.” Their love affair with Jack Bauer was so intense, they often wouldn’t exit the bus at scenic stops. (“We’ve seen enough waterfalls and icebergs to last a lifetime.”) The only thing we all agreed on was that the food was crazy expensive and downright awful (all served in coffee shops attached to gas stations) and the motels reeked thanks to the natural sulfur springs from which they derived their water.  And though I’m quite sure I’ll never get my family back to Iceland, the mere mention of that vacation brings back hilarious memories (mostly at my expense) that will last us all a lifetime. So, in hindsight, I guess you could say the trip was a win/win.

Wag Up

  • GPS – There are many times (i.e., being lost while walking around Paris, needing a detour thanks to an accident on the FDR) when it has proven to be a true lifesaver. (M)
  • The Tenement Museum – A trip there (which I highly recommend, though not on a 100-degree day when it is an authentic experience, i.e., no air conditioning) reminds one of just whose backs this country was built upon. (J)

Wag Down

  • GPS – I worry that the kids today – who are increasingly tuned-out to each other and tuned into their electronics – will become so dependant on their gadgets they’ll need a GPS just to find one another’s erogenous zones. (M) 
  • People who complain about the weather. Hey, you could be living in the late 1800s, wearing a corset and long dress, having to cook over a hot stove with no indoor plumbing, while taking care of five kids in a 300-square-foot apartment on Orchard Street. It’s all about one’s perspective. (J)

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