Usually when I make my trek to and from Texas, I renew my low-altitude pilot’s license and take a straight shot south through Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. I can push through the 730 miles in less than 13 hours. I’ve done it so many times over the last three and a half years that the curves in the road are as familiar as the lines in my palms.
This time, for my return trip to Kansas City I had different plans. Three days. Three cities. An aquarium, a slumber party with a great friends and a steak sandwich or two. Houston. Dallas. Oklahoma City.
My own little tour.
I began on a Thursday, packing my son and nephews along with our luggage into my little car and hauling ass through a summer storm to downtown Houston. We left the vehicle and its collection of laundry and toys to spend a few hours visiting the underwater worlds of the Downtown Aquarium.
That night we stayed with our Aunt Jan, who got in one last good night of spoiling before we headed north. She fed us, entertained us and even helped my oldest nephew make a Father’s Day card for my husband. (One day I’ll talk her into selling her cards – they’re amazing. Until then, I just patiently wait for special occasions to see her handiwork.)
Friday morning we set out for Dallas to meet my friends Rach and Brian and their little Donut. Rach writes Life Ever Since, and has been my friend ever since I began blogging last year.
Even though they were in the middle of this huge move to the most magical house full of endless surprises, Rach and her husband warmly welcomed us into their mostly-packed away condo. I meant to get all sorts of pictures of us together, but I don’t think we stopped talking long enough to really do that. Also, I had three boys with me.
Thank goodness for mom juice.
Also, thank goodness for Brian. He took the big boys to the pool while my kid suffered a meltdown of epic proportions at bedtime. For that, I am eternally grateful. I teetered on the edge of sanity for a moment, but thanks to his quick thinking (and Rach’s excellent bedtime treats later) I managed to not lose my shit in the middle of everything.
And Donut. Oh my gosh. I’ve never met a more friendly little girl in my life. She was all smiles and coy glances, flirting madly with my nephews and just charming me into a pile of gooey squish. If I hadn’t packed every square centimeter of my car with stuff already, I’d have figured a way to smuggle her back home with me, where we would share a bag of Spinach and Kale Pirate’s Booty and watch Sex & The City.
Oh, stop gasping. The TBS version, of course.
We bid this fun, generous family a bittersweet farewell the next morning, sad to be leaving such great company but excited to be on the final leg of our trip. We inched our way north again, stopping just outside of Oklahoma City to take care of a few things for my husband.
After finding the nearest Wal-mart, something I’m really good at even without the help of GPS (Where do I put that on my resume?) we flew down several country roads to visit my husband’s grandparents’ graves, leave flowers on those that were without, and point out sites of interest like the church where my husband and I were married and Toby Keith’s house. (My nephew wanted to know if he had horses there, and if they were indeed given beer.)
After our back road adventures, we stopped at a tiny, somewhat-suspicious smelling restaurant for the best steak sandwiches on the planet. Not even exaggerating.
If you find yourself ‘round the OKC area in place called Moore, do yourself a lard-fried favor and check out Del Rancho. Order the steak supreme and a coke and enjoy every last artery-clogging bite.
Finally it was time for the hardest part of the journey for me: Five and a half hours of highway, most of it turnpike, with nothing but fields as far as the eye could see. It’s hypnotic, the constant green sea, and makes every minute seem like a decade. Cruise control, Christian music and an audio copy of Catching Fire were my saviors.
Several years ago, when my life with my husband was just beginning, we had taken this road to Kansas City to visit for the first time together. My now-husband-then-boyfriend’s car broke down several times during that August drive, but even with the heat and frustration we never got pissy with each other. It was on that trip, standing in the Starbuck’s parking lot in Emporia, Kansas next to a dying car tucked into a corner parking spot, that I realized I loved this guy and was probably going to marry him.
When I stopped at the Emporia McDonald’s with the kids on Saturday for dinner, I stole a fond glance at that Starbucks. We were still a couple of hours from home just then, but I realized right there that this was where I had been standing when I realized where home would be four years ago.
It’s not north, and it’s not south. And even if I do have to choose between those two physical places, it doesn’t matter. Home will always be within my husband’s heart. Enveloped in his arms. Caught in his glance. I can drive all over this country, trek every highway, and still be home.
Visiting Yeah Write…the Challenge board. Because I finally did something other than vomit words upon a page.