Soon the rain slows then stops, the sun emerges for one last hoorah. I'm able to safely open up the throttle a bit. Red barns with white roofs roll by, lines of heavy clouds signal more rain to come, and toll plazas seem too frequent. Speed traps abound, the radio is playing but it's hard to make out. I just need to make some headway. I need to make "good" time. When we make it home the screaming will stop... won't it?
The screaming. Piercing calls of dismay, anger, annoyance, exhaustion, and hunger have been emanating from the back seat from the start despite regular pit stops. The kids seem to take turns whining and crying so as to achieve maximum coverage. How long have we been on the road? Was that "Hay un amigo en mi" I heard about half an hour ago? That wasn't the first movie of the ride. Was it the third? I've lost all sense of time and space. Ohio? Indiana? Still Pennsylvania!? That can't be right! Vv has called for our surrender a few times over the past hour. I have stubbornly refused, certain the tyrants will soon exhaust themselves and fall asleep and we'll enjoy hours of blissful, golden silence from the children. While they slumber we'll play cards on the dash, smoke cigarettes, pour a few stiff drinks and listen to Rage Against the Machine as we cut a path through the night. Not really; that is just how we imagine it would go if only the crying would stop and their little eyes would close. Our ride would instantly become a party wagon, transporting us to a fading memory of youth and freedom if they would just succumb to sleep. No, it's not a minivan dammit! It can't be a minivan because I'm a ramblin' man! The Marlboro Man, a manly man! Oh good grief... is that a poopy diaper I smell? Another one!? Do manly men say "poopy?" Hmm. Back to reality. There will be no poker night in the front glow of the dashboard navigation light; No straight flush illuminated by an ever shrinking 'time to destination.'
"You were right, let's call it a night. See if you can find us a hotel." I mutter from the driver's seat, a beaten man. "Tomorrow we'll get home. I just know it; We'll ride like the wind I tell you!"
I see my wife smile in the mirror, it reminds me of the little girl in the third row (still not a minivan) and I feel a love swell up inside so strong it could swallow the night and everything in it. Sunshine in the dead of night, beaming into my brain from the rear-view mirror despite the auditory assault that is traveling with children. Vv opted for the hot seat in the middle row (not a van) in the hopes she could calm the savage backseat beasts. We've both downed energy drinks in anticipation of driving through the night. Now, instead, we'll enjoy the jitters as we lie motionless and silent in a hotel room; to move is to risk waking one of the banshees which will immediately awaken the other. What is nearly impossible to remember during times like these is that they are the "good times." Every screaming mile, and all the fun we had between, were the cream because we were all together. I'll smile when I read this in 10 years and I'll cry when I read it in 25 years (Lord willin' and the creek don't rise). Later on a lumpy hotel bed, I feel my eyelids growing heavy, finally overcoming my shot of stimulant and in my head Bruce Springsteen sings "Born to Run." It's a lullaby for a ramblin' man, the Marlboro Man, a manly man.
"In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream. At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines"How does the rest of that song go? It is really about driving? I do remember a few lines,
"we're gonna get to that place, where we really want to go and we'll walk in the sun"I think that place is home.