A few weeks ago, I hit the open road with the Fruit Loops.
In the wee hours of the morning, with the Fruit Loops snoozing in the back and a hot cup of coffee in my hand, I loaded up the family truckster to visit friends in Minnesota. Yes, Minnesota. Yes, people actually live there. Yes, I totally decided to drive eighteen hours in the car with two kids sans Hubby (he joined us later). Yes, I did this voluntarily.
Because I needed a break from the noise of my life.
This summer was a crazed mess of freelancing assignments, two Fruit Loops looking to be entertained and a never ending construction project happening outside my home office office window (as of this writing, we are 10 months in…and yes, I WILL be writing about that. Soon). Interruptions and chaos were my norm this summer and, by the time I pulled out of my driveway, I was excited to drive on a dark, lonely highway with nothing but 80s on 8 and my thoughts.
And, frankly, I was craving a break from social media because, in case you’ve been living under a rock, Facebook isn’t the land of recipes, cute puppies and pics of people’s kids doing belly flops these days. Everywhere I turned, whether it was the news, Facebook, Twitter or even cocktail parties, the Orange Oompa Loompa was shouting that America isn’t great. That we are in trouble as a nation. That we are on the verge of war and, if we are to believe everything the media is splashing all over the news about both candidates, the end of days is nigh. Grab your kids and some canned goods because we are going to have to live in our basements for all of eternity, bitchachos.
I was exhausted from all of the noise.
So, on that dark morning, I set out on a good old family road trip. We had games, we had Mad Libs, we had the economy sized bag of Sour Patch Kids and I’m not going to lie, it was pretty damned great.
And I can tell you that I have it on pretty good authority that America is ACTUALLY great, you guys so don’t believe everything you hear on your morning talk show. Trust.
I know this because:
There’s an adorable woman named Carol who works at a road stop in Ohio who giggled with Fruit Loop #2 about chicken nuggets and ketchup. Sharing a belly laugh with a stranger is pretty great.
The two women learning how to use the register at a Cracker Barrel in Middle Of Nowhere Ohio reminded me that everyone is new at something at least once in their lives. And that’s great.
The entirety of I-80 is under construction in Indiana. It’s a headache, but it was pretty great to see so many good people doing hard work at a fair wage. Judging from how many workers are lining I-80 between Pennsylvania and Minnesota, I suspect there are more jobs out there that we’ve been lead to believe by the Orange Guy.
The campus of University of Notre Dame was brimming with parents and kids moving into storied dorms. The electric feel of chasing dreams and football history combined with the nervous smiles of the new students was great. And the adorable gentleman at the gatehouse who smiled politely when he gave me directions not once, but twice, was a whole lot of great, too. And the hat I bought didn’t suck, either. Yes, I yelled “Rudy, Rudy, Ruuuuuudy”. Shut up. You’d do it, too.
Josh at the desk of the Chicago Fairfield Inn spent twenty minutes outlining a walking route so that the Fruit Loops and I could cram as much sight seeing into our trip as possible. We saw The Bean, The Ohio Street Beach, Navy Pier and dined at Geno’s East because Josh took the time to help strangers like us. And that deep dish pizza was beyond great.
I realized that you can stand in line with another mother at the top of the Sears Tower and nervously laugh while your kids stand on glass bottomed floors 104 stories up. Trying to get the “perfect picture” while yelling through asshole lips is a universal commonality amongst mothers. And that’s pretty freaking great.
You can face your fears while a kind Sears Tower employee coaxes you to take steps backward and kneel down so that you don’t regret missing out on a really cool opportunity. No, I did NOT look down. I’m not CRAZY. But I have this pic thanks to that employee. And that’s the kind of great I’ll cherish for years to come.
The guy who made jokes with me at a gas station as we filled our cars with gas in Wisconsin Dells made a long trip tolerable. Wisconsin is the most boring state in the Union to drive through, even if the scenery is pretty great. Four whole hours of great, that is.
Minnesota produced a waitress at Dick’s Last Resort who made us laugh until we cried. And, she probably showed up the next night for work and did it all over again. Night after night, she makes people laugh hard. That doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s great. And she gave me another hat.
On a deserted stretch of Iowa highway, I saw pink clouds greeting a rising sun and it was impossible to tell where the sky started and the cornfields ended. As far as your eye could see, majestic beauty abounded and I *almost* stopped the car to sing “America The Beautiful” right there on the side of the road. I would have, too, but I had to pee. Priorities, you understand.
And, as I laid eyes on the setting sun on Lake Erie on the same day I watched the sunrise in Iowa, I marveled at how lucky I am to be able to travel freely in my country, with wild abandon, and see all that our country has to offer.
I saw the GOOD, you guys.
I witnessed first hand THE GREAT we all have within us. The great that is in your grocery store right now. The great that is patrolling your streets to keep you safe. The great that will smile when you tip them an extra five for bringing a hot, steaming pizza to your door after a long day. Every person I met along the way during our road trip was kind, friendly and helpful. Seven states and 3200 miles worth of pretty freaking great is a sight to behold, I promise.
Don’t believe the hype, bitchachos. Stop and take a good look around. Take a few minutes to take a hard look beyond the noise of the media and squelch the desire to believe everything you hear. Look beyond your electronic devices and really breathe in the smell of goodness in the air around you. It’s there, I promise.
We are ALL great and it’s right under our noses.
Suck it, Orange Ooompa Loompa Guy.