Leg one of the pie trip is complete. We made it to Wisconsin with only minor damage and relatively few casualties. Here now is a day-by-day account containing less than three outright lies.
I arrived at Loren’s house a few minutes after 8:00 am. Anna was barely conscious, curled up in a chair with a blanket. Loren was running around with a wild look in his eyes, which is what he always does when he’s running late, which is always. I was informed that Loren’s clothes had just entered the dryer. Loren and Anna were informed that with the tent, camping equipment, camera, laptop, and my clothes, there was room in the car either for them or for their luggage, but not both at the same time.
At 10:30, we finally hit the road, having filled the trunk to well beyond its manufacturer-recommended capacity of two pizza boxes, a monkey, and a beer keg. In fact, I’d be willing to bet two pizza boxes, a monkey, and a beer keg that this trunk was, and still is, the second or third most dense object in the solar system. And that’s not even including the stuff we crammed into the back seat, the front passenger seat, the glove compartment, the center console, and my pockets. In any case, we made everything fit, crammed ourselves in, and hit the road.
Suddenly, nothing eventful ensued. Nothing eventful continued to ensue until late that night. Then, even more suddenly, something eventful ensued. It was a stormy night somewhere deep in the left nostril of Montana. The interstate was mostly empty except for our shiny blue WRX, the occasional trucker, and a cop who flipped on his pursuit lights as I sped past him in the opposite direction.
A tiny devil appeared on my shoulder, prodded me with his pitchfork, and pointed out that, since the cop was driving the other way and on the other side of a concrete divider, I was not yet legally required to pull over. Before a tiny angel had a chance to appear, I took the next exit and made a random turn down an empty country road, looking for a hiding place.
Things were going swimmingly until the road suddenly became a ditch without any warning whatsoever. Loren helpfully announced this fact, and I helpfully announced, “Oh, shit.” I reflexively slammed on the brakes and, less reflexively (and more sensibly) attempted to make a hard right turn onto a side street.
If I had done one or the other, we might have been better off; as it happened, Mr. Brakes and Mr. Rain combined forces and kicked Mr. Traction’s ass. This ass-kicking attracted the attention of Mr. Understeer, who thwarted my attempt at negotiating the corner. My failure to negotiate the corner resulted in a sudden collision with a Mr. Prickly Bush and a Mr. Concrete Guardrail, in that order. This, in turn, resulted in the sudden awakening of Anna in the back seat.
Thinking the pie trip was over on day one, Loren and I got out to inspect the damage. Surprisingly, despite the jarring impact, the damage was only cosmetic, and only the front left corner of the bumper seemed to be affected. So, after extracting the car from its embrace with the barrier, and after impeaching Mr. Prickly Bush (who had affixed himself quite stubbornly to the bumper), we continued on our way. We never learned who the cop was after.
Eventually, we found our way to Dan and Alison’s apartment, where we were greeted by two very friendly, very large cats. And we slept, and it was good.
And that was the end of the first day.
Anna made instant oatmeal for breakfast (she claims to have an infinite supply, which raises interesting questions about the physical properties of my car’s trunk). We said goodbye to the cats and hit the road again. The rest of the day was mostly uneventful.
That evening, we set up camp in the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, near Mt. Rushmore. Anna whipped up spaghetti on the propane stove while Loren and I pretended to set up the tent. By some incredible coincidence, our silly fumblings resulted in the tent actually getting set up. The already chilly temperature began dropping quickly soon after the sun set, so we all packed ourselves into the tent and settled in for our first night sleeping outdoors.
Well, Loren slept. Anna and I didn’t fall asleep so easily, though she succeeded eventually. It was actually dawn before I managed to fall asleep, but the long-sought bliss of unconsciousness was no sooner attained than it was stolen from me by some kind of crazy avian hellspawn that seemed to derive great joy from the act of swooping past the tent while squawking an evil demon squawk that rattled my eardrums and resonated in my bones.
And that was the end of the second day.
Mt. Rushmore! The sky was overcast and the presidents seemed to be weeping, but we were impressed nonetheless. Loren regaled us with historical tidbits. Anna regaled us with Loren-mocking. I regaled us with…well, more Loren-mocking, mostly.
After Rushmore (which, as we’re apparently required to mention, looks much smaller in person), we moseyed up to the Crazy Horse monument, which is really, really impressive. Dynamite is cool.
Finally, we hit the road again. Before long, it became apparent that we would not be able to avoid stopping at Wall Drug. So we stopped. It was pretty big. Lots of crap to buy. Loren and I wandered around aimlessly while Anna indulged herself, which, to her credit, she did in a very timely and efficient manner, enabling us to hit the road again without too much delay. We didn’t bother trying to find our free glass of ice water, though, which I kinda regret, because I was thirsty.
Somewhere in the depths of South Dakota, while Loren was driving, a state trooper inched past us in the left lane, then suddenly hit the brakes, whipped behind us, and flipped on his lights. Turns out the cops had objections to our lack of a front license plate, but they seemed appeased when I pulled the plate out of the glove compartment. They gave Loren a warning ticket and made us promise to attach the plate as soon as possible.
On the whole, the South Dakota cops were a lot nicer than any cop who’s ever pulled me over.
After much driving, we achieved the Minnesota border and set up camp for the night in a nice little town called Adrian. Loren and I set up the tent (somewhat more skillfully this time) while Anna made a grocery run. Beef-a-roni and burnt popcorn were the catch of the day.
Sleep came much more readily for all of us that night, but we were rudely awakened shortly after midnight by loud, crashing peals of thunder and flashes of lightning. Much rain ensued, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that my $40 Target tent proved tolerably waterproof. After determining that we weren’t in any severe danger of being hit by lightning or crushed by a tree (based on the delays between flashes and thunder, which indicated that the storm was passing quite a few miles away), we sat back and admired the storm for a while, then went back to sleep. The storm woke us intermittently throughout the night, but in spite of this, we all slept better than we had the previous night.
The storm was winding itself down by dawn, although we were saddened to discover that the seals around the tent’s door and window had begun to leak slightly. Still, we were mostly refreshed. As the rain petered out, we packed up the car and hit the road again.
After an uneventful drive (there’s absolutely nothing eventful about driving across southern Minnesota, I assure you), we finally arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where we stretched out our creaky legs, decompressed the car, and relaxed in our super-swank hotel room before moseying down to the lounge to mingle with Dan, Alison, and the other wedding guests.
To Sum Up
The astute reader may have noticed that I have not yet mentioned the consumption of pie. “How could this be?” you are no doubt asking. “A pie trip without pie? What is wonko thinking?”
In all honesty, the closest thing to pie that has been consumed on this trip was a Burger King Dutch Apple Pie, which is more like a Dutch Apple Mush and which I have therefore decided not to call a pie. Why have we not eaten more pie? I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think I have an answer: road trips are pie’s worst enemy.
After driving all day, the last thing any of us wants to eat, as much as we love pie, is dessert. Pie just doesn’t fit in as a road trip meal. Pie is something that can only be enjoyed casually, in a relaxed, unhurried, tranquil environment where one is comfortable and at ease. Road trips are not such an environment.
Nevertheless, there will be pie. We are stopping at Grandma’s house in Texas, and Grandma’s house is the perfect pie-eating environment. In fact, we have dedicated an entire day to eating pie at Grandma’s house for just this reason.