Published June 2004
Our annual trip to Lincoln Nebraska was interesting this year. Our church choir director was traveling with the kids and I in our minivan and I was to meet my husband, J.D. at the airport in Omaha once we arrived. We gave ourselves three days to get there. “Thelma”, “Louise”, and three children set out with the car loaded comfortably with more luggage and snacks than the trip actually required and tons of audio-visual stimulation to make the trip even more twenty first century than most road trips. The kids were cranky by the time I hit Reno, with my daughter, Birdy, asking after only two hours in the car, “is our hotel coming up yet?”
The state trooper in Wyoming materialized out of nowhere behind a semi truck that was blowing my bumper from side to side (think Stephen Spielberg’s first film, “The Duel”). I thought he was going after someone in front of me. “Ma’am, I need to see your driver’s license, registration, proof of insurance and birth certificates for the people traveling with you….” Ok, not the last one.
“Louise” looked at me (she wanted to be Susan Sarandon). We were caught red handed. My cruise control was operating perfectly at eighty five miles per hour in a seventy five mile zone. Looking at the landscape were traveling against, we might as well have landed on the moon. Apparently there are state troopers in Wyoming whose sole job was to support their own salaries and pensions because there was no sign of life anywhere. We speculated on where they lived. My bet was the wooden contraptions you see randomly hoisted off the interstate.
We were bored with our characters after the first speeding ticket so we became Dorothy and Toto (again, she wanted to be Dorothy) in Cheyenne. We watched the NBA playoffs in a bright red smoky leatherette lounge with brothel red back lighting behind the booths resplendent with retro-fifties cocktail waitresses to match. “What can eyes get fer y’all”? she asked. At that moment, after a $120 speeding ticket, this red wine drinker wanted a double gin martini with three olives. It was the only thing this side of heaven that would put the smile back on my face. “We ain’t got none of that. We got Bud, Bud Lite, Cuurz and Cuurz Lite.”
Fast forward to Lincoln, Nebraska (at the posted speed limit of 70 miles per hour, no less). Our arrival at the Embassy Suites was like OZ where we enjoyed fully cooked breakfasts, an indoor pool and glass elevators. Lincoln’s tree-lined streets remind me of East Sacramento. Their churches spire over lush green rolling fields and big sky. We settled in just fine and headed to a friend’s for a party. The tornado was headed straight for us, just south of Lincoln. Our host and hostess told us to get in their basement. We were a little surprised that over a hundred people could fit in that basement, all on our knees praying. I’ll never forget that night as long as I live.
Looking for an alternate route home after stopping in Topeka, Kansas, where you don’t have to look too long for really bad Chinese food, we took Interstate 70 west homeward. Make sure if you ever get to Abilene, to stop at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. I was 20 miles outside of town when the state trooper heading east made a sharp turn onto the medium and raced after me. “I clocked you at 85 in a 75 Ma’am”. I hate the word Ma’am. “Anyway, you can mail the cashier’s check here and sign right there on the dotted line. Ya can always come back to court but that would be in Hays (he knew I was from California obviously) so y’all have a nice day”. I couldn’t believe it. This was worse than sailing off the edge of the Grand Canyon or being spirited away by monkeys. My husband was flabbergasted that I managed to find the only two real speed traps in America..
Vail, Colorado looked like a place we couldn’t afford and since there are no signs, it’s hard to know what’s what. My latte cost me five bucks and that made me mad.
I kissed the ground as we crossed the Nevada/California border. God bless Utah, Wyoming, Kansas, Colorado and Nevada. The check’s in the mail.
Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org