When you think of a stereotypical Grandma, images of white hair and gentle frailty, a woman knitting peacefully from a rocking chair in front of the television, who speaks softly and offers you endless helpings of food and has a back stock of Werther’s hard candies on hand ready to be doled out by the plenty to any passerby, come to mind– at least that’s what pops into my mind. That woman is the furthest thing from my Grandma.
Most of us wouldn’t imagine an 83-year-old woman hopping behind the wheel of 32 ft RV on a mission to drive over 2,000 miles across the country– that however, is my Grandma. Lyla is her name and she’s a wild one. As a child she said something that’s stuck in my brain for the past 25 years, and it sums her up pretty well: I’m too mean to die….
Ornery as hell, tough as nails and set her in ways– nobody is going to tell my Grandma what to do (especially not her 30-year-old Granddaughter). When she asked me last year if I’d accompany her on a summer 2017 road trip to North Dakota for a family reunion I was all in. Today marks day six of the journey and so far, the trip has been anything but dull.
We left Los Angeles June 29, Grandma behind the wheel of her massive new RV, eyes fixed on the open road in pursuit of adventure, with no intention of letting anyone else take over, myself sitting beside her as navigator and copilot, my aunt Sherie laying on the salon couch, reading tabloids and puking intermittently, and Loki, Grandma’s swiftly aging Jack Russell, standing shakily in the kitchen trying to make sense of all the movement. Poor Sherie spent the last week moving out of her house and was suffering from a severe case of dehydration– the extent of which we wouldn’t find out until many hours later when we had to take her to the E.R. in Las Vegas, NV.
Aside from the expected L.A. traffic; Sherie hurling uncontrollably into a bag; and Loki peeing aimlessly on the floor; Grant Road Trip ‘17 started out pretty smooth! We had a slight hiccup passing through the Mojave when Grandma and a Semi briefly made contact and our passenger side mirror went flying off into the distance. It has proven to be a difficult commodity to get a hold of on short notice and I’ve been stretching my head out the window for lane changes ever since.
Grandma wanted to stay in Mesquite, NV for the night, but we didn’t make it that far, Sherie was too sick so we took her to the E.R. in Vegas. They pumped her full of electrolytes and potassium, and after five hours there she briskly arrived back at the RV via the hospital security guard’s golf cart– meanwhile I was on the phone with her nurse who said they were going to keep her overnight… She told them she was going to the bathroom and escaped before they knew what was what! My crazy family, they’re never dull…. In truth, she’s back to normal now so I guess it made sense, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t initially nervous (panicked rather) for her overall well-being. But all is well on board the Grant ship.
Day 2 took us across Utah, a state I had never fully appreciated until now. As we travelled across the most beautiful stretches of lush farmland set beneath an expansive clear blue sky, a breathtaking mountain range lined the background– its stratified sandstone peaks embolden with red, brown and grey, burning colors contrasted with a dazzling pattern of green tree groves (still waiting to be mapped out)– the view in its entirety was so full of vibrant life that it sent shivers through my body. “Wow” flowed exponentially from all of our lips, my jaw dropped to the floor in disbelief at every corner. Wow is an understatement, the state of Utah is truly an orgasm for the eyes, so much so that I shed a few tears of joy along the way (to anyone who knows me well, this is nothing new, unbounded beauty is the first thing to make me cry).
Soon we were in Zion National Park, and that really threw me a loop. My mind screamed with a fervent grin: this exists?! Ugh my heart was melting so hard I thought I might start puking! The massive rock canyons towered over us– all the edges, cliffs and grooves patterned across the faces of each formation– woah– each one had a face, a moving image– and I could have sat there for hours staring at them and there would still have been so many more stories to see. But we’re on a journey here, and sitting on the side of the road admiring mountains was not a communally affable option. But I’m grateful for this present experience. And I will be back.
We got stuck in Zion mountain traffic for about 30 minutes which gave me some much appreciated time to get out and take a few photos and smell the pine trees, before we were off again at records speeds. Grandma drives fast. We passed through the Red Canyon Arches of Dixie National Forest on our way to Bryce Canyon National Park where we spent the night.
Grandma had yet to let me get behind the wheel– I’ve realized that her need to be actively doing something is one of the reasons why she’s remained so strong and alert while most of her peers have fallen off their game. My Grandma’s game is shockingly on-point and I love her for that; and though I still want her to relax (because I think it’s necessary)– being born in the 1930’s, the mother of five children, a nurse and the wife of a surgeon with an endlessly busy life, I see why Relaxing is the furthest thing from her usual forte. In terms of the trip though she’s started to ease up a bit, and the following day she finally relinquished the reigns and let me get behind the wheel, but I’ll tell you more about that in the next post.
Happy Travels Y’all <3P