September 27, 2010

Road Tripper

Living 550 miles away from “home” (or at least 550 miles away from where my parents live) hasits ups and downs. It’s not very easy to run over to my parents’ house to do laundry, or eat their food,but that’s been good at helping me be more independent. Flying home only works if there’s an airport inboth towns; otherwise it’s just not worth it. So that leaves driving for nine hours on a stretch of highwayI’ve travelled back and forth on my entire life. It might sound like a pretty boring drive to make byyourself, but every trip is its own adventure. For instance, my last trip home.

Now, I’m not a big fan of going to the bathroom in a bunch of roadside unknown toilets, it’s verydisconcerting. So I try to avoid having to use them too many times in any single trip. This can be prettytricky given the fact that I either have a very weak bladder or a very small bladder. I should do someresearch on this, because if I could somehow exercise my bladder to strengthen it or somehow stretch it,I would totally do it. I’m not sure what kind of exercises would help the bladder though. Anyway, mystrategy to avoid using the bathroom on road trips too often is basically a planned dehydration schedule.I don’t drink much right before leaving and I try to ration the liquids I bring with me, along with a solidintake of salted sunflower seeds. This tends to work great. I normally have just one bathroom stopalong the way when I fill up the gas tank, which is marvelous.

Okay, back to my trip. Things were going just right. I stopped in Vegas, had a GREAT time, andfilled up the car when it was time to head out. I went to the bathroom before leaving and set out for theHoover Dam. I seem to have miscalculated my liquid intake on a hot Vegas morning; I was SUPER thirsty,so I had a couple glasses of water. Even with the fact that I went to the bathroom before leaving, I forgotabout the dam traffic. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. By the time I gotthrough the security checkpoint and meandered around to the Arizona end of the dam I wasthinking, “hmm… I wonder if I should stop and use the porta-potty before moving on to my parents’place? Na, I’m fine, I can make it.” This is not a great decision when there is not only dam traffic, butconstruction on the other side of the dam. It was slow going. By the time I got back to divided highway Iwas drowning internally.

I remember travelling with my family when I was a kid and pulling off to the side of the road inthe middle of the dry, flat desert and just urinating next to the car with my parents standing as privacyguards. As an adult, that just doesn’t seem to be an option. But it did get me to thinking about how niceit would be, in this instance, to relieve myself, ANYWHERE. I was getting kind of desperate and makinglists of bizarre options I might have. Flagging down a passing RV, an empty bottle in my car, jumping thebarbwire fence and hiding myself behind some rocks… that was basically the whole list and none of theoptions seems very appealing.

Finally I saw a turnoff up ahead of me for an unpaved washboard road leading to some hills thatdidn’t look too far away, so I decided to go for it. I started heading down the dirt road, realizing that thewashboard effect was not very enjoyable to my bladder, and that driving as slow as I had to on the roadit might take longer than I wanted to make it to the hills. It was probably about 15 minutes later (or maybe just 5, I was kind of distracted at the time) when I couldn’t wait any longer. It wasn’t a horriblespot, not too secluded if anyone else was on the dirt road, but plenty far away from the highway. I gotout and scrabbled up a rocky hill in the Arizona heat and stopped about ¾ of the way up next to somemedium sized rocks. Walking back to my car I felt lighter, but dirtier.

So, things I learned from my trip – never trust the Hoover Dam, and always keep toilet paper or Kleenex in your car. There are always lessons to be learned from a good road trip.