Let's just be clear right out of the gate: I blame Blair.
It would never have occurred to me to volunteer to fly to Chicago so that I could drive with my mom and her dog and cat to North Carolina, where she's moving. But Blair said, "Don't you think your mom would appreciate someone doing the drive with her?" and I said yes she probably would before I understood that he meant it should be me that goes and not him.
Here then is a recap of yesterday's drive from hell.
We left Chicago at 4:30 AM. Me driving, mom in passenger seat, fluffy white cat in a carrier behind her, hyper-ventilating Maltese (he's scared of the car) in the carrier behind me, and a car packed to the brim with enough stuff for mom to live on until her furniture arrives next week.
The first 30 minutes of the drive went like this: "Meow (Pause) Meow (Pause) Meow (Pause) Meow..." Then a strong ammonia odor filled the car. Nice.
On top of this, we left early to avoid Chicago traffic but there was construction and heavy traffic even at 5 AM. Who knew?
I have to give the animals props. They were calm for the majority of the trip. Still, rest stops were tricky. Mom would take the dog out to walk him while I sat in the car, windows closed, and put some litter in a box on the floor. Then I'd let the cat out and give him the chance to sniff and ignore the litter in favor of sliding under the passenger seat. I'd make sure I had a grip on the cat while mom opened the door to put the dog back in, then we'd take turns getting food or going to the restroom, or whatever. Each stop took about 20 minutes, and about 20 minutes to calm the animals back down once we were on road.
We pulled into a Shell gas station somewhere in podunk Kentucky. I put the nozzle in and went inside to buy water. A woman in front of me was writing a check for $6.43, which I knew because she had to ask for the total 3 times, then ask for the date, then comment on how quickly time goes by, and God know what else because after four minutes she still hadn't ripped out the %&^&ing check, even though I was giving her my evil "Drop Dead NOW" stare of death and not caring that I was a bad person for doing so.
That's when mom came in, covered in gasoline. She'd taken the nozzle out and it had sprayed all over her and the car and the ground. The cashier said, "Oh, teenage boys mess with those pumps so they'll do that." Mom hauled her suitcase into the nasty bathroom and washed and changed clothes, but the gas-soaked clothes still smelled up the car. Bad, but we were grateful to get off as lightly as we did. What if the gas had gotten in her eyes or on the dog?
We still had 8 hours to go.
The Traffic Jam
What should have been a 13 1/2 hour trip was--between the stops and the gas incident--quickly turning into a 15-hour trip. That was before we hit the traffic jam outside of Mt. Airy, NC, just two hours from home.
Standstill traffic, semi's with their engines turned off, people outside their cars talking to one another. You have got to be kidding me.
I ran a quick inventory. "We've got a banana, an apple, almonds, and 4 granola bars. So we can probably hang on--"
"--an hour?" said mom.
Ha! She is funny. Thankfully, we only lost about 35 minutes to the traffic jam. The worst part was just not knowing if we would be there 10 minutes, an hour, all night...
Just over 15 hours after leaving Chicago and we're three miles away from mom's house. We pass by my street and, just to orient her as to where she is, I point it out.
"Oh honey," she says. "Do you want me to drop you off and you can just give me directions to my place and I'll unpack the car and animals?"
"Sure," I said. "Sounds great. Why not confirm every worst suspicion my husband has about me?"
Needless to say, I drove her home.
Speaking of Blair, I'd called him when we had about four hours left and let him know that mom was determined to sleep on her air mattress and spend the night in the new house with the animals instead of staying with us. "So could you bring over a roll of toilet paper and maybe some tub and tile cleaner?" I asked.
We arrived and Blair had not only scrubbed down both bathrooms, but he'd brought over a chair, ottoman, reading lap, folding table, kitchen chairs, water in the fridge, and utensils. A candle was softly burning in the center of the table and the house was as warm and welcoming as a hug when we stepped through the door. It was perfect. What on earth did I ever do to deserve such a man?
Final verdict? Yes, it was a long trip for everyone. However, I would endure a thousand road trips from hell so long as I always get to come home to Blair.