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Sweet Ride

August 7, 2010

Before I can even begin to recount our daily travels, I need to first explain our sweet ride.

The day before we left I had to go down to the only Alamo rental place in New Jersey.  We had reserved a “Standard,” and had no idea what kind of car that meant.  The photo on the reservation page showed a Pontiac, which I thought was great, a sturdy, American car to drive through the sturdy, middle of America.  My first car was a Pontiac, it would be fitting.  I’d also happily take a Ford or a Chevy, or something with good, American sweat baked into the steel of the chassis.

It was over ninety degrees.  The sky was colorless, searing.  The North East humidity draped over me like a hot, wet towel.  The air was thick and acrid.  (Typical Jersey summer on the mainland.)  I was super-excited to leave New Jersey in whatever kind of car they handed me the keys to, even a Hyundai or a Kia.  When I got there the guy, Anthony, behind the counter said, you have two choices, “A Kia Sol or a Prius.”

Our ride. 2010 Toyota Prius.

“Oh, the Prius!”  I said, not thinking about my pledge to be “of America,” as once again, my conversationalist nature took over.  (Now, I have seen the “Penn and Teller: Bullshit” episode that discounts the economical and ecological benefits of the hybrid vehicle.  However, how can you argue with saving money on gas and using less of it?)

The man sitting next to Anthony laughed.  “You should see your face,” he said, in between bites of a KFC drumstick.  “It’s like you just won something.”

“Well, what kind of choice is that?” I asked.  “Do you know how much money we’re going to save on gas?”  I explained that we, my husband and I were driving cross-country, to which the man eating the chicken disagreed stating his wife would kill him before they ever made it out of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania. Yes, I brought my organic balsamic vinaigrette with me from home.

As I left the Alamo place and sat in the parking lot learning how to turn the Prius on and then put it in park, (thankfully, Rob’s mother drove me down there in her Prius), I had a bad feeling.  I imagined Rob and myself silently pulling into Deadwood, South Dakota road-weary, dusty, possibly wearing cowboy hats with horse-tail bands, in Eco mode, parking our energy-efficient hybrid vehicle next to a flatbed Ford and feeling like, well, like the jerks in the Prius.  Then, I thought, will I be able to find my Chobani yogurt?  My soy milk? My organic, seven-grain bread and cage-free brown eggs?  What of my jojoba oil, my Nature’s Gate lotion, my Burt’s Bees everything.  I don’t eat meat, and the rest of the country sure does!

But then, remembering many scenes in Westerns where all they do at night is sit around a fire and eat beans from a tin cup, I calmed down quickly.  (But, were the beans be organic?) And I felt like an even bigger jerk, a New Yorker, not real, and just assuming that the rest of the country is so backwards and uninformed.  And that is not, in the least bit, the way I wanted this trip to go or the feeling I wanted to carry across the country.

I wasn’t really thinking so much in this way when we started planning this trip in May. I wasn’t thinking about the cost of gas, or “the cost of gas.”  I wasn’t stressing over food, (I assumed I could eat a vegetable anywhere), or products, or anything really.

We first thought we’d take the train there and back.  Then, and I think both of us we maybe a little hesitant to suggest such a crazy thing, we decided, “Let’s drive out.”  (Really?  Yeah.  We can’t do that.  Why not?  Okay.)  We always planned on taking the train home since all the colleges I work at start at the end of August and K&C’s wedding is the 21st.  So, to get out, we thought we’d rent an RV, the total opposite of eco-friendly vehicle.  An RV seemed the classic, diving-cross-country mode of transportation, King of the Road and all that, and that was just what we were going for.

Well, and here are some travel tips for you, not many RV places are interested in renting one-way.  No, they apparently want their vehicle’s back.  Those that would do a one-way change a huge one-way fee.  So, add to that normal daily/weekly charge and we were looking at in excess of $6,000 bucks, and we’d have to ditch the RV somewhere in Southern California and rent a car.  So, given the cost of gassing that puppy up, emptying the toilet (eww), the fact that it probably wouldn’t haul-ass like we needed it to, and that neither one of us had driven a vehicle that size since our days of freelancing on films, we eventually scrapped the idea of the RV and decided on renting an SUV.  We’d need the room, the tinted windows.  Somehow, we scaled back further to a “Standard.”Alamo has the best prices out there for long-term rentals.  Not even the AAA discount with Hertz came close to the price we got. Alamo also has free mileage!  And that is how we ended up driving cross-country in a Toyota Prius, let’s face it, the be-all of yuppie environmentalism.  I wanted to be King of the Road, see America.


I looked out the window yesterday as we drove through Iowa, further West than I have ever been.  Vibrant, rolling, patterned fields, like vacuumed green carpets, corn, black cows dotting the landscape.  Iowa produces a tenth of the nation’s food, and forgetting all the horrors about food and the farming industry and soy beans and corns that I hear and read and watch, I was driving through the town where my food comes from.  The sun was setting.  We had just realized that, having crossed time zones hundreds of miles back, we got a hour of time back.  The car was running in Eco Mode, silently hauling-ass, not disturbing anything.  King of the Road.

In over a thousand miles, we have filled the gas tank four times.  Today, I ate a white egg and drank orange juice from a Minute Maid machine.  I washed my face and body with hotel soap.  I had water from the tap.  I didn’t die, and nothing died in my wake.

Actual trip stuff like Rob has done… coming soon!  I promise, no more essays about my hang-ups.  (Well, for a few days.)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2010 2:30 pm

    hahaha! Good title Hon.

  2. John MacDonald permalink
    August 7, 2010 2:54 pm

    We love our Prius, having just completed a two day 20 hour drive up from Arlington, Virginia to Boston at an incredible 54.5 mpg! Our 500 mile trip down took one tank, and our 500 mile trip back took another tank. A little over 50 bucks for almost a thousand miles…can’t beat it, plus the thing is sooo comfortable!

  3. August 7, 2010 3:09 pm

    It is really comfortable! I predict owning one after this trip is done! Thanks for reading!

  4. Pete Reader permalink
    August 9, 2010 12:50 pm

    Sounds Bucolic. Don’t spoil it by going past the Nebraska cattle yards. Between the smell and the animals, you may be overwhelmed.


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