The Eighty-Ninth Chart (Road Trip Spurts)

By Ekta R. Garg

July 12, 2013

Enjoy these special Spurts, readers, from our road trip: Salt Lake City to Central Illinois!

I’ve held out letting the girls have Barbies as long as I could, but when their grandpa sent me on a mission to buy them birthday presents I knew the long-legged dolls would fit the bill.  I bought Five a Barbie with a pair of dogs (the smaller puppy sits in a basket and bobs its head; the larger dog actually walks when attached to the puppy’s stroller.)  Seven got a Barbie all ready for a nice meal, complete with table, chairs, lamp, and two place settings.

Having Barbies to play with added a new dimension to the girls’ play time in the car as we began our trip.  But things deteriorated quickly in one of their early play sessions when I found myself mired in Barbie politics.  After the two Barbies “had it out,” Seven called out to me in frustration.

“Mama, [Five] always makes her Barbie be mean.”

I know part of my job as a parent entails sorting out fights between Seven and Five; I didn’t realize that now extends to their Barbies as well.  Maybe I need to take a night class in diplomatic relations or something.  Otherwise this could start to get sticky.


We took about seven days to drive from Utah to Illinois.  By the end of Day 1, both kids had lodged official complaints with the Front Seat Transportation Board (i.e., their father and me,) that they had had it with driving.  And sitting in the car.  And traveling in general.

We tried to placate them with promises of a lovely hotel stay, and the girls became quiet for a few minutes.  All of a sudden Seven chuckled.

“I hope the person at the front desk doesn’t have a baby voice like the last time.”

I didn’t have the inside track on the joke, so I asked her to explain.  During the last two days of our time in Salt Lake City, we had to stay in a hotel while the movers packed and loaded our stuff.  On packing day I stayed at the house while the girls, their father, and their grandfather checked into the hotel.

Apparently the clerk at the check-in desk spoke like a child, and as Seven described this to me she broke out in a full-fledged laugh.  Five began to giggle, and then she started laughing too.  Pretty soon both girls had watery eyes.  I think Five laughed more at Seven’s impression of the clerk rather than her actual memory of the woman, but seeing both of them laugh made all of us adults laugh.  And something about that moment helped ease the tension of the day.


During our trip we got the chance to visit some of our country’s most beautiful locations.  As we made our way toward Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, we drove through some lovely areas and saw a lot of livestock and crops.  On the side of the side of the highway stood a sign that said we had just entered “beef country.”

Because we don’t eat red meat, the girls don’t have any regular exposure to beef or pork as a part of their lives.  Occasionally one of them even forgets about these food options.  So when Five read the sign and then asked, “Where’s the beef?” I knew as she craned her neck and searched out the window that she was looking for something that I could point to and say, “That’s beef.”  But her question made me smile and think of that hamburger campaign from the early 1980s where everyone in all the commercials would ask, “Where’s the beef?”

It gave me a fun throwback to my childhood for a few minutes.


When we reached our hotel in Des Moines, the kids suddenly got wound up and began having races in the room.  We stayed in the Embassy Suites close to the capitol building, and the long length of the room gave Seven and Five plenty of place to wage their sudden burst of Olympic energy.  Seven turned into commentator and participant, and Five became the star of the show.

After five or six sprints back and forth, Five leaned against the bed to catch her breath.  Seven, still pumped with energy, gave her a minute and then said, “Okay, are you ready to run again?”

Five shook her head.  “No, baby, I’m done.”

She said it in such a grownup way that I had to laugh.  Baby?  Really??


We also got to stop at Mt. Rushmore and see for the first time that amazing monument in real life.  I’ve seen it on TV dozens of times, of course, but seeing the sculptures and the attention to detail in how they were made gives everyone who visits a standing example of the result of one’s determination to complete a goal.  The site certainly inspires pride in our country and our people.

Before we attended the presentation at the foot of the sculptures, we ate a quick meal in the dining hall and did our best to finish before the 9 p.m. lighting of Mt. Rushmore.  Then we made our way to seats in an outdoor auditorium and watched a ten-minute video presentation on the four presidents chosen for the monument.  The video actually provides a great history recap without coming across as heavy-handed, and at the end the emcee invited past and active members of the military down to the stage to help with the lowering and folding of the American flag.

After we left we talked about the monument, the site, and what the girls have learned in school about the presidents there.  Five decided her favorite president on Mt. Rushmore was Abraham Lincoln.

“Why?” I asked, expecting her to recite the story yet again of how Lincoln freed the slaves and was killed by a bad man.

“Because of his cool moustache and beard,” she said.

And once again my girls gave me a reason to laugh and delight in their quirky ways of seeing the world.

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