America 101 - My Family Travels

We awoke to a promising, blue sky.  That summer’s day in August 2005, my mother and I were loading the car for our 5-day journey out west.  When my mother had told me about the trip, I couldn’t have been angrier.  Besides being an excruciatingly long trip in a stuffy car with hot leather seats, our journey was going to be crowded.  My mother had invited my cousin, Meira, whom I hadn’t seen since I was eight.  The trip seemed doomed from the start.  Little did I know, this trip would be one of my most memorable experiences.

            The first day was uneventful as we headed through the Appalachians towards Colorado.  The morning can be summed up in a few words: headphones, novels, a few, awkward attempts at conversation.  But as time passed, this changed.  I had brought a scrapbook of some of my family’s trips and I showed it to Meira.  I was surprised to discover that she too was a scrapbooker and photographer.  We discovered things we had in common and the morning’s silence began to disappear.

            The second day was a very long drive through Indiana and Illinois.  To pass the time, my mother told us stories from her childhood that had taken place at the log cabin we would be seeing later that day.  We finally reached the cabin my grandfather had reconstructed on a farm in Missouri, using logs from a pioneer’s original barn.  Inside, we saw antique furniture, cooking equipment, and pot-belly stoves.  Sitting out back was a Conestoga wagon he had made himself.

The third day, in Oklahoma, was cloudy and dark.  As we drove through Tornado Alley, my mother listened to tornado warnings reports.  We discovered that we were driving through one tornadic system and towards a second.  Unfortunately, that was the last thing we heard before a tape got stuck in the tape deck.  Now, the radio didn’t work, so we could only rely on our judgments of the churning sky.  My mother drove as fast as she could to escape the storms, and didn’t stop until around 11:00 p.m., at a motel, halfway between the two systems.  When we checked in, the motel owner told us to get into the bathtub if a tornado struck!

            We awoke to discover buffalos in a corral outside, the first sight my cousin, who lives overseas, had ever had of them, or of cowboys, whom we saw at breakfast.  We drove on and when we stopped for gas, my cousin and I stayed in the car to discuss how to celebrate my mother’s birthday the next day.  We decided to make her a scrapbook page of words cut from magazines to describe our trip.  We ate dinner at a huge 72-ounce steakhouse in Texas and some singers dressed as cowboys came to our table and sang “Yellow Rose of Texas.”  That night after my mother had gone to sleep; Meira and I hung a birthday colored paper chain around our room.

            The last day was filled with music and laughter.  We shared our country music on our walkmans, and laughed over the conversations overheard, T-shirts in hotel gift stores, and the ridiculous camp songs my mother had taught us.  We stopped at a New Mexico café between two Native American reservations, and lunched on Navajo tacos with Jemez and Jicarilla Apache.  As we arrived at my grandparents’ home, I realized that my cousin and I had gained much more than a textbook knowledge of our country, and that I had gotten to know a cousin who I can now call a friend.

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