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Disaster looms? It's time for a road trip!

March 25, 2011

When the recent turmoil in the Middle East ignited, causing gas prices to soar higher than Charlie Sheen's ego, there was only one sensible thing to do for the wellbeing of my family: rent a petroleum-swilling RV and hit the road.

Nothing makes sense of a senseless world better than a good, long road trip.

With the brain trust at Burbank Unified scheduling Spring Break an inexplicable five weeks before Easter — while still winter, in fact — the wife and I decided to pack up the kids and take the quintessential family road trip to the Grand Canyon.

You look for positive omens on Day One of a road trip, signs that indicate traffic-free highways, a strong head wind, picturesque sunrises and perfect sunsets. Ours were auspicious, to be sure. Initial reports of the Japan earthquake and tsunami warnings for SoCal were just trickling in.

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Thing 2 awoke at 3:30 a.m. with a nose bleed, then used the RV commode to unleash what she'd held in for two days awaiting its arrival. Thing 1 wasn't far behind, and neither considered my plan that they sleep for the first half of the day's journey.

We hit the road at 4:00 a.m., heading east toward a rising sun, picturing a wall of water chasing us from San Bernardino to Barstow to Kingman. A song started to play in my mind.

First stop? Gas, of course. Somewhere unrecognizable near the Arizona border, where there's always a line for the public restroom, and abandoned meth labs dot an otherwise barren landscape. We discovered the maximum allowable amount at the automatic gas pump. Twice in one fill-up.

Next, Oatman, Ariz., a supposed “ghost town” whose T-shirt merchants evidenced plenty of life. Famous for burros wandering its streets and for being the honeymoon spot of Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, Oatman resembles a movie set for a dusty old western town. But it is the real thing. Sadly, we didn't get a glimpse of the celebrity ghosts said to haunt the hotel, and the only specters of burros we saw were steaming piles to be avoided along the main street.

After starting our vacation diets with bacon-cheeseburgers and malts in Kingman, and short detours through some of the original stretches of Route 66 to get our kicks — frozen in time with Elvis and Marilyn — we made our way through the high-desert chaparral and arrived at the Grand Canyon just before sunset.

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