Monday, December 5, 2011

On the road again...

So far, we've flown to Tennessee and had a lovely, but exhausting time with my folks and sister.  Now it's time to drive back to Salt Lake in the vehicle that my folks have carefully prepped for us.  Mom has set us up with lots of snacks and we're ready to hit the road.  We load up, give hugs and kisses goodbye, and drive off, giving the same horn salute that Pa used to give Granpa after a visit.

I'm pretty optimistic about this trip.  Unlike confinement on an airplane, Ben doesn't seem to mind being in the car.  There's motion, road noise, lots of stuff to see, and snacks.  We have to stop every couple of hours and get out to run around, but that's a good idea for me, too.  I think Bubba was actually harder to entertain on car trips back then.  Now, he reads or plays his DS or listens to the ipod.  When everybody's calm and entertained, I get to think about whatever I like.  For this trip, I've got The Hunger Games as an audiobook.  Bubba and I wound up really liking it.

We're heading through St. Louis, over to Kansas City where we'll stop and visit some friends who recently moved there from Salt Lake.  I'm planning to stay in a hotel, since I think that's my best shot at getting Ben to sleep and not ruining our friends' rest.  We'll try to get all the way to Denver the next day and visit with some more friends.  Another day's drive should get us to Salt Lake, but we'll just have to see how it goes.

From my folks' place to St. Louis is easy for me.  I worked in St. Louis for 5 years after college, first for MacDonnell-Douglas and then for a software developer that was bought out by an L.A. firm.  As we approach the city, I shut off The Hunger Games and bombard Bubba with stories about my time there.  Going through East St. Louis, I tell him about how the city went broke and they had to sell the city hall.  He's impressed by the Arch, and listens patiently to me talking about riverboats and how this was a jumping off point for people heading west.  We stop for lunch on the other side of the Missouri River and let Ben roam around a little while I call our friends.

We love these people.  They are both scientists.  He's an outgoing, charming guy from Venezuela - I'll call him "A".  She's German and is quiet and thoughtful, with an engaging grin -- I'll call her "T".  Their two kids are really wonderful too.  We got to know them pretty well on that trip to Costa Rica I mentioned before.  They are the only folks who call Ben "Benny,"  and they are very good at making him smile (and me too).  They've invited us to stay with them, but I know that their kids have just started school and that odds are good we would be pretty disruptive.  "A" points me to a hotel that's not far from their house.

Refreshed, we zip across Missouri, and reach Kansas city in late afternoon.  The iphone leads us to our hotel.  It's pretty posh, but I'm ok with that for now.  Checking in takes a little longer than I'd like -- I can tell Ben needs to expend some energy before he melts down.  I bull our bags up to the room and we all three kind of unravel.  The kids are hungry, so we get some room service.  An hour later, we are somewhat recharged and go off to see our friends.

I want to run through the plants!
"A" greets us, and makes me a gin and tonic (yay).  He's as entertaining as ever -- I think I'd be a good straight man for him, should he ever take up comedy.   Ben roams their yard, exploring nooks and crannies.  I follow him, and Bubba loiters.  "T" shows up with their kids soon, and Bubba happily engages with them (yay).

We stay for an hour or so, and it's very pleasant.  Ben is on pretty good behavior, but it is still hard to carry on a conversation.  I'm wishing my wife were here.  As we head out to the car, "T" gives us some fresh fruit for our trip (it came in handy, too).  We manage to leave Ben's sandals behind, but otherwise have no problems.  Or so I think...

The rest of the night is reasonably uneventful.  We skip the bath (mistake), and get Ben to sleep.  Bubba watches some cartoons and I played World of Warcraft before we turn in.  Ben wakes us up at 4:00 a.m. -- no surprise there.  This time, though, we just hop in the car and get going.

I gas up and buy an energy drink and some sausage biscuits (banana for Ben), and we start across Kansas.  We're about halfway across when Ben starts getting cranky.  Hmmm, maybe he needs to poop.  We stop at a rest stop and get out.  I move bags out of the back and set up a diaper changing station.  I grab Ben and start to change him.  Uh oh.  HIVES!

Right now, they're just on his belly and legs, but they're pretty impressive.  I use baby wipes on him, and change his clothes.  He's in a better mood now, and wants to run around the rest stop.  We do that for a while, but eventually have to get back in the car.  As we drive, I think about all the possible causes.  I'm guessing it was the plants at our friends' house.  Ben probably rubbed up against everything in their yard.  It could also be my mom's fabric softener.  We don't use that at home and I've heard of kids having reactions to it.

I call our pediatrician's office and talk to the nurse practitioner.  She's always reassuring.  She suggests Benadryl and calamine lotion.   We stop at a truck stop in western Kansas, and I check on Ben.  The hives have spread to his face, neck, and arms and he's not happy about it.  We walk around the truck stop, looking at trucks.  I call our friends in Denver to warn them that things are not going as planned.  "M" is very good to talk to -- he suggests I find a Walmart and tells me of a motel for when we get to town.

I get Ben and Bubba back in the car and pull over to the pumps.  I go in to see what I can find while the car is filling up.  They don't have anything that would help.  The lady behind the counter says, "How's it going?"  I'm looking a little stressed, and say, "Well, I'm on a long car trip with my autistic kid and he seems to have some pretty bad hives.  Where's the nearest pharmacy?"  "Oh dear.  There's a Walmart in Colby, right up the road."  Phew!  I know people yell about the proliferation of Walmart, but I am very glad for it today.  We stock up on juice boxes, calamine, benadryl, and some other things and get back on the road.

We make it into Denver and find our motel.  It's just what the doctor ordered.  I give Ben a quick bath (probably too late now, but who knows) and put more calamine on him.  Bubba settles in for some cartoons while I go walkabout with Ben and call our friends.  We make plans and I go back to retrieve Bubba.  "M" and "C" meet us at one of their favorite Mexican restaurants.  The waitress knows them and obviously likes them, because she gives us a great table and has some margaritas to us in no time.

It's great to see these guys.  I met them through mutual friends playing World of Warcraft, and for a long time pictured them as Night Elves.  When we finally met them in person, it was odd to hear their voices coming from normal humans.

Uh oh, Ben's not happy.  The restaurant is too much for him.  Ben and I go walkabout to calm down, and stay out until "M" texts me that the food is there.  We get back, but Ben won't really eat anything.  Bubba has been enjoying "M" and "C" and his virgin 'rita.  The food is really good.  We don't stay too long, but it's really good to see those guys.  Back to the motel.

One more night.  No surprises.  4:00 a.m.  Up and at'em.  Bubba is surprisingly uncranky about this.  We listen to more Hunger Games, avoid a drunk driver, see some deer, go slow in construction zones, and make it to Wyoming as the sun is coming up.  I want to call Lovely Wife, but I'm pretty sure she's not awake yet.

Wyoming is nice.  I have pleasant memories about my first trip through here as an adult.  I'm excited to get home and decompress.  I talk to Bubba about the terrain, and the pony express.  We stop to gas up and put on more lotion.  We chat with Momma and pick up some Fat Tire before we cross the border.

Home!  Home!  Mommy's here!  Yay!  Zzzzzzzzz.

Thanks, Granma Granpa!

Ben looked pretty appalling by the time we got home...hives, pinky nail all swollen up.  A few days later, I got his hair cut and the hives were gone.  We were all set for the first day of school.  Oops!  He whacked his head on a table at Five Guys and had to get stitches at the ER.  sigh.

Book o the day:

We go to the emergency room way too much.  I found this book reassuring.


  1. Hey Jon - first time visitor to your blog. And, man! Don't take this the wrong way, but you really get around! :)

    I have a feeling I'll be stopping by quite frequently - or as frequently as a military wife with a teen drama queen, two spectrum-y kids and a new "not quite therapeutic yet" dog can!

  2. Well, welcome! I'll be visiting you too -- can't wait to see how the pup turns out.


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