Every state looks the same when you’re traveling through it at 70 mph, at night.

Except Missouri.

My journey through that Midwest state in the wee hours of June 21 was, truly, Missourible. Guess that’s what I get for not checking the weather before I hit the road. I figured I was safe because it was summer and blizzards were off the table. Oh well.

My original plan had me hitting the St. Louis area — roughly the halfway point between Colorado Springs and my hometown of Berkeley Springs, W. Va. — just before sundown the day before Father’s Day.

I figured I would get a hotel, have dinner and check out the local craft scene. I could even write about it for a column — a “fantasy I-70 pub crawl.” I’d read somewhere that many of St. Louis’ breweries were right off the interstate, so basically on my way.

Actually, back up a minute.

My original original plan had been to make the drive to see my sister, nieces and parents, who are 79 and 80 — for the holidays last year. That didn’t work out, for a number of reasons.

There were, of course, COVID fears. (“Don’t fly,” said my sister, the nurse. “And if you drive, don’t use public restrooms or stay at motels.” So …. adult diapers and camping?)

Then there was a series of major storms, from the sky and inside my dog, who — the day before we were supposed to leave — decided to eat an entire bag of Halloween candy that had been sitting on the counter for a month, wrappers and all.

Sometimes the universe speaks in strange ways, and with very stinky breath.

Also, perhaps most importantly, there was my tendency to want to throw up whenever I thought about the upcoming journey. It takes a good mood and a tailwind (and/or the promise of beer) to get me to the other side of Colorado Springs. A cross-country adventure, with 1,500 miles between me and being able to chill out with some suds, might be a journey too far.

I ultimately decided to postpone the 2020 trip until at least the following spring, and wait until I could get vaccinated. Also, by then — surely! — I would have found someone who could house-sit and take care of my dog, Stone, and cat, Squeak, who has no teeth and is in remission from diabetes. Maybe by then, Frontier would have started up direct flights to D.C. again and I could fly! (Incidentally, I once made it from D.C. to Colorado Springs in less time than it took for my parents to have lunch and get back home to Berkeley Springs after dropping me off at Reagan National Airport.)

I wanted to be at my parents’ house by Father’s Day, but — naturally — got a late start.

As the sun rose that Sunday, I also hadn’t packed, or figured out the streaming music situation, or explained to the cat that, No, we were NOT going to the vet.

Deadline panic is the best thing to get a person going.

Tip: When setting out on a 24-hour drive, DO NOT BEGIN BY WATCHING THE CLOCK.

Or, thinking about beer.

There are two things I do when I am bored: go to sleep or drink beer. Neither would be an option for the next day. Twenty-three hours and 45 minutes, not counting stops. Almost three full workdays.

When my family would take road trips when I was a kid, my mom used to respond to our “Are we there yet?” queries by couching the remaining drive-time in terms we could understand. I had 48 more Gilligan’s Island’s ahead of me.

About 22 Gilligan’s Islands into it, I hit Missouri, and so did the storms.

It was like being inside a giant faraday cage, or one of those lightning globes they used to sell at Spencer Gifts.

I’d been waning before, but suddenly I was wide awake.

I didn’t get to visit any of St. Louis’ craft breweries, but I also didn’t have to end up sneaking my cat into a motel.

My plan had been to let you put me to sleep, Missouri, but you woke me up. By the time we hit Illinois, I felt like I’d just had a long nap. Stopping was no longer part of the plan.

I made it to my parents’ house around 2 p.m. that Monday. It wasn’t the journey I’d planned, but definitely the destination I needed.


Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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