Even though I eschewed technology on this trip, I was grateful for all the computerized gauges within my car. I could determine, to the tenth of a mile, how far we had traveled on the first day. I used my cruise control more during this trip than I have in all the time I've owned the car. And last but not least, that gauge that tells how many miles can be traveled on the remaining fuel was a great help. It would have been even more useful if I had actually heeded the information.
We left the hotel Sunday morning with less than 1/4 tank of gas. Why didn't I fill up at the no-name gas station near the entrance of the Interstate? Because I knew the boys would ask to stop before I used up 75 miles of gasoline. I knew there would be plenty of Shell's, BP's and Citgo's at the plethora of highway exits just over the horizon. I wanted to get going--put at least 50 miles between us and the hotel before stopping for our first bathroom break.
Well, who knew that there wouldn't be another gas station between us and the southern border of the state. There were a few highway exits but none had fuel. (It's never a good sign when those blue information signs on the roadside are painted over to appear completely blank.) I was certain that the last town on the map would have a gas station, but I turned off the air conditioner and slowed my speed anyway. Isn't there something about every 5 miles over the speed limit causes excessive fuel consumption? Still, that annoying fuel light came on. Okay, no problem, here's the town exit coming up. We got off the highway only to find that the town was not there. Two boarded up gas stations with weeds taller than my younger son were the only evidence of a past.
Back on the Interstate, I reasoned that at home I can drive from work and back with the fuel light on. Even that didn't make me feel better as I surveyed the empty road in front of us. Where was everyone? With the A/C off, our car was heating up quickly. I began to think of the three of us on the side of the road, my two little children wilting in the June heatwave. This is how people end up as stories on Dateline, I thought.
The sight of a monstrous bridge up ahead did nothing to calm my fears. We were about to cross the Mississippi River at one of its widest points. With almost no gas. Honestly I don't think I took a breath for the entire span. By now, even the boys could tell I was worried. I tried to talk about the big river and the barges traveling up and down, but it's hard to speak when you are not actually breathing.
When we reached the other side I was almost as relieved as when we finally found a gas station ten minutes later. Did I care that it was called Chucky's Quik Stop? Nope. In fact, if I was going to have another child, I might even name him Chucky. (I'm not by the way--so don't start that internet rumor.) We filled up, went inside to check out the restrooms and buy snacks. Henry said he didn't have to go but he would like a Slurpee, please. The machine was broken but I told him not to worry, there's bound to be another station just up the road.