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Continued from Escape II

Someday I hope to retrace our expedition in reverse. I’m not sure of our route. It was 1957, one year after President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act to initiate construction of the Interstate Highway system. It’s startling to realize that our journey began before the existence of the Interstate system, the bane of Yry’s automobile travel. We traveled small roads between New York and Laramie because, frankly, that’s all mother would travel, given the choice. What I never considered was that everyone else was also relegated to what would now be considered secondary roads.

There was no hurry to cross the country. It would take at least two weeks for the vans filled with our furniture to arrive in Laramie. Mother approached the venture like a field trip. I have vague memories of stopping at gas stations to fill the car and empty our bladders. This was a good time for Joan and me to swap positions from front seat to back seat; the front being where all the action was—a first-hand view of what was coming; the back view was the gray wall of the back of the front seat. But there was enough space back there for me to curl into a ball and sleep.

I have two distinct memories from that trip. The first involved a storm like nothing I’d ever witnessed. The windshield wipers thwacked furiously at sheets of rain. The car crept through a womb of gushing water. Wind buffeted the car. With jaws clamped tightly shut, mom fought to hold the car on the road as bathtub-sized puddles conspired with the wind to eddy our ship-on-wheels off course. Occasionally random debris or a branch, surfing the wind, slapped against the car.

While the storm raged outside, the inside of the car was silent except for an occasional exclamation or shriek of wonder. My sister and I had engaged in plenty of arguing and bickering, but the fury that raged outside doused our antagonism. Joan’s silence was, in fact, nearly as dark as the storm. While she was eager to return to the west, to a life among horses and open sky, she was wary of Mother’s judgement. She missed her grandfather tremendously and at this particular moment was convinced that were Vovo in charge, we would have stopped when the weather had changed. For over an hour we’d been following a hog truck that stank to high heaven. Joan grumped and mumbled, envisioning us upside down in a flooded borrow pit, drowned and dead. “It would serve her right!” she fumed under her breath. “But why should I have to die just because I have a nitwitted kook for a mother?”