It’s a fair question. All six of us have been asked, ever since it’s gone public that we’re taking an RV trip to see Mount Rushmore. And to be truthful it all started with a trip to Boston. Mine. On my 53rd birthday, all in one in one day and all by myself.
“Tell me again why you went to Boston?” asked one of my girlfriends two summers ago. We were on Mary Beth’s porch, a beautiful three seasons room with a painted floor and big fat wicker furniture stuffed with soft floral cushions. Each of us were settled into an over-sized chair with a large glass of white wine in our hands. The night was perfectly warm and the wine perfectly chilled.
I smiled at her question. Over the past few weeks everyone I knew had asked basically the same thing in their own way. Friends: Wait, wait? You went to Boston? All in a day? By yourself? Family: What’s this about you going Boston on your birthday? Are you really going by yourself? Daughters: What do you mean you’re in Boston? What do you mean don’t call you? Are you okay? Do you have Cancer and are just not telling anyone?
It wasn’t Cancer. It was a plane ticket. About a year before this same group had planned a trip to Hilton Head, but I had to cancel at the last minute. This left me with a voucher for exactly $250 and it was due to expire on my birthday. Quite simply I had to use it, but for what? That’s when an idea was formed. Was it possible for me to go somewhere all in one day and come back and not spend a single dime above the value of the ticket.
I did a little research and bit of math and came up with New York City. Hmmmm. Broadway? Times Square? Stand outside of Good Morning America and waive an illegible piece of poster board broadcasting to the world that it was my birthday? All viable options but it was the Statue of Liberty that caught my eye. I’ve always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty! Could I fly in, take public transportation, see the Lady Liberty and then be back in time for a flight home? After hours of looking up train lines, blogs on how long to allow for standing in line, security and the boat rides there and back, suddenly the logistics seemed too daunting. For my first solo adventure it was too much, so NYC was nixed.
I moved my computer mouse towards destination a little closer to home and landed on Boston. Boston, it sounded pretty. I mean, I like history, I saw Good Will Hunting, and we all know the accent is wicked good fun. A little more research and I saw three magic words. The. Freedom. Trail. The more I read about the sites along the trail I knew an adventure had been born. I’d wake up at the crack of dawn on my 53rd birthday, take the first flight to Boston. Armed with my kindle (with three Freedom Trail guide books loaded onto it), my best (yet stylish) walking sandals, and a debit card I’d land, take public transportation to the very start of this historical Yellow Brick Road, walk the whole thing and still have enough time to fit in a cold one and lobster roll before boarding a plane home.
“I loved every minute of it,” I explained to the group on the porch. “I stopped where I wanted, read parts of the guide books, read roadside signs and listened to docents without anyone tugging on my pant legs to leave.” I couldn’t help but grin remembering what great day it was. “It was heaven,” I said, finishing the recounting of my day. The five women sat back and smiled too.
They got it.
“Jerry tried to talk me into staying another day,” I said, referring to my husband. “But that would have required more steps and challenges than I wanted to tackle in one day.” Getting on the plane and landing in another city and seeing something wonderful was enough for one day.
I took another sip of my wine and started to chuckle. “The girls were just beyond themselves when I told them not to call or text me all day,” I laughed. “It was like I was punishing them.”
My friend Eileen looked confused. “None of them wanted to go with you?”
“They weren’t invited,” I enunciated each word with purposed. “How many museums, parks, zoos, attractions have we dragged our kids to, only to listen to them complain about it being too hot, or boring, or smelly, or they’re hungry or they’re tired…” I shook my head. “This was about me and only me. All day.”
The group quieted. Each thinking, pondering, I suspected. What would they do if they had a plane trip and 24 hours? Where would they go? What could they tick off of their own secret bucket lists?
And that’s when it happened. Maribeth (yes, I have another friend named some version of Mary Beth. Actually I have a four. Like friends named Cathy, I collect them. It makes my life easier. Except when it comes to spelling each one correctly)…my other friend named Maribeth sat back and looked out past the porch screens and into the summer night. She took a long meaningful drag of her wine and sighed deeply.
“I wanna see the Heads.”
“What the hell are ‘the Heads'” Julie challenged.
“Mount Rushmore. The Heads,” Maribeth sat up. “Who’s with me!”
“I’d see The Heads,” I shrugged, still basking in my newly found travel bravery. Plus by this time I was well into my third glass of Pinot Grigio.
“I’m serious,” she said, setting her wine down and moving purposefully to the edge of her seat. “Phil has no desire to see them and I want to,” she announced, referring to her husband. “And,” she sat back, draping her arms on either side of the chair, “I want to do it in an RV.”
Bam. The mood shifted, the voices got louder, while the wine and laughter flowed. Eventually iPhones and iPads were out while everyone was talking over each other sharing mileage, travel tips and roadside attractions.
Fall, 2014 it was decided. “Think about it,” Maribeth explained. “Everyone’s last child will be off to college by then with any college age daughters just starting their sophomore year.” As a mother of four girls I nodded knowingly. “Those first few weeks of a daughter’s freshmen year are spend talking them off a ledge about every few days,” Maribeth explained to Julie, a mother of two boys. Anna, mother of three girls herself agreed, adding with a fake phone up to her ears: “Hi honey, how’s freshman year? What’s that? Your roommate hates you? So sorry but I gotta go dear! The Corn Palace is waiting!”
The evening continued, while the conversations drifted in and out of the trip and on to other things. “Even though there’s only six of us, we’re gonna need an RV that sleeps 8-10,” I said, interrupting one of the wives discussions about her husband’s back problems. The girls looked up. “I mean, I love all of your but I’m not sharing a bed. Or,” I said looking down at the RV layout on line, “A spacious sleeping cab located above the driver and passenger seats.” Eileen, whose parents spent summers taking their family to various college teaching jobs via an RV, laughed the loudest. “You don’t even want to know how small that space is!”
“Wait,” Maribeth said, wildly waiving her arms, trying hard to swallow her wine. “I said I wanted to take a trip in an RV to see the Heads. I didn’t say that I wanted to sleep in an RV!” Which prompted a lengthy laugh-fest describing what a Real Housewives of Chicago Suburbs RV road trip would really look like. A contest to out-bling each other to consume the rest of the evening.
Little did we know that on a summer evening two years ago the wine soaked seeds of an adventure been planted. And that with a little more wine, it would actually take hold, sprout and continue to grow.
The result is: in just a few short days six women will pack six cases of wine and 289 Vera Bradley bags into a 30-foot RV to go see four dead Presidents.
Wonder if Wall Drug has a Mount Rushmore tea cup? Oh I hope so!