Marie Mitchell/ Conversations Columnist

Marie Mitchell/ Conversations Columnist

Wednesday: Packed up. Cleaned out. Topped off. Squished in. Backing out of driveway. Ten a.m. As planned.

It's been a while since all six of us have taken a family trip together. Hard to coordinate school and work schedules. Destination: niece's wedding. In Iowa. About 500 miles away. Been on the calendar for a year. Time to ease on down the road.

With 22-year-old Marlowe behind the wheel, our aging Toyota van zips westward. Traffic flowing. Till construction slowing. Still making good time. Across the bridge to Indiana. We speed on to Indianapolis -- like drivers in the Indy 500, stymied only by a sudden downpour.

Everyone's prepared with pillows. Blankets. And most importantly -- electronics -- to pass the time. Knowing, once we leave the rolling hills of Kentucky, the scenery becomes flat and flooded. Few John Deeres in the fields planting corn and soybeans. We need our distractions.

Short-legged people relegated to back seat. That's Ingrid and me. It's like being on a roller coaster. Only the ride never ends. You feel every twist. Turn. Bump. Brake. Should have put motion sickness pills in my purse.

Wish I'd brought books with bigger type. Headache hatching from the strain. Or maybe napping without my neck pillow. What a time to give up caffeine.

Natives are getting restless. So we stop for a light lunch. Even short legs need stretching when crammed into such a tight space. An hour later, back on the road again. Miles to go before we sleep. At least we gain an hour crossing into Central time.

Still, by 9 p.m., EDT, we're exhausted. Two hours of driving ahead on two lane roads. In the dark. With patches of rain. No thanks. We pull into Peoria and spend the night after fueling the van and ourselves. And relaxing in the hotel's hot tub.

Thursday: Rested. Recovered. Ready for Road Trip, Part II. Pull into my sister-and-brother-in-laws' driveway in Mt. Pleasant by lunchtime. Two bags of Sterzings potato chips by my plate. Best belated birthday gift ever. Crunchiest chips on the planet. Made only in Burlington, Iowa. Such a treat. Enjoyed every greasy, salty crumb I could scrape from the bag.

Kids happy walking the shaggy-haired dog, Buddy, who reminded us of Dug, the dog in "Up." His memorable line: "I just met you and I love you." Adults toured Senator James Harlan's home on the Iowa Wesleyan University campus. History lesson: his daughter married Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert-- the only Lincoln child to reach adulthood.

Heavenly home-cooked meal at the luxurious B&B where we're staying. Nostalgic community band concert at the downtown square. Along with homemade pies and ice cream -- a fundraiser by P.E.O., an international philanthropic education organization that I belong to in Kentucky. It actually got its start in Mt. Pleasant, 150 years ago.

Back to the B&B to watch game six of the NBA Finals. Thrilling. The Raptors barely beat Golden State. Funnily enough, we were huddled around the same TV, in the same room, with the same hosts, three years ago when the Cavaliers won the championship title against Golden State.

Friday: Breakfasted on fresh fruit and yogurt. Ate perched at a table with a splendid view of red-winged blackbirds, Blue Jays and downy woodpeckers feasting at the feeders -- competing with contortionist squirrels for the seeds.

Before leaving Mt. P., Ruby and I walked by my parents' old yellow house by the fairgrounds, and the country church where my oldest sister was married after it was moved to the Old Thresher's grounds, home to an annual Labor Day weekend festival.

Then, back in the van. More driving. Just an hour to Iowa City. Reconnected with my Iowa sister whom I seldom see. Trapped mostly in a monstrous mall -- sporting an ice skating rink -- because of the rain.

Saturday: Wedding day. Morning to ourselves. So trekked to Riverside, 15 miles away. Future home of Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk, to be born March 22, 2228. Our third trip there. Always an adventure. Bronze statue of Kirk. Replica of the USS Enterprise. Commemorative Star Trek stamps displayed at the Post Office. Banners with pictures of the 1960's series' stars. Paintings of Tribbles and Spock on storefronts. Sat in the cushy Captain's chair on the recreated bridge of the Enterprise at the Voyage Home Museum. Powerful. Bought another T-shirt.

Returned to hotel. Assembled the family. After a leisurely morning, a last minute rush to eat lunch. Shower. Iron clothes. Fix hair. Look presentable.

Drove to former Presbyterian Church at University of Iowa. Admired the dazzling decorations. Praised the bride's gorgeous gown. Marveled at the musicians setting the mood with their piano and woodwind pieces. Posed for pictures. Witnessed the nuptials. Devoured the meal. Cut the cake. Even danced. A year's worth of planning. Executed exquisitely. Wished the couple a Happily Ever After.

Sunday: Traveled back to Kentucky. All in one day. Despite heavy thunderstorms. A rough ride. For everyone.

Time to decompress. Regroup. Wait for other opportunities for a future family road trip. Maybe not so far from home.

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