You are a young child, about ten years old. In this slightly-too-warm white Dodge Caravan with red plush seats and a tape deck, you have long since become car sick from playing Tetris on your original Game Boy that has the DOT MATRIX WITH STEREO SOUND screen. The van has smelled like stale pizza ever since your parents brought some to a family friend’s house, three years ago. In the right-hand middle seat, you lean against your two-year-old-sister’s carseat, where any attempt to become comfortable is greeted with sharp jabs of safety plastic. She is completely asleep. Your brother, four years your younger, has declared the entire backseat his domain. His fortress is covered with Tin Tin books, two pillows, a blanket, and wrappers from candy: warnings to all those that might penetrate his stronghold. He lays lengthwise across it and is so asleep that not even the commotion from arriving could wake him. Your mother is in the front passenger seat, asleep, covered with two pillows and her coat. She is so cold she shivers and has all of the air vents closed and pointed away from her. If your father, who is sweating while driving, attempts to turn the air conditioning up more than halfway from the middle, she awakes with a start and whispers, “Aren’t you cold? It’s so cold in here.”
It is July, and it is only ten minutes until the six and a half hour drive to your grandmother’s lakeside cabin in the middle of the Wisconsin northwoods is over.
Two hours ago, when your Game Boy AA batteries wore out, all hope was lost. Reaching this fabled land of BB Guns, fishing boats, and stumps with imaginary creatures living inside was impossible. Highway 53 would never end, corn farm after corn farm would streak by, and you would be doomed forever to be slightly nauseous and impossibly tired, unable to ever sleep again.
Since then you have been in a drowsy stupor, never fully asleep nor awake, where every bump in the road lasts an internal hour, and the only thing affected by the infernal gravity is your neck.
Your father has not moved the steering wheel in an hour, and has had the cruise control set firmly at 70 since three hours before that. When he gently begins pressing on the brake, your senses immediately jolt to their complete awareness. He begins to turn left (there is no off-ramp), the first left in more than four hours, and the van leans against it, taunting him in his decision to deviate from forward. You look out the front, and see the legendary ICO Gas Station, where the price of gas is one and a half times as expensive as the Mobile across the street, but you still patronize it because it’s where your great-grandfather filled up his massive Oldsmobile over thirty years ago.
But there is no time for stopping now. As the van rumbles down highway E, you are now literally on the edge of your seat, the deep red seatbelt trying its best to hold you down.
Your father again slows down, just enough to prevent the van from rolling, and careens right, onto highway K. K has not been repaved in 20 years, and its asphalt is colored salted pepper from the years of boat trailers, farm trackers, and the persistent sun beating down upon it.
This is it. Lock S-Foils in attack position.
As a ten year old, Star Wars is nearly the only thing you think about. Any long cylindrical object becomes a Lightsaber, and any blank piece of paper becomes a detailed plan of how to construct said Lightsaber. No fulfilled dream would be greater than to fly an X-Wing in the battle of Yavin alongside Wedge, Biggs, and Luke. Today you’ll settle to be in the backseat.
You place your hand on the red vinyl handle of the van’s sliding side-door to steady yourself. The road is worn, not bumpy, but you know what is coming. You pass Pair-O-Lakes Road, and quickly approach the next crossing. It marks the most important boundary of the entire trip.
The beginning of the Death Star Trench Run.
The white, boxy Caravan has now become a sleek Incom T-65 X-Wing starfighter, with a red stripe running longitudinally, signifying its affiliation with Rogue Squadron. Your father has Luke Skywalker hair, and you are the lowly Astromech droid keeping that stabilizer from breaking loose. Luke urges his flight stick, and the craft banks left and down, aiming for the huge trench that has destroyed every other fighter that has attempted to enter it.
The previously smooth flight of the dogfight is interrupted as the road suddenly becomes rough at the exact moment Highway K crosses Rappy Lake Road. The fifty-foot trees, usually haphazard and covered with bramble on either side of the road, are suddenly in completely parallel, straight rows, remnants from an attempt at reforestation. The perfectly straight Norway Pines wiz by so quickly they become a solid wall, boxing the road in.
The music swells. The trumpeteer takes the forefront.
Each jolt in the asphalt is a turbolaser bolt blasting away at our measly shields, double-fronted. The ship feels like it will be blown apart at any moment, and the sunlight shines so brightly that outside appears as a foreign vacuum, completely detached from the red interior of the Cara-wing.
Your father, fearless and driven by your smiles that he spies in the rearview mirror, throws the throttle to full and blasts down the county highway at ninety-five miles per hour. The Cara-wing’s tires are burning the road, the steering wheel is shaking so much that the careening vehicle can barely be constrained to a straight path. The Cara-wing only travels at this speed once a year.
And then you see it. The thermal exhaust port known as killer hill. It is a sharp incline with a sudden drop, that, when traversed at high speed and the correct direction, causes you to be lifted out of your seat. It approaches so quickly that there is almost not time to prepare for it. Your stomach is thrown into your diaphragm, and you and your father laugh with glee. You look through the rear window of the Cara-wing just in time to see the Death Star explode and the sun to reemerge victoriously, reminding you of the lake that you will swim in every day, and sometimes even shower in, for the next week.
Your father decelerates and turns off of the highway, onto a dead-end access road that has no other purpose than to lead you to a small unpaved path carved into the woods, barely wide enough for a car. It winds, around from the right to left, and up the whole way. Just near the end, it rolls down and levels off into a sand-grass clearing. There is a larger cabin to the left, with a deck, where you see your eighty-four-year-old great-grandma sitting in a folding chair, wearing a floppy sun hat and a white, short-sleeved, full-polyester jumpsuit with blue trim, in the 85 degree heat. As the van finally rolls to a stop, you see her daughter, your grandmother, open the white screen door and wave as she smiles.
You throw open the heavy sliding side-door of the van as hard as your tiny arms can, and jump out onto the grass-filled sand. You cannot believe that any place on earth could ever smell more green (until it rains). A place where a single cricket will literally play only for you all night. A place where wild blueberries grow twenty feet outside the front door. A place where bears eat said wild blueberries twenty feet outside the front door. A place where turtles taunt your wormed-hooks by lurking just below your bobbers. A place with legendary names like “Gibble’s Cove”, “Chafee’s Pond”, and “Mrs. Fischer’s Island”. A place with late-night card games that you rarely participate in, but always watch. A place that is only habitable for three months because otherwise the pipes would freeze. A place where the stove never quite works right because it’s fifty years old. A place where Loons hauntingly howl for their mate at four in the morning. A place where there are only three fuzzy TV channels. A place with ticks, ground wasps, bald eagles, a den of foxes, deer, woodpeckers, and whip-o-wheels. A place where you have to change the fuses after a bad storm. A place where you have to take your garbage into town to get rid of it. A place where there is no table, only a huge painted picnic bench that fits fifteen. A place where in the morning, you light a fire and eat toast and watch the sun burn diamonds into the lake.
This is the place that took 4 AA batteries, car sickness, an attack on the galaxy’s most fully-armed battle station, and almost seven hours to get here. And you think to yourself, I would have gone through worse.
— @KirbySaysHi Jul 15, 2011