Vote Me a Story: Kayla’s Journey, chapter 7

    By the time they crossed the state line into Ohio, Kayla was nearly dead tired, ha ha. Danny seemed to be dozing and she didn’t want to bother him. More than that, though, she didn’t want to admit being tired.

    She gave a heavy sigh and he said without opening his eyes, “You’ll last longer if you don’t run yourself into the ground.”

    She turned and tried to give him her best raised eyebrow, but he wasn’t looking so the effect was lost. “Wingate by Wyndham,” she read. “At the Sylvania exit.”

    “Non-scary?” he asked.

    “I think Wyndham is sufficiently non-scary.”

    It was. There was a continental breakfast and Internet access she appreciated, and a fitness center she knew she wouldn’t use. “Two beds, I don’t care about the smoking,” she told the clerk, handing over her Visa.

    Danny started to object but she cut him off. “You got the car. I got the hotel. You can get lunch. We’ll take turns.”

    He didn’t put his wallet away until she turned to face him full on. “I don’t want to fight about this here,” Kayla said. “Let’s wait until we drop our bags.”

    In the room, he protested. “If I get lunch and you get dinner … oh wait, that gives me the next hotel. OK.”

    He seemed to be calculating in his head. “But what if breakfasts aren’t included some places? Then we could get on a cycle of one person getting breakfast and dinner, and the other stuck with lunch and the hotel.”

    She couldn’t believe him. “You’re just now thinking about this?”

    “Did you think about it at all before we left?”

    “No, but this was your idea.”

    Long pause. “We’ll have to get gas sometimes, too,” she offered.

    Another long pause. Standoff.

    “This is stupid!” she finally shouted. “What a way to start a trip! Listen, starting tomorrow, we take turns day by day, how’s that? One person gets all the meals, tops the tank and pays for the hotel. Next day the other person. I think that’s as close to fair as we’re going to get.”

    He started to speak and she glared, daring him to object further. It was his turn to sigh. “All I was going to say is, if we go to a museum or something else, that counts for that day too, right?”

    “Sure,” she said, eager to be done with the conversation. “I call the bed farthest from the door.”

    In the morning came a philosophical debate: Did the coin always mean a change in direction? They settled on flipping once to determine whether they should change direction or stay on the same road, and another flip if they had to change. Danny had wanted an early start but after the short night Kayla still was tired, so he offered to drive and steered them onto the Ohio Turnpike, and she curled up for the best nap she could get in the front of a sports car.

    When she shook the cobwebs away, Danny greeted her with, “Heads or tails?”

    “Um, heads,” she said. “Where are we?”

    “77 and 70,” he told her, tossing her the atlas. He flipped the coin, letting it fall onto the seat, where it slid to the back and he couldn’t read it. “Darn. It worked better falling onto the atlas.”

    “Well, what’s heads?”

    “Heads is stay the course,” he replied, and she carefully slid the coin out.

    “Stay the course,” she announced. “And I’m hungry.”

    “Well, do you want to stop now or wait until we’re near the Museum of the Northwest Territory?”

    “The what?”

    “The Museum of the Northwest Territory,” he said. “We already missed the glass museum and the paperweight museum.”

    She wasn’t sure how bad she felt about that. Glass OK, but …


    “More than 4,000.”

    “How do you know this stuff?”

    He pulled out his iPhone and tossed it to her. “Reception’s iffy some places.”

    She looked up the Northwest Territory museum, then checked it on the map. “We’re almost in West Virginia?”


    She fiddled with the gadget until she got the feel of the controls. “Then I vote we keep going to Parkersburg, at 50.”

    “You got it, James,” he said.

    She searched for restaurants in Parkersburg. “Mayor Robert Newell,” she read. “At least until the May 13 primary. He recommends the Arbor Day website.”

    “And we need to know this why?”

    “I was looking for food and got distracted. Hang on.”

    Kayla settled on Jimmy Colombo’s and loved the place on sight. She liked Italian anyway, but the old photos sold her. There were some of the town, some of Jimmy’s dad as a boxer. There even was one of Jon Benet Ramsey’s mom, apparently a former Miss West Virginia. Kayla made Danny take a picture of her by it.

    She gestured for the keys as they left. “Flip the coin before we go,” she instructed.

    “East on 50 it is,” he said. “I hope it’s better than 23.”

    It was slow going like 23, but because of the mountains, so she didn’t mind. When the speed limits were marked at 30, it usually was for good reason. After years of living in Michigan’s flatlands, it was an exhilarating change.

    The biggest challenge was Laurel Mountain, which reached 2,602 feet, according to the signs. It wasn’t white-knuckle driving, but the road was rough enough to slow them to about 20 mph.

    They were feeling cramped, so they stopped at Cool Springs Park to stretch their legs. The covered bridge was only about 30 feet long, but a novelty all the same. They took turns posing on the antique tractors, mocking the model shows Kayla watched on TV as guilty pleasures.

    Back in the Viper with Danny back at the wheel, they crossed ever so briefly through Maryland, then back through West Virginia. They kept passing farm stands, and Kayla wished it were early enough for fruit.

    “I won’t get to buy strawberries from a stand,” she said, and tried not to cry but failed. Danny pulled over and hugged her until she was done. She pulled back and nodded OK.

    “Let’s get to Virginia,” she said. “I want a really nice dinner, with cheesecake for dessert.”

    “Anything the lady wants,” he replied, pulling onto Route 50 again. In no time at all they were in Virginia, gunning for Winchester.

    They checked into the 210-year-old Wayside Inn, only to learn the restaurant was closed Sundays after lunch. “Let’s stay long enough to have lunch tomorrow,” Kayla begged, charmed by the promise of servers in authentic Colonial costumes. Danny asked for a suite, quietly adding that it should be for two nights.

    “‘The oldest continuously operating inn in America,'” he read off some literature. “There’s lots of historic stuff around here to see, right?” he asked the clerk, winking.

    She stepped right up, rattling off, “Historic homes, museums, Civil War battlefields. Plus other things, like hot air balloons, cave tours, horseback riding …”

    “Caves?” Kayla interrupted. “Cool. But since you’re not open for dinner, where should we go?”

    She steered them toward Village Square, where Danny gamely tackled the shrimp and grits appetizer while Kayla stuck to scallops Rockefeller. He chose scallops for his entree, while she dug into lump crabcakes.

    “New York cheesecake,” she read off the menu. “With berry coulis. But I can get cheesecake anywhere.”

    “I don’t want anything,” Danny said. “Just coffee.”

    “Then let me order one for you,” she said. “We can share both. I just might share more.”

    He snorted. “Like 80 percent.”

    She laughed and lightly gestured to their waiter, asking for the Cubana coffee toffee crunch, a coffee mousse on a double chocolate brownie, and the mango cloufutis with coconut cream and mango salsa.

    “Sixteen dollars just on dessert,” she said. “You have to let me get some of this.”

    He shook his head. “I’ll pay you back tomorrow,” he said, grinning. “By the end of the trip we’ll be eating macaroni with powdered cheese.”

    She smiled, shaking her head too. “I’m not thinking about the end right now. Just chocolate. And coconut. And good company.”

The next chapter is guided by these answers:

Tomorrow they should

90 votes went like this:

visit Civil War battlefields: 30 percent (27 votes)

go antiquing: 22.22 percent (20 votes)

tour historic homes: 47.78 percent (43 votes)

They also should

89 votes went like this:

go horseback riding: 10.11 percent (9 votes)

tour a cave: 37.08 percent (33 votes)

take a hot air balloon ride: 52.81 percent (47 votes)

How long should they spend in Virginia?

86 votes went like this:

Just Monday: 34.88 percent (30 votes)

Monday and Tuesday: 65.12 percent (56 votes)

When they leave Virginia, where should they go?

89 votes went like this:

Kentucky: 16.85 percent (15 votes)

North Carolina: 59.55 percent (53 votes)

Washington, D.C.: 23.6 percent (21 votes)

    This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

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