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The Adventures of Truck Stop Santa

When you think of holiday vacations in the winter, what comes to mind?  A day on the gulf in Florida?  Or perhaps an afternoon on the slopes at Jackson Hole?  What about an extended stay in a town of 400 in Linn, Kansas?  Yes, this dot on the map this was the ultimate family road trip destination for us the better part of the last three decades.  No, it doesn’t have sandy beaches, ski lodges, or even a movie theater. And yet, it was the best place on Earth because it’s home to all my extended family.

A dirt patch is in the foreground of the picture.  It is surrounded by a ring of tall prairie grass.  A Texaco gas station sign stands in the left portion of the screen.  The pice of gas is $.99.  The sky is blue with a few scattered puffy clouds.  A road breaks up the prairie grass.  A sign stands in the middle of the picture by the edge of the highway.  It reads "Welcome to Linn, the Midwest at It's Best"
The sign says “The Midwest at its best!”

The road to Grandma’s involves some interstate, a lot of highway, and frequent visits to gas stations.  The lanes are often filled with semis hauling livestock and other agricultural products.  Truckers gotta eat, use the facilities, and gas up like the rest of us so there are some impressive stations along the way.  We’ve traversed this road so many times that we’ve thoroughly mapped out our favorites.  Extra points are awarded to those that house ice cream serving facilities. 

A good five or so years ago, we made our last Christmas-time Kansas road trip.  Grandma Mildred was showing signs of her ninety-six years and we wanted our children to know what it was like to share the holiday with her.  We also were expecting our third child, due in March.

The Ultimate Family Road Trip Destination: Kansas

Traveling hundreds of miles with a three and four-year-old is quite entertaining; for those that get to watch through their car windows.  The boys have always been active and what I post on the blog is what happens on a regular basis. Now, imagine that kind of tom-foolery times 9 hours.  

A road heading into the horizon dissects the pictures.  It curves left before it reaches a field of harvested corn whose stalks are poking through a thin layer of snow.  Snow also banks the left and right sides of the road.  The sun is setting at the right of the screen in a cloudy sky.
There’s usually a blizzard or two to traverse through mid-Missouri

The combination of little kids and a really pregnant lady equates to a stop approximately every twenty minutes.  Heaven help my poor husband who white-knuckled the steering wheel and said “We’ve got another stop coming up” without malice or chagrin every time one of us asked for a break.  
One of our usual stops was a busy station off Route 36, mid-Missouri.  The place serves rainbows candy, rivers of fountain sodas and has multiple ladies restroom stalls.  Check, check, and DOUBLE check!  Also, it turns out that it was also home to a well-stocked supply of adult beverages.

An unexpected Christmas Gift

The moment we walk through the door, the little boys start yelling “Wow, Mommy!”  Then, I see it too.  It’s a life-size replica of Santa’s sleigh…built completely out of Busch Lite boxes.  Next thing I know, I’m standing next to the display.  It was scene out of a bad 80’s teen movie where the character doesn’t walk but it pulled by an invisible tractor beam towards the camera.  We are standing so close that the strings of Christmas lights reflect off the boxes and turn our faces a distorted color of blue.  

Who knew that these were Santa’s littler helpers?

It was both so wrong and so right at the same time.  I’m tugging at the boxes, evaluating the structural composition like I’m some sort of civil engineer.  The boys, who I’ve completely forgotten about by now, are elbow-ing each other for the driver’s seat, swinging imaginary whips and urging on imaginary reindeer.  On cue, we hear a twinkling of bells tied to the handle of a door as it swings open.

We all turn towards the door with great anticipation.  The security film tinted glass revealed the siloutte of a man with a round belly and a fluffy beard.  The boys, overcome with the Christmas spirit greet him as he walks into the aisles of candy… “SANTA!!!”  

Except, it wasn’t Santa.

The gentleman paused with his empty but soon-to-be refilled Big Gulp. He looked left.  He looked right.  Then he looked down. I could see the recognition spread across he face. He now understood that he had just been mistaken for the jolly old elf himself.

A vintage red and white Santa Claus graphic.  He has his right hand raised and is pointing at the viewer with his index finger.
Only Truck Stop Santa knows how nice you’ve been on the roads this year.

I can only imagine how the next few minutes replayed out over the security cameras:  An overly pregnant lady turns an odd shade of red as she reaches into the beer sleigh to collect her children.  The little boys, who have just had the most magical experience of their life in a gas station lobby, evade her reach.  The scene starts to look like a bad Benny Hill spoof as they weave in and out of the candy racks.  (Here’s the Simpsons version if you need a visual). She finally wrangles them and drags them over to the trucker.  

I finally have both boys by the collar and march them up to this poor trucker, who by no fault of his own, has been sucked into our scene of insanity.  I said “Boys, introduce yourself. Please.” They comply and are completely unaware of why I’m so embarrassed. I then release them to their father, who has enjoyed watching from the cash register.  The next few moments are filled with my akward apologies.  There’s really not a great way to tell someone that you are sorry that your children confused their elevated BMI for a mythological holiday figure.  

The trucker, that sweet and kind soul, let out a belly laugh and says…

“Don’t worry about it honey, I’ve been called worse!”

Thank you for reading about the ultimate family road trip and our trip to Kansas. What’s been your most memorable adventure with your family?