Joco Diversions

A motherly lesson on road trip from Calif.: There’s no place like Kansas

It’s possible that what her daughter missed wasn’t her favorite gas station, but her home state.
It’s possible that what her daughter missed wasn’t her favorite gas station, but her home state. File photo

I just got back in town after driving 1,600 miles to return my daughter, her car, her loads of dorm detritus and clothes from Southern California to Kansas.

If I were the sentimental sort, I would now share a story of vast maternal love and how excited I was to drive 24 hours with my daughter who I have missed so much that not even the appalling condition of her dorm room could lessen my enthusiasm for her company.

(It’s been almost a week and I’m still having night terrors about her dorm mini-fridge that was less a refrigerator and more of a depository for a food-borne mold that should have been classified as an act of bio terrorism.)

I would also go on and on about the long, deep discussions we had as I hauled down I-70 and about how my heart grew just having her near me.

But that is a story for another mother to tell because not only did I not have profound conversations with my daughter about her first year of college, mainly because she was sleeping during most of the journey, but the primary talking points of this mom/daughter venture were gas stations restrooms: the good, the bad and the horrifying.

As a mother, there are a lot of hard questions you’re prepared for your children to lob at you. Most parents, I think, are primed to respond to queries about the meaning of life, death and religion – and why do we still have an electoral college – but the one question my daughter earnestly asked me during our journey I literally had no words for her at first.

This question came after both of us had used the facilities at a rest stop in Utah that was so disturbing I’m sure it would be considered a violation of human rights in even a Russian prison.

The bathroom was basically a closet with a hole in the ground. It had a cracked toilet seat perched on top of what looked to be an industrial size bucket from Home Depot with the bottom cut out.

After this trauma-inducing event, my 19-year-old sighed and asked, “Why can’t everything be like a QuikTrip?”

When I didn’t have a ready reply she continued on with how much she missed QuikTrips from their gas that wasn’t $5 a gallon to their Big Q beverages with crushed ice and how they always got another employee to work a register if there was a line.

I, not wanting to interrupt her ode to the QT, let her continue to pontificate as we both got back in the car and used enough antibacterial hand gel to gain us entry into a CDC clean room.

When she was done talking I looked at her and shared, “Maybe you don’t just miss QuikTrips. Maybe what you really miss is Kansas. Think about it, Kansas is like a QuikTrip – clean, friendly and takes pride in a job well done.”

My daughter, looking every inch the sun-kissed California girl, smiled back at me and said, “You might be on to something. Everyone at school tells me I talk about how great Kansas City is a lot.”

“It is special,” I tell her. “But don’t talk it up too much. We don’t want a whole bunch of Californians to come and dilute our charm or try to re-imagine burnt ends.”

And with that I merged back onto I-70 to get my daughter home. Kansas was waiting.

Reach Sherry Kuehl at, on Facebook at Snarky in the Suburbs, on Twitter at @snarkynsuburbs on Instagram, and