We overcame a huge obstacle on the first leg of our journey west. And I don’t mean the nasty dumplings at Cracker Barrel.

First, we hit the beautiful mountains around Asheville, N.C., and it starts to rain. Then it starts to get dark. Then Trish reminds me that our low-beam headlights aren’t working. 

This is bad, but it’s not the worst part.

We entertain Ella with the portable DVD player and a couple of movies from our local library. We start with Stella Luna, which is pretty darn scary, because it’s about a little bat girl becoming separated from her mom. After hearing “where’s Mama?” 20 times, I skipped to the happy ending (gets only half a star in my book).

So, we’re cruising along, using our high-beam headlights and getting flashed by truckers (with their high-beams … lights!), and Trish decides she’s had enough. She pulls over to let me drive. Just as we’re exiting I-40, Ella says, “Mama, come.”

Usually this means the kid’s sleepy and she wants Trish to hold her hand. But as we reached the stop sign on the exit ramp, another “Mama, come,” was followed quickly by “bluuuuuuuuuu — splllat!”

At the 5.5 hour mark, the kid hurled. And just as I reached across to wipe up some chunks, when I was most vunerable, she sneezed a little post-puke drip right onto my face. Nice.

I immediately wanted to blame the Cracker Trough. Then I remembered …

We had driven the past hour or so at night.

Ella was drinking milk.

She was also looking down and ahead, between the front seats where the DVD player sat, at obnoxious movies on a tiny screen — as we were driving down and through and around and around mountains, in the dark, while Trish flashed our headlights on and off and the windshield wipers went “swish … swish … swish…” over and over.

Ella’s visual horizon must have looked like an inside-out view from our front-loading washing machine.

But she’s a real trooper. After she threw up she was fine.

Until we got lost on the winding, narrow road leading to our friends’ farm house — on which I was speeding, to get there fast, so Ella wouldn’t throw up again. Then she threw up again.

Our friends were very gracious. Richard and I hauled the carseat cover out to the barn and hosed it off, with about a cup of laundry detergent. They had plenty of Clorox Cleanup on hand to scrub the straps and rinse out the foam pad. It’s my experience (after three vomitous roadtrips) that just one little blot of gastro juices or a speck of curdled milk will stink up the whole car. Especially on hot sunny days.

We had a great, although brief, visit with Richard and Angela. Ella watched their bunny, Jack, hop around the house and went to the barn to see one of their horses and their mule.

The next day we had a quick breakfast with Nancy, Melissa and Melanie, a few of my former work buddies (yo!), then saw Gina and Billy, who had twins three weeks ago (it’s a Clomid world), and hit the road for Kentucky. Fortunately, Western Kentucky is flat.

It’s been two and a half days with the in-laws. So far, so good. Two have returned to their respective home towns; two others went back to college. It’s downhill from here (but slowly, without a movie playing, and we’re getting the headlights fixed tomorrow)!