We took a quick road trip to my folks’ house this weekend.

It’s typically a casual four-hour drive. We went up Friday afternoon and came back Sunday.

The last time we took this trip Ella was just flirting with potty training.

Now, it’s full bore. And the trip offered some entertaining moments.

I took a new route on the way up because I thought it would be shorter. It wasn’t. More than two hours into the drive we weren’t halfway there. Trish wanted to find a Wendy’s to get a frosty, and to my surprise South Hill, Va., population dinky, happened to have a fast-food row. Ella indulged in her first chocolate shake. Good for her. But, I was thinking as she took one big spoonful after another, this could spell trouble. Bowel trouble.

I expected her to puke it up, but I think it helped move things toward the proper exit, because 45 minutes later, after I’d taken the first wrong turn of the trip, we were zipping up some unknown two-lane highway in the middle of nowhere and Ella announced, “Mama, I have to poop!”

This is major progress, of course. She’s not only recognizing her needs, she’s often alerting us so we can accommodate her in real developed-country fashion.

Unfortunately, southern rural Virginia isn’t teeming with our developed nation’s finest porcelain amenities. I passed a dirt road that looked suitable enough and started to back up, then I spotted a shack ahead with a little parking lot in front. I pulled in just as Ella was starting to take on a jaundiced sheen. (“I’m holding it, Mommy! I’m using my muscles!”)

The place was a local greasy grill, with a walk-up window where you place your order. It was 5 p.m., and fortunately for us the early dinner crowd hadn’t convened yet. It was almost like something out of a Stephen King novel; it materialized only for our poop purpose, and after we left everything vanished.

A very sweet lady sat in the shade “out back” of the shack. She looked like an Arlene, maybe a Louise. She had leathery skin and a mullet, most of her teeth and nicotine-stained fingers being stained at the moment with an unfiltered Camel. She looked about 50; she was probably all of 35. Trish got out of the car and quickly unleashed Ella. She held her up in front of her, as evidence, and said, “We’re potty training. Can I use your bathroom?”

I sat in the car a few minutes, then decided I’d better see if Trish and Ella needed anything. So I wondered through the back door and Arlene Louise pointed to a door in a corner. It was a spotless place. It reeked of old grease, but it was spotless. And Ella had made it! She was totally unfazed by the strange environs. I wanted to buy something from Arlene Louise, but I didn’t have any cash, and I didn’t think the place did a large credit card business.

Two hours later, closing in on my folks’ house, Ella again declared, “I have to poop!”

This time there was a large open field beside the road where the highway department kept huge piles of rocks for working on the roads. I pulled behind the larger one and we commenced to teaching Ella to pee and poop sans toilet. So much for developed nations.

She was distracted by the weeds that kept brushing her bottom, and only peed, and kept saying, “I want to poop on the rocks!” but she didn’t really have to. Ella loves rocks. Of course, if I’d taken the usual route we would have been home by then and Ella could have used a toilet. But I got a good picture out of it to embarrass her in 10 or 12 years.

On the trip back we were a little more than halfway home when Trish got pulled over for going 72 in a 55. It was her first ticket in many years. “It’s OK,” I kept telling her. “I’ve been through this many times.” I got my 15th ticket last February.

While the policeman wrote Trish’s ticket, Ella awoke from her nap, and started right in with, “I have to poop!” I’ve heard that if cops sense you’re in a hurry they take their time. This guy didn’t know what was at stake. Ella was squirming and fussing and crying. I kept expecting pee to squirt out from her at any moment. We were sitting on an overpass and up ahead we saw the curling exit we needed to take, and in the middle of the curl is a large metal building with a parking lot … made of rocks. Ella will get to poop on rocks yet, by God, if only the cop will bring the damn ticket!

Finally, he came to the window, gave Trish a slow lecture on speeding during the holiday weekend and then we were off. The building was a state highway equipment barn with several “no trespassing” signs. Trish pulled in and stopped in the middle of the lot. Only after we had Ella out of the car and her pants down around her ankles, with Trish propping her up, did we realize that we weren’t at all shielded by the building. The car shielded her some, but because of the high looping exit passers by had more than a 180-degree view of my daughter taking a crap. I stood around trying to look nonchalant and provide some privacy, like there wasn’t a toddler with a bare bottom dumping just a few feet away.

Ella was fascinated. She was pooping on rocks! And what a good poop it was. I took pictures of that, too.

Ella was so good about telling us she had to pee and poop, that I stopped in at the next shop — Bobcat’s Bait Shop — to get her a treat. It was a huge store, cloudy with cigarette smoke, but stocked with every kind of artificial bait one could imagine, if one spent a great deal of one’s time thinking about a huge selection of artificial bait.

If there’s one thing Ella loves more than rocks it’s worms. We’re hoping this is a phase. One-third of the store was called “Bobcat’s Worm World.” Ella loved them all, and to my surprised passed up several packages of blue worms (blue is by far her favorite color) for pink ones. Pink rubbery worms with split tails. I bought them for her and I got some spicy pork rinds and a root beer for myself. Trish, somehow, resisted the urge to buy a pair of pink gym shorts with “Bobcats” written across the butt, but I know she wanted them.

Five minutes after we left Bobcat’s, Ella started crying, and I started looking for another pile of rocks for her to poop on. Then she said through her tears, “I like the blue ones better.” Which reminds me, I need to teach her about worm poop.