For most of the course of this book, Sal accompanies her grandparents on a road trip from Ohio to Idaho. In Chapter 2, “The Chickabiddy Starts a Story,” Sal lists “some of the real reasons” for this arrangement:
1. Gram and Gramps wanted to see Momma, who was resting peacefully in Lewiston, Idaho.
2. Gram and Gramps knew that I wanted to see Momma, but that I was afraid to.
3. Dad wanted to be alone with the red-headed Margaret Cadaver. He had already seen Momma, and he had not taken me.
But she also says that her father sent her along because she could read maps and her grandparents couldn’t. She also hints here that her grandparents had bad driving and traveling habits. Later in Chapter 5, “A Damsel in Distress,” Sal gives concrete examples of a few instances from their past. They once stole the tires off a senator’s car in Washington, D.C. They were once stopped for driving on the shoulder instead of the actual lane. And Gramps once tried to help “a damsel in distress”—a woman who was having car trouble of her own. He thought he could fix the car, but he really couldn’t. He made the problems worse by pulling hoses and other parts away from the motor. The poor woman had to call a mechanic to get her car running again. These are all good reasons for Sal to go along on this trip west, in her mind. She either doesn’t know why her mother is still in Idaho, or she doesn’t want to think about or accept why she is there.