September 2020 Road Trip

This is a silly year to be traveling, but we managed it. Now there are other things I need to manage, like remembering to post what I write.

I’m talking about the kind of driving that puts me in front of a steering wheel, looking out a windshield over the hood of a vehicle. The kind of driving that delivers a sense of power and force of will. A big machine goes where I direct it. I get chills thinking about it.

There is really no way to deny that learning to drive a car, or a truck, is a rite of passage for most people. Everyone in my high school looked forward to taking driver’s ed class and getting their license. On the other end of the spectrum, giving up that license, or losing it, is also a rite of passage. I remember my grandfather driving around, half blind, and scaring people. Then I saw my father hold onto the keys as he struggled with everyone’s concern over his driving. Macular degeneration took out his central vision, but as long as there were white lines on the side of the pavement, he knew he was on the road.

It didn’t seem like it was that hard for my husband. He gradually started sitting in the passenger seat and got used to having me drive. He still took himself to work and other familiar places, but he had a tendency to startle and get upset over other driver’s decisions. It was easier to let someone else (me) deal with all that craziness. Mom is also making a more graceful transition. Her driver’s license was up for renewal this November and she decided to let it go.

I’ve always liked driving and have not shied away from the unusual – driving big trucks, driving trailers across country, Ubering people around the city, and venturing into an occasional mud hole. But lately, I’ve become aware of the tedium of long drives. I have fond memories of sitting on the passenger side with my needlework or a book, and being able to look out the window at the passing scenery. That doesn’t happen anymore.

This week the husband and I have taken a two day drive to North Carolina for my daughter’s wedding. Eighteen hours of driving has given me time to think about this process of road tripping, it’s advantages and disadvantages. See, it’s really nice to have the freedom to go or stop at will. And there’s the luxury of taking most anything I want along with me – in contrast to the carry-on suitcase angst of flying. It’s also nice to have that familiar vehicle at my destination without having to rent and return and get a big bill at the end.

BUT there are some slight disadvantages. For instance, I feel the full weight of staying awake and alert. I don’t want to be like the guy who died peacefully in his sleep unlike the screaming passengers in his car (old joke we used to tell). The husband is always chiding me for eating popcorn in the car without realizing that it has kept us alive for numerous trips. I can’t sleep while I’m eating, or at least I haven’t been able to so far. This trip, after I finished the popcorn, I started in on the cheese curds, and then the nuts, and then the carrots/cucumbers/peppers. And then I felt ill, no surprise, but that also kept me awake.

Pandemic driving has some unique features too. For once, we drove through the city of Chicago without a major slow down. I was worried about going there but having no good way to avoid it, we went. There was traffic, and the need for vigilance, but it was surprisingly smooth. And what’s with the toll roads? There were no people in those little booths to collect money! I may have a massive bill lurking somewhere in cyberspace but so far I’ve gotten no notice.

Then there is the mask thing. I can’t remember how many times we were on our way into the rest stop or gas station and had to go back to get a required face covering. It’s not a habit yet. We took food with us, not knowing if there would be the usual restaurants available. Finding a place to sit down and eat was harder, and the experience has changed in so many ways – no uncovered smiles, no condiments on the table, not much merriment.

I knew it was a risk to get new tires right before a trip, but there were reasons why it made sense. I’m talking only hours before the trip, the dealership was able to find tires for my truck. There was no time to test them out. Did you know that pandemic shortages have affected the tire industry? Who would guess that? For this trip I went from worrying about old, misaligned and worn tire noises to worrying about new tire noises. What is that whap, whap, whapping…? Is it lethal? Should we stop? We ignored it. Found out later that gravel and acorns caught in the tread sound just like defects.

Nice loud tires with lots of tread.

All in all, it was not a bad trip, just peculiar like most everything else in 2020 has been. It is my hope that in hearing about this trip, you will find yourself more content, perhaps even happy, to stay at home (like we’re supposed to). I know it did that for me, just sayin’…

Thanksgiving Chronicle: Ordinary Times and Travel post 2

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Up here in the north woods, we always have the weather to contend with when we travel.  The threat of rain turning to snow was scaring us to start our trip a day early. Mom was mentally planning this early departure yesterday when we rolled in from the Minneapolis airport. She had nearly finished her packing and had all the ingredients for the Thanksgiving meal that we had promised to provide, ready to be put together. I baked my pies right away.  We planned to pack up in the morning and stay ahead of the storm.

We were making the drive in Mom’s car, which I love to drive. Mom likes to sit in the back seat surrounded by travel food and her pillows and blankets. The husband sits/sleeps in the “death seat” in front, although I try not to think of it that way. We have become fairly comfortable travel companions; the husband talking (a LOT) and Mom listening and passing us sandwiches and celery sticks at regular intervals. I kind of zone out as I drive. My text messages pop up on the Bluetooth digital screen on the dash, which is a really nice feature of the car. It is a Chevy Captiva. I have trouble remembering the model name, but I’m working on associating it with the mental image of a small SUV strapped into the middle seat of an airplane. That should bring it to mind.

It was a beautiful day for our many hours of driving, with no snow, not even a drop of rain. We were on the road by 9 am after packing the car – always a fun challenge. Mom’s part was the hardest since she was trying to think of everything she would need for the next few months. She started weeks ago putting things aside. As we put it all in the back of Captiva, the only thing she couldn’t locate was her money. She knew she had put the bank envelope in some reasonable place, some safe place where it would be easy to find when it was time to go. So much for that. We all searched everyplace we could think of. But I am so proud of Mom. She is able to laugh and let it be all good. We left and the money was either with us in a place we hadn’t remembered yet, or still back in Hayward, to be found later we hoped.

We drove about 9 hours. We traveled east across Wisconsin and for the first three or four hours we encountered only two trucks which we passed. What a change from the places I usually drive. The two lane road was bordered by forest and marshes, pine trees and birch, lots of rivers, streams and lakes. The dominant color was soft gray in varying intensities, with brushes of deep green and brown. We traveled through Winter, Florence, Minquoa and Eagle River before crossing the border into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Escanaba and finally the Mackinac Bridge. We spent the night in the Super 8 in a town called Grayling, leaving only a short trip for the next day.

One of our last conversations driving down I-75 went like this;

The husband, as we were driving in the dark approaching an exit:  “The moon looks really strange tonight”. I looked for the moon in the direction the husband was pointing but what I saw in the sky above the tree line was a bright, round orb with a large M on it.

Me: “That’s a Marathon station at the exit. It’s not the moon, in spite of being marked with an M.”

Husband: “Oh, I thought it looked weird.” We were tired and it was only day 2.

 

A Different Kind of R & R

It often means rest and relaxation to others. Not to me. I can’t even rest and relax when I’m asleep.  My R&R is responding to randomness.

Randomness has a couple definitions, some of which I apply to my life and some, not so much.  The one I like is “random is often used neutrally to describe that which is done or occurs by chance but also suggests that one is receptive to the possibilities of the unexpected”.  I often have to make decisions about going places and doing things that are not my usual routine. Truth is, I don’t know what my usual routine is anymore.   Something unexpected is always happening, it seems, and those are the things to which I love to respond.

I have four younger brothers and a couple weeks ago the oldest of them called.  He lives in the same state as I do, but it’s been years since we devoted much time to each other.  We are more often at family gatherings with crowds of other people to divide our attention.

“How would you like to help me drive up to Wisconsin?  I’m taking a truck and trailer up to get some equipment and I thought it would be a time for us to get in a good talk.” I had to agree that 30 hours of drive time would amount to a pretty good talk.

In my mind I’m tallying up the things I would need to reschedule or back out of.  “Well sure, I think I could do that but let me have a day or so to work on it. I’ll let you know.”

Road trip!!!

And that’s how things get started.  After telling several people what I was considering doing I had to call him back to find out why we were doing this in the middle of winter, trying to get up and back between blizzards.  Also, was I actually going to be asked to drive the truck with the 30 foot trailer or was I just going along to keep him from falling asleep?

The truth is, I love family adventures more than any other kind.  Should I not take any opportunity to get to know these people with whom I share genetic material? And how better to get to know them than to actually be doing something with them?  Appalachian hikes, trail rides on horseback across Florida, camping across the country and picnicking at 12,000 feet  in the Rockies, cruising with everyone for a 50th anniversary – all these things started with a somewhat unexpected idea, to be rejected or embraced. Thankfully, most of my family is of the “bring it on” nature.

My randomness is by no means purposeless or unplanned.  Just unexpected.  In fact, planning and anticipating is at least half of every adventure for me.  Sometimes it takes weeks, and other times it gets pulled together in hours.  There’s a lot of variety.  Because of all this I have actually forgotten how to be bored, well, almost.  The brother I planned on starting the trip with tomorrow morning has already called to delay our departure because of unforeseen circumstances BUT it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he showed up at the door, ready to go tomorrow morning.

There are really two reasons this lifestyle works for me.  One is that I do need a lot of variety, whether at work or at play. I have very few routines and don’t do them very consistently. I love surprise!

The other reason is that I don’t claim to have control over my circumstances, so it never disappoints me when I don’t.  Those circumstances are in the hands of God, whom I look to kind of like a writer and director of a big story, and the only one who has read the whole script.  When I get up in the morning, I’m not always sure where my part is going to be played out but I know the director is going to direct me.  After all, he’s given me a part in the story because he wants me there.  What seems random to me is in no way random to him.  He is the ultimate planner and takes care of all the details.  I just have to respond and follow directions. There is a lot of peacefulness and freedom to have fun in that.  And sometime tomorrow I will probably be having fun, somewhere on I-75, talking with my brother.  Just sayin’…

My four brothers lined up in back.  On the left is the eldest one with whom I will soon be reacquainted.
My four brothers lined up in back. On the left is the eldest one with whom I will soon be reacquainted.

To Travel Well…

There is definitely an art to traveling well.  On this trip I am trying to get a good report card, one that has “travels well with others” checked.  I know how to get along with myself in the car – that has never been a problem. In fact, I love getting behind the wheel and just going until the urge comes to stop and see something, or maybe just to keep going until the car runs out of gas.  But as in life, so in travel when there is more than just me. Time to adjust to another.

Do you travel fast, leave early, still going late? Do you travel cheap or first class? What are your feelings about fast food?  How big is your bladder?  All these questions are areas in which differences can pop up, and they will (and they have).  But in my 40 years of studying the husband and his changing preferences I have a pretty good idea of how we differ and I am determined that he will enjoy this road trip with me.  I might have pushed the envelope a little this morning when my phone alarm went off at 5 (which I cannot figure out since I have never set it for 5 on a Sunday morning).  I couldn’t sleep any more so I got up and turned on one small light at a time and read, showered and started packing up. I figured the gradual, incremental waking up activity would make it easier for him as opposed to jerking the covers off, screaming and shaking.  He did wake up and we are almost ready to go at 7 am.  This is an improvement over yesterday when it was more like 9.  Our 30 hour trip is on it’s second day.  We are still alive, well and in fairly good spirits.  So far, so good, Just sayin’, I’m going to make this a good trip, Lord willing.

 

we found one for $40 and there were no bed bugs
we found one for $40 and there were no bed bugs