We made it back safely. We made it back. I suppose safely is a relative term. We were passed more than we passed if you need a reference point. I’ve discovered a neat trick. If you are going to drive 1k miles in a day, it helps to switch cars half way through.
I’d like to say that this story is made up. But it isn’t. I lived through this. I’d like to say that no small animals (or large animals) were harmed during the events of this story. “No small (or large) animals were harmed during the events of this story.” said I.
The first amazing thing that happened was that we drove out and around D.C. without any traffic. That was perhaps the most amazing thing, something that will be even more meaningful to you as these events unfold. There were three of us, in the beginning, representing three generations. I was the one wearing hearing aids.
I discovered that while it is possible to write in a moving car, it is not the same as writing in a moving plane or moving train. The bumps are more immediate and dramatic. When you have a touch pad/screen laptop, sudden bumps cause all sorts of interesting changes to your settings. Not that you care, except if you plan to write a novel while touring the country you may wish to take Amtrak instead of your Buick.
I generally start eating my lunch around 10:50 and finish in the vicinity of 4. At 10:50 my eldest son asked when we were going to stop for lunch. My father was planning lunch at the end of the trip, hours away. He suggested that we weren’t planning to stop for lunch. My son said, “Oh.” If you have a son who is 18 you know what that means. I reminded my father that he was 18. It was easier than saying, “I’m hungry too.” We agreed to stop at Sonic in 30 miles.
Sonic serves their entire menu all day. Thing is, it doesn’t say when they start. Didn’t matter, they were open and I got $.50 corn dogs. I planned on two. Said I was going to get two. I ordered three. With onion rings. They put cinnamon in their batter. Mmmm. The “officially hungry person” got a supersonic Bacon grease bomb. My Dad ordered the French toast sticks. “And for your side?” What sort of side comes with French toast? French fries, naturally, or tater tots or onion rings. He got the tots. It was bizarre. Had this been a real road trip we’d have taken one of the magnetic signs that said, “50 cent corn dogs ALL DAY today only.”
Traffic was light. We got to our luncheon location an hour early. So we picked up dry cleaning. I use a dry cleaner that’s half a mile from my house. My dad uses one that’s 45 miles away. I guess we’re lucky that it was on the way. We drove through a pothole that was as big as the car. Don’t blame the driver, it was the smallest one in the lot.
At lunch I was asked if I had AIDS. I don’t. I said as much. Turns out that was short hand for hearing aids. I do have those. It wasn’t as awkward as it sounds. It was funny. Oh, and my dad brought a date. We drove the 2nd to the last leg in tandem. There was an extra stop because we wanted bolt cutters and my dad had two pairs so he loaned me one.
You should always have bolt cutters when you drive across the country.
We decided to visit my grandmother. She just turned 95 last month. You wouldn’t know it. She’s looked pretty much the same my entire life. On the way over the mountain to her house it started to rain. Very, very hard. The clouds swirled. The wind. All around us there were reports of 2-3” diameter hail. A tornado touched down in two places nearby. I watched clouds churn and thought there might be one where we were. I remember the last time one went through town. I was 17. It was 25 years before the flood swept almost everything away. I’m glad those that rebuilt after that didn’t get moved to Oz.
The last leg was where the car was. We were picking up two passengers there as well as the other car. One of them was late. He was on the other side of the tornado and had to wait for it. He had a good sense of humor about it though. “I wasn’t worried about the storm destroying our house since it’s already burned up.” The fire was earlier in the week. Everyone got out but the house was destroyed. I’m not sure I’d have been so cavalier but maybe, it’s a powerful coping mechanism.
We did a fairly quick turn (since there was no apple pie waiting for me to eat) and were back on the road heading south at 5:30. 11 hours after we started. The sun was very bright. The three 18 year olds were on a major road trip. Together. I tried not to be a wet blanket.
The biggest difference between traveling with young men and traveling with a young family is that you don’t have to stop very much. We bought gas and dinner at the same place – I even bought a Monster which is not something I usually drink. Then it was nothing but highway. And games. We went to an Alpaca farm. Ever play that?
We took an Alpaca, beets, carrots, Doritos, envelops, a friend, grass, hay, an intern, junior, kelp, a leash, money, neon lights, oranges, pliers, Quaker bars, racism, a shovel, a trainer, an umbrella, violence, waste, a xenobiologist, a yo-yo, and a zebra (to keep it company).
There was a lot of road kill but fortunately most of it had been driven over so many times it was just a giant splatter.
At one point it started to rain. We tried to out run it – the drops were huge – but it kept pace. The storm line advanced about 100 yards in front of us and we watched the splashing against the pavement. Then we turned and it was gone.
The other stop was a rest area that was under construction. I’m glad I had been there before, the routing was a little confusing. We were 20 miles from home 6.5 hours into the trip. Then five lanes merged into one. They were hanging a new sign across 95. Needed a single lane for roughly 200 yards. It took 45 minutes to merge. I felt like I was home.
I’m leaving out most of what the boys talked about on the way home. If you were ever a young man you know what it was about, and if you were a young lady, you wouldn’t understand. I will say only this. I laughed. A lot. And hard. My son even said, “I have only seen my dad laugh that hard three times including this one.” I’m glad we were going very slowly through construction in Pennsylvania. I couldn’t see through the tears.
28 years ago I made a similar trek, at about the same time of year, with my friend. I’ve never forgotten it. I hope this brings back memories for you too.