With the important family obligations in Alaska and Michigan-Charlotte complete and after three days of the final frenzied packing for this grand traverse of the USA , we were wished Godspeed and lifted in prayer for a safe journey by many friends in Venice. Then Kili, Simba and I set of at 10:00 am on Thursday, June 15th with the goal of arriving in Chicago by Friday dinner time. This meant 1250 miles in two days, with seemed quite the challenge with two dogs to manage and a bladder that demands stopping at least every hour and one half. Back in the “old days” traveling to and from Florida, driving straight through, with kids was the norm. But alas a 73 years of age and solo that agenda is not very appealing. Even the two day goal seemed a tad ambitious.
Traveling along with my two buddies afforded a lot of time to think and ponder since they are not great conversationalist and certainly aren’t able to help navigate. I at times will play music but it eventually wears on me and I relish the quiet (that is if I can dissociate from the noise pollution of the road such as the drumming of the tires on cement highways, the rumble of the warning strips, thrum and hum of tires on asphalt, trucks blasting by, the vroom of the speed demons, and my own engine groaning down the highway.
I didn’t start out this day (or the trip) with any notion of transformations to take place or even hard lessons to be learned. But underneath my stated external goal of adventure and self reliance, as well as building on my goal to visit all states in my lifetime and visit all the national parks a well, there already seemed to be an undercurrent , conscious or unconscious, of an internal component to beyond this sense of self-reliance. I already feel an internal migration towards really wanting to connect to the land and to live more simply. Driving alone affords a lot of space to think, to work through internal conversations,
From a physical perspective I love the satisfaction of being able to negotiate this trip, by myself, with my dogs, living relatively basically in a tent and with a camp stove. Though my body is aging and I am growing old, what really matters is I never stop growing. In connecting to my wanderlust, I hope to become a truer version of myself.
The overarching theme that my head kept returning to this day was environmentalism and our countries ecological footprint…definitely triggered initially by the NEVER ending massive constructions projects along Interstate 75 in Florida. I found the traffic hellish and hate driving wedged in between unyielding cement barriers and huge 53 foot semi-trucks and the B-train semis with their two trailing units (which at times appeared to be trying to shimmy right off of the semi truck cab.) Getting from A to B is no longer a leisurely experience through bucolic countryside but a mad mad dash to everywhere, needing more and more traffic lanes to accommodate our insatiable need to drive everywhere, only to exit the highway having to make a very difficult choice of where to stop: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chick-A-Fil, Pilot Travel Center, Flying J Travel Center, Love’s Travel center, Holiday Inn, Ramada, Choice, Hampton Inn, Econo-Lodge, Red Roof Inn and on and on… Every exit appears to be a clone of the previous exit stretching from “Sea to Shining Sea.” And if it isn’t the fast food, gas and motels it is the big box stores — thus every city and every exit is unfortunately the same. AND I might also admit of course, that perhaps this adventure of mine might be considered part of the problem that I am railing about.
I chose Pilot Travel Center with a McDonald’s as the first gassing up choice. The boys got their $1.00 cheeseburger. This would not be my preference but Kili spurns his normal dog food and I will compromise my boycott of fast food for the most part just to have him eat something. And so it went hour after hour with sections of clear sailing but more, by far sections of construction, an inordinate number of semis bearing down, with most travelers traveling at 80+ miles per hour! I find the homogenization of America so disenchanting. The “highlight” of day one was crawling through Atlanta at a snails pace during rush hour and then when finally moving being pummeled by lightning, thunder and driving rain up the road a ways. But the true highlight was the SKY and sunset after the storms when driving through Chattanooga. Mother Earth’s palette was amazing and there was something so peaceful and spiritual about the panoply of yellows, corals, mauves, and pinks lighting up the sky. Twelve hours and 708 miles later we arrived at the dog friendly Red Roof Inn in Manchester TN for an all to short but restful night.
Day two proved to be much of the same and I still couldn’t find anything redeeming about the drive. Long and tedious, but not quite as long (11 hours and 556 miles.) Thought a lot this day again about the environment and the impact both I and others have on this once pristine beautiful world. Granted there is still an enormous amount of beauty but also an enormous amount of ugly. I know in the USA the per capita consumption dwarfs that of most any other nation. I am certainly not a minimalist but am taking pride in driving my 7 year old high mpg Prius and sleeping in a tent without air-conditioning!!!
Arriving in Chicago during rush hour on Friday wasn’t the wisest choice but surprising Siri help me negotiate it with no wrong turn and I arrived a Jami’s wonderful home a little after 7:00. It is always such a joy to see my son Jamie and to be greeted by his big lopey dog Cooper. We had a meet and greet session with the dogs and it went quite smoothly. We decided to order in from a Pan-asian restaurant and ended up with a not very good, extremely bland Pad Tai and a beef dish missing the vegetables we ordered.