I set out with the intention of seeing 14 people in 7 days and 5 cities. Unfortunately, I drove.
The adventure began when the service engine light came on just as I was heading out of Chicago. A quick look at the owner’s manual reassured me that it might not be a critical failure, so I drove on. Wanting all the good luck the universe might offer, I paid for the family behind me at the first toll booth I came to. Minutes later, an old client called to ask me to do some work. That was great to hear, but I worried my good karma wasn’t going to help the car now. Silly me for not being specific about my needs.
The drive to DC is not short. A good 11 hours spent talking on the phone, singing along to my favorite female divas, and trying to keep up with the usual internet flow. The route is nearly all toll roads. Incredibly expensive. But maybe it should be for all the carbon emissions. When I discovered that my fuel cap was not on appropriately, I assumed that was the reason for the light going off (according to the manual, that was a reasonable cause). Toll roads are not very pleasant ways of seeing the country. You can’t get off the road for fun distractions.
I am a lifelong cross-country driver (please forgive the carbon emissions). I used to stop only when the car needed refueling. Bathroom break, refuel me, and jump back in for the next stretch (which could be 6 hours). This trip I tried to stop every half tank. I have played math games about traveling ever since I was a kid. So I burn up mental energy calculating time and distance to major cities and final destinations–and breaks. Though this exercise, I have figured out lots of things about reading interstates.
For example: How do they number exits? By mile markers. Exit # – current mile marker = distance to go.
A few states do not do this–and on some roads on the east coast, they will indicate the old number. One system –I think it was the New Jersey Turnpike, numbers theirs consecutively. It can be rather frustrating to find out that exit 10 is NOT 10 miles up the road nor at mile 10, but instead is 10 toll road exits further. Vastly different when calculating distance and time!
I am a terribly impatient person. Horribly. And my mother seems to have broken me of most external indications of this. I have to keep my brain busy. So calculations amuse me. Soaking in what nature I can get across vistas of concrete also keeps me at peace. The light penetrating the forest and reflecting in dancing waves off the outermost leaves. Hawks circling. The vast range of domiciles one can view from concrete interstates. The rains which come slower of faster when in a car depending on which direction you are going in a storm. So much external information to soak up while moving.
I am a compulsive reader. In the shower, I read the shampoo bottle. At breakfast, I read the cereal box. I am not sure any of this registers in my head consciously. Surely little of it sticks. But in my usual compulsive reading way, I felt compelled to read a sign at a rest stop in Pennsylvania explaining wind power and the wind farms in view from that location. MMmm, good, very good. I thought to take a picture. But like photographing redwoods, windmills just don’t really show scale in a landscape very well. You have to stand next to one. Wind-farms are like giant flower gardens.
Hours later, stomach grumbling, I got lost 3 times on my way into Washington DC. Thankfully my patient host guided me in. The final minutes were marked by my name being called as I approached an intersection. Really?
PART 2, where I actually get to PEOPLE I saw, coming soon….