Road Trip Notes

Strangely, I feel a certain amount of pressure as I begin writing this “Tales” entry. I hope the end result will match what I may (or may not) be some lofty expectations.


Regular readers of these ramblings — not to mention a fair number of others — are well aware that I recently embarked on a road trip to upstate New York with my 12-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son. As my wife, Becca, remained at home and did plenty of work related to the slowly-nearing-an-end pursuit of her master’s degree, I took the kiddos for a total of nine days of vacation.


And, obviously, lived to tell about it. Whew.


It was a great trip, all in all, but I think it’s more than fair to say that all three of us travelers were thrilled to finally be back at home when we returned to Worthington. I have joked to at least couple of folks that, in the event we had to travel to Sioux Falls on our last day of driving (instead of “only” Worthington), there may have in fact been a casualty somewhere along those final miles. Hopefully, it wouldn’t have been me.


It would be difficult to blame any of us for wanting a respite from each other after our multi-state excursion began when we pulled out of the driveway at 6:05 a.m. June 24. I promised both Grace and Zach that I wouldn’t reveal any names of the guilty parties, but it was roughly two hours later when I received the first “I want to go home” and “I don’t like you.” I think it was around this point when I fetched the iPad out of the bag I had stored up front with me and passed it to the back, where the kids took turns for perhaps too long but long enough for me to ensure my sanity wouldn’t go astray.


Somewhere near the Quad Cities, I’m guessing, we stopped to retrieve the sandwiches Bec had kindly made for us that were in the cooler packed in back. Naturally, it was also a perfect opportunity for a bathroom break, but that became delayed somewhat over what quickly became an international crisis-level scenario. A shoe was missing. Did it fall out of the car, somehow, during the last pit stop? Alas, it was under one of the front seats all along. Ahh … the world could continue to rotate on its axis as usual.


The rest of the day took place more or less without incident, though I didn’t get exactly what I expected from a detour I found that avoided the craziness of Chicago. I exited Interstate 280 somewhere Moline, Ill., and got on U.S. 30, which proceeded to take us down mile after mile of America at its finest (not!) — a virtual avalanche of big-box stores, chain restaurants, strip malls, etc. It felt like going down a very long 41st Street in Sioux Falls, and we all opted to pass the time counting the number of Dunkin’ Donuts locations we could spot. As it turned out, our eye for Dunkin’ Donuts would prove extremely helpful the following day.


My target city of Defiance, Ohio — a little less than 750 miles from home — was reached about 7:15 p.m. eastern time. We all stumbled out of the car … and the kids more or less headed promptly for the hotel pool to burn off as much energy as they could. I nearly nodded off in a poolside lawn chair after quickly flipping through the page of the city’s newspaper. Later, Grace and I did manage to walk across to the street to a gas station at which a menacing customer intimidated the cashier into selling him cigarettes without proper identification. (It wasn’t me, though if I did smoke it very possibly could have been.) The place also happened to have what has to be the world’s worst chip card reader. (Am I the only one who now automatically begins inserting, rather than swiping, the card, even if there’s a “Please swipe you card” sign in plain view?)


That about did it for Saturday night, leaving about 700 or so miles for us to travel the next day. If the kids were each asked for a highlight for the Defiance, Ohio-to-Saratoga Springs, N.Y. leg of the trip, I would assert without hesitation that they’d both describe what happened in Dunkirk.


We got off in Dunkirk, the western New York town in which I worked as a daily news reporter more than 20 years ago, to use the facilities and get gas. Both needs, I should stress, needed to be filled somewhat urgently.


I pulled into a gas station, only to realize the place consisted merely of several pumps and one of those little glass cages reserved for both the attendant and an dizzying array of tobacco products. I fueled up the car and paid the attendant — all while both my children could be seen laughing heartily in the car. Apparently, I was doing quite the “potty dance” the whole time.


Meanwhile, a Dunkin’ Donuts had been spotted across the street — we were all experts in finding them by now — so I shot across four lanes, all Jimmie Johnson-like, to get inside and gain rest room access. Alas, the men’s room was occupied, leading me to exclaim “No!!!” as both Grace and Zach tried to avoid falling to the floor in hysterics.


We left the establishment with donuts for each of us, and a big iced coffee for me … which, naturally, led to another (hopefully not as animated) little jig less than an hour down the interstate. With that, dear readers, I’ll give you whatever break you may need by this point. There are plenty more road trip notes where these came from.


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