On the road again...

Helen

Magic words: road trip. My dad was a railroad executive and took me along on trips from Chicago to the Gulf Coast, starting when I was eight or nine. The lust for travel settled in my blood, and much as I still love riding the train, cross-country by road satisfies me best, whether day trips to Maine or following I-70 all the way to Colorado. The Interstate system makes it possible to cover a lot of territory, but I loved leaving the four-lane, ala William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways. Driving into small towns, I could pretend, for the length of Main Street, that I live in that white Victorian set back from the sidewalk, walking to the library and picking up my mail at the post office. Often, I stopped for lunch at Flo’s Diner or Ruby’s CafĂ©, watching the regulars ordering “my usual” and then chatting with the cashier about the church fair last week or Tom Junior’s touchdown run for the local high school.


My husband is a great road companion, generally agreeable about stopping at antique malls or railway museums, but I take a special pleasure in solo trips. I love the freedom to stop without debate and take the road less traveled when the spirit moves me. For maybe ten years, I drove my F-150 between New Hampshire to Kentucky alone several times a year. My aunt who raised me still lived in the house my grandfather built in 1929 and allowed me to give the help she wouldn’t accept from my cousins, willing though they were. Over the years, I established a routine on the road, always spending the night at the same B&B in western Pennsylvania where I came to be welcomed almost like family.



One of my security measures on my solo trips was a large dog crate in the bed of my truck, with I Love Dobermans stickers on both sides. A friendly trucker at a Pilot Flying J advised me to tuck my hair up under a ball cap so I wouldn’t be easily spotted as a woman traveling alone and to rub dirt on my license plate to disguise how far from home I might be. One evening when I stopped for supper, a man followed outside when I left. To reassure me, he pointed to his wife waving from the window and said he’d notice liquid draining under my truck; he didn’t want me to get stranded on the road. (The drainage was condensation from the AC.) I encountered much kindness and never once felt threatened on my pilgrimages.

Liz

I love road trips, too. I think my favorites are when my best writing bud Nan Reinhardt and I get into either her car and mine and take off for a couple of days to write. While we do a lot of writing, we also eat, talk, solve world problems, eat... The eastern shore of Lake Michigan is our favorite destination, followed by whichever state park calls out to us or offers us a good price on lodgings. 


Last year, Duane and I went to Mount Rushmore. I'd never been that far west, so I carved several new state notches in my travel belt and loved seeing those faces from history carved out of that majestic place. Not sure I would have voted for it at the time--I worry about losing natural beauty--but definitely enjoyed seeing the result. We also discovered we could be in the car alone for most of a week and never run out of things to talk about. 


When the kids were...well, kids, we used to take off for a week or to see friends or family in Florida or Pennsylvania or Kansas. When I think of the shoestring we traveled on, it's downright scary, but we always made it there and back safely. If I could do it over again, I'd be more fearless and go farther and more often. However, the bit of wanderlust in me must have been passed down, because the kids and their families travel all over. 

When we were in Ireland in 2009, we went all over the place on buses, none of us being too eager to drive on roads that looked to be about the width of U.S. hiking trails. It was a wonderful way to see the country. 

It's been a year of not-much-travel because we've been too busy, but we're thinking about a few days in the fall. So far, we've discussed Gettysburg, Branson, Michigan, North Carolina, and Florida. So many places--so little time!

Where have some of your favorite road trips been--and where do you want to go next?

Comments

  1. These posts gave me itchy feet, ladies! Funny thing, I’d love to take YOUR road trips! :). I can totally relate to solo ones, too. My fave solo trip was a rail road one. The year after I retired I took a train across Canada by myself, first class with my own wee cabin. It was a joint present from my father and husband, who preferred to fly. I loved the independence and as Helen says, no debate about what to do, where to go etc. Thanks for this memory trip!

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    1. That sounds like SO much fun, Janice. I've never taken a real train trip and would love to.

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  2. Hi Janice -- thanks for joining us. I envy your Canadian rail trek. I've done Boston-to-Seattle via Amtrak and enjoyed it immensely, but I've heard the scenery you covered is spectacular. One of the best things about rail travel is the variety of people you meet in the dining car, from millionaires with a thing for trains to Mennonite families on the way to a wedding.

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  3. My dh loved to drive so we did a lot of road trips around the U.S. I loved them as I talked him into stopping in small towns at local bookstores where I snagged a lot of local lore info. Since he passed away I haven't done much travel and I miss it. But I don't like to drive and flying is not much fun any more. btw--I loved Blue Highways, and Liz if you haven't traveled the Blue Ridge Mountains I recommend it. Hope they didn't suffer from the recent rains.

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    1. My son and his family live in NC, Roz, and I do love the Blue Ridge! We're going there for Thanksgiving and they have a few new things planned for us to try. I think we're riding the Virginia Creeper Trail this year--all downhill sounds great to me!

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    2. One of my favorite drives is the Blue Ridge Parkway. We discovered it on one trip to NC when we got disgusted by the bullying big rigs on I-81, which parallels the Blue Ridge. We've driven all the way from Virginia to Asheville, a delightful small city, but haven't completed the route to its end in Cherokee.

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  4. I always love reading your post, Liz and Helen! They're always so open and intimate, a kind of Garrison Keillor quality to them. Two hours gets me from farmland deep into the Rockies--the dramatic change always seems magical.

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    1. Thanks, Moira! I think Helen has more stories than she has time to tell them, doesn't she? I love hearing about her adventures.

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    2. Liz is right -- I have accumulated some good road tales over the years. Like my almost rendezvous with a truck driver on I-71 near Columbus, Ohio. I moved over a lane to let him come up a ramp with his 18-wheeler; as he passed, he gestured as if drinking coffee. Before I could accept -- BLAM -- he blew a tire and had to pull over. Ah, well -- ships passing . . . Or the snowstorm we hit in May crossing Wolf Creek Pass in southern Colorado. Luckily, we were able to slot in just behind a big highway plow. Twenty miles west of the Continental Divide, sunshine and springtime.

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  5. I just love this post, and identify so much with pretty much all of it! Funny, I always look at houses in the small towns I'm driving through and picture myself living in certain houses, too. Lucky us, we can put our characters in them. Thanks so much. There really is a Keillor quality to this piece.

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    1. I do that with big, Victorian-style houses. I could never live in one unless I had an elevator and a staff just for the dusting, but I just love looking at them.

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    2. One of the most evocative towns I've visited is Park, Kansas, five miles off I-70 -- handful of homes, a Sinclair gas station, a grain elevator, and a water tower. A large brink Catholic church with beautiful stained glass windows and elaborate carved alters was one of the few buildings that survived a fire that wiped the town out in the thirties.

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  6. You two make me want to jump in the car or maybe a train,and go. Liz, did you see Devil's Tower while you were in the Rushmore area? My solo road trips (well, not solo, but as the only driver) were ferrying my kids and several teammates from Anchorage to Fairbanks every solstice for the Midnight Sun soccer tournament. Ongoing road construction was just part of the trip. Often, while we were waiting behind a pilot car for our turn, the kids would pile out to kick a ball around on the grass at the edge of the road, and other soccer players from the cars behind them would run to join them. Then when it was time to drive, it was like herding cats to get them back into their respective cars.

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    1. I did, Beth. It's glorious out there, isn't it? And I'd love to do some traveling in Alaska. My niece is living and working in Kotsebue for a few years and even though she's homesick, I love hearing about where she is.

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  7. I would love to see more of Alaska than three stops on a Princess cruise afforded, especially inland. We did take the train in Skagway over White Pass, a breath-taking ride. I'll get on a train to anywhere.

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  8. What a lovely post, Ladies! You've had some incredible experiences that are stirring my wanderlust. My sister and I took my nephews on a road trip all over Arizona for spring break last year. My husband has always wanted to drive from coast to coast and then take the train back through Canada. I'm up for traveling pretty much anywhere.

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    1. Me, too, Carol, but my other half couldn't care less about traveling. We've done some--twice as much as he'd like and less than half as much as I would!--and I'm still hoping for more.

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    2. Hi Carol! I'd have loved riding along on your Arizona adventure. I love the Southwest, the colors and the incredible light for photography. We did a big loop from Durango to Moab then south to Bluff, UT (pop. 600) and then down through the Navajo Reservation to Santa Fe and Taos. But some much more to see.

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  9. Road trips! There's something so exciting about setting out on an adventure. Just got back from a road trip to Labrador. Driving the "frontier road" can be quite the challenge and the scenery is wild and wonderful. Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your road trips, ladies!

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    1. You've used the right word--it is always an adventure, even if it's only an hour away. I hope we hear about Labrador, a place I know less than nothing about!

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    2. I'd love to try your road trip to Labrador; sounds like we should take my F-150 rather than a sedan. My daughter who works for Fodor's recently got sent to Newfoundland -- quite an adventure, but sad to say, she witnessed some poor woman take a fatal fall from the cliffs. Not a place to get careless.

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