Thursday, June 3, 2010

more east vs. west, and other adventures

I am very thankful for the opportunities I've had over the years to travel, mostly in the US and once to Sweden and other parts of Europe.  I remember many road trips as a child; it was so exciting to be woken up at 4:00 a.m. when it was still dark and pack stuff to do in the car and play car games.  (All the games were fun except for the "He's touching me!" and "Her pinkie finger is on my side!" ones my brother and I knew so well.)   I remember one trip in particular, when my cousins Jackie and Shelly were with us, and they knew a whole bunch of silly songs and games.  We had a great time.

After my Sweden trip in the summer of '86, a friend/teammate from that trip flew in from CA and we drove to Colorado to visit another friend (and see a 3rd on the way there). 

Here I am spacing out late into the night before our trip to CO, because the basement had flooded.  I may just be tired, or I may be having a premonition of another house flooding 17 years later.  Or I may be trying to figure out which way to go on the highway tomorrow - "If we're in Kansas, and we're going to Colorado, I need to head...."

For a few great years I lived in a suburb on the north shore of Chicago, about a mile from Lake Michigan.  I LOVED that place, and Chicago itself.  I'd still be there if my inner Dorothy hadn't kicked in, dang her.  ("There's no place like home....")  But I digress.  I want to show you how smart I was back then, when I woke up early and walked to the beach to watch the sun rise over the lake.  I knew that we were on the west side of the lake, which meant I could see the sun rise in the east.  I figured that out all by myself.

I realize it's hard to tell if this is a sunrise or a sunset, but trust me, this is Lake Michigan and I did not boat over to...let me check my map...where's Benjamin when I need him...yeah - the state of Michigan to take this pic.  And I'm pretty sure that's the sun, not the moon.

In 1995 I had a great trip - I was living in Illinois, some friends were getting married in New York, and the following weekend my grandparents were celebrating their 50th anniversary in Kansas.  Sounded like a great reason for a road trip to me, and I hadn't seen much of the right half (okay, eastern part) of the country.  For the leg from IL to NY a friend of the couple rode with me as well as another, mutual friend.  We drove to Michigan, took the bridge in Detroit over to Canada, and crossed back over and saw Niagara Falls.  I wanted to stop to look at the Falls, but we didn't because by then we were all sick of each other.  At some point after we arrived in NY, the couple asked me how the trip went and I said pretty good, it was a bit scary when their friend drove.  "You let her drive?!" they said.  "You're telling me this now?!" I said.

After the wedding I took off by myself and had a great time.  Saw family in NY, a friend in PA, another friend in Mass., Wash. DC, the monastery where Thomas Merton lived in Kentucky, and some other states over that-a-way.  In Maryland they were so polite to ask me to "please drive gently" (on the sign, under "Maryland Welcomes You"), so I drove as gently as I could while driving 60mph (or were we back up to 70mph by then?), one hand on the steering wheel, one holding the camera, one eye on the road, and one taking a picture.  You're welcome, MD.

I was very excited to have to pull over in DC for a motorcade; I'm pretty sure there were flags on one of those cars, and there were another 1 or 2 SUVs behind that first one.  I spent a few hours in DC and really enjoyed it.  Thanks to my friend Kristin, I had handy-dandy maps for every state I went to, and I was able to navigate pretty well.

I wish I'd gotten more pics of state signs, but by the time I hit West Virginia I was running out of steam.  So was my car, an '87 Toyota hatchback.  Those hills in WV wore us out; we'd putt-putt up a hill, getting passed by cars while doing so, then coast fast down the hill and pass 1 or 2 of those cars, then get back in the right lane and putt-putt up, get passed, etc. etc.  Seeing the monastery in KY was a special time; I watched them celebrate Vespers in the evening, chanting, singing, praying - wonderful.  Unfortunately, all their rooms for visitors were booked so I stayed at the worst hotel I'd ever been in - I remember the roaches as clearly as I remember the monastery.

I barely remember going through Missouri - it was all getting to be a blur - but that's okay, it was only Missouri; I'd been there plenty of times.  :)  I made it to KS and enjoyed time with family, then realized I'd have to drive 12 more hours to get home.  (I'd figured that out before, but it didn't really hit me until it was time to go.)  That trip was a blur too, but apparently I made it.

Driving around 1/2 the country in one week!  I'm so glad I did it, and that I did it while I was young(er).

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