Friday, December 09, 2011

Road Trip

We took an extensive road trip while in the States. The purpose of the journey was to see family on the east coast that is getting frailer as time passes. It’s amazing how quickly time can pass. I think of time in Korea as a drop in the bucket, but ten years have come and gone here. There are pieces of me scattered all over multiple countries now. Time keeps moving, and one day you stop to realize everyone else has gotten older, and everyone else has changed, and every place else has changed, and even more surprising, you have changed. I look in a mirror and see the same person, but with subtle little signs that tell me I am not the 25-year-old that landed in Korea ten years ago.

Packing the car with the dogs, a tent, a boy, and myself, with a few suitcases and a unicycle for good measure is fun. Leaving at six a.m. is less fun. I didn’t sleep well the night before, constantly tossing and turning. When I woke I was frightful and not well put together and my mind was fuzzy, but I insisted on driving at least the first leg of the trip. This was a bad idea.

I’ve been driving a bit more now every time I go to the states. Getting used to the practical application of it again. The entire act of driving has come back to me much as it was expected that it would, but there is a part of me that still prefers to passenger. Perhaps it is just that I would prefer to be in the car alone. I remember when getting in the car and going was absolute freedom. Constantly being saddled with an observer removes some of the element, which may be why I would rather ride. Hard to say.

As it was, I took the first leg of the drive through the long, endless Indiana highway. My eyes were burning and we had failed to get coffee on the first try. I should probably have forced the coffee issue but a little over an hour later we finally managed to find someplace to get coffee.

We stopped, I walked in and asked for four shots of espresso on ice. The girl behind the counter looked at me like I had lost my mind.

“You..basically you just want four shots of espresso on ice?”

“Yeah, with a little water to top it off, if that’s all right.”

“Four shots?”

“Yep.”

“Do you want sugar in that?”

Not a trace. Not me. Black as death and strong as the hammer of Thor to my brain is what I desired. She smiled and laughed uncomfortable as she told her assistant what she was doing. When they passed the cup back to me I took a sip. I think she half expected me to spit it out.

“Perfect.”

“I…I just could not do that.”

“Thanks.” I smiled and walked away, happily sipping until I got back to the car and realized that I could not walk in a straight line. I abdicated the driving then and basically rode along for the rest of the trip. Each time I do this trip I realize just how much road there is in America. This endless, never-ending road. I begin to feel a kind of sympathy with settlers from once upon a time. There is just So Much Road. This never-ending, never-stopping America and it just goes everywhere. Each mile is a mile taking you to anywhere you can imagine going. Highway after highway, connected to interstate, or turnpike, or street, and all of them leading to a door somewhere.

In a single day we passed through sunshine, clouds, violent thunderstorms, rushing gale-force winds, back into sunshine, and back into rain. I packed a lunch so we could pull off when we were hungry and have a picnic. The rain haunted us the whole time, so in the end we ended up having the picnic in some highway oasis spot, but enjoyed it, none the less. We talked, planned routes, discussed the drive, the timing of it, the paths that we would take. A kind of old-fashioned driving. As GPS becomes more popular it is so easy to fall into the trap of constant navigation that actually having to plan seems almost a silly waste of time. I admit that even I am spoiled, with my magic box of knowledge I could look up routes, find upcoming coffee stops and pit stops, and look for places that would be good to walk the dogs. Still, there was a rather amusing blend of both old and new as we drove through the endless amount of America.

There is something about being in a car that I completely enjoy, and maybe that I miss. You’re brain does nothing but drift on the clouds that are passing outside the window and scenery. I remember being a child in a car on long seemingly endless road trips through sprawling Americana. For all the technology that intercedes there is still something so archaic about driving through small towns and small cities. Time doesn’t seem to touch things as deeply on the road. I imagine what it would be like to be in these small places, to be born, grow up, live, love, and die in that same place without any change. Maybe there is some envy in my contemplation as the roads unwind.

Somewhere in the center of Pennsylvania we had to give up the ghost. Both of us were tired, the dogs were annoyed, and it became abundantly clear that we were not going to get out of the most recent rain we had driven into. The magic box of knowledge pointed out likely towns and we finally managed to find the type of motel I wanted. What happened to the classic Bates-style drive up, where you could park away from the office and have a space all to yourself? Most places seemed to be way too bright, or require way too much entering, and it would make smuggling the dogs in damned near impossible. However after a shot, we managed to find just such a place, off the beaten path, and with a room we could drive up to. The dogs made it in quickly enough and we were finally able to get out of the car and spread out on an engulfing bed, to enjoy just not being in a car anymore.

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