Time to Hit the Road

I’m getting ready to go on the longest road trip I’ve ever made behind the wheel of a car. I’m driving from South Florida to Cleveland, which is pretty much the entire height of the country. Cleveland is the hair of America and where I live in Florida is the instep in high heels.

I am so ready. I’m also in delirious denial that it’s going to be a horrible experience, but I’m ready.

You might wonder why I’m making this drive. You might have wondered where people who live in Florida go on vacation. Well, now you know. Cleveland. You may also wonder why my husband isn’t sharing the driving with me. Because he won’t come on the trip with us. He has to “work.” Mmmm-hmmm.

I’ll be packing into the car my travel coffee pitcher for the parts of the trip where I don’t feel comfortable stopping the car (most of northern Florida, all of Georgia, and the part of southern Ohio that has the incorrect 10 commandments on a series of billboards). I’m also taking boxes of Cheez-its (my favorite car snack food), Tylenol, and three adult or near adult children, who so far all have working limbs to help me get stuff from the back.

Also, three books on tape, including two really long ones. I’ve got Fight Club, a Dean Koontz thriller and a Ruth Rendell mystery that is itself 15 hours long. I’m hoping this junk-fiction-fest will be enough to keep me awake but not too interesting that I am tempted to drive around the block a couple of times before I reach my destination.

My last road trip was more than a year ago. When we moved from Kentucky to Florida, I drove two kids, an extra-large dog, and boxes of liquids and flammables that the movers wouldn’t touch, all smooshed into our SUV. I’m pretty sure it was a successful road trip.

I have no memory of it whatsoever.

I’m not kidding. I can remember what every one of my teachers wore on the first day of school for all 12 years, but I don’t remember a single thing about our trip to Florida for our move. My son tells me I made the 18-hour drive without stopping overnight, but that doesn’t sound like me. I don’t remember having the dog in a hotel room, though. I also don’t remember falling to my knees and kissing the steaming pavement in Juno Beach upon arrival, which I’m pretty sure I would have done if I had made the trip in one day.

It’s possible that it was so bad that I’ve blocked it from my memory, like a sexual assault. My kids would keep the truth from me, because they want this road trip. Plus, they lie for fun.

This upcoming trip brings to mind a road trip from my college days, in which my friend Diane Lubener (not her real name, but I’ve called her that for so long I’d be hard pressed to remember what her real last name was then) and I drove from Kent State to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for a weekend.

We were so poor, we didn’t have enough money to do the trip at all, but we did it anyway. Bouyed by her dad’s decision to loan us his gasoline credit card, we forgot that we were going to need a certain amount of cash in addition, to be on the actual trip.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast operated by an Italian family (or were they French? Maybe they were just Canadian, but we were so inexperienced with foreign affairs, that we were swept into a state of Europhilia by their accents). We saw the falls, drank at some local bars, I took a beautiful photo of a large flock of nuns walking through a field of red and yellow tulips, a photo that I can’t find now, damnit. It was a prize winner, I’m telling you.

We had a wonderful time until our very last night there, when we realized we were completely and utterly out of money. It was the last night of our magical foreign vacation, and we were broke. We went to a hotel bar and chatted up the bar tender until he gave us some free beers. And then we went back to our European hosts’ house. They were celebrating their anniversary that night and gave us the actual key to the house. Really nice of them, now that I think of it. Lucky we didn’t sell it.

The next morning we left super early, because we were already starving and we wanted to get home before we realized how stupid we were to have an international road trip in front of us without a cent to our names.

We were motoring along, feeling pretty good about the fact that we were going to get home without having to wash dishes the entire weekend, when we saw a sign up ahead for the toll road.

Oh crap. We forgot there were toll roads that were going to cost us about $5. We quickly pulled into a parking lot. It was early on a Sunday morning. Sitting in Lubener’s car, we were using our college liberal arts majors’ brains to try to figure out a solution that didn’t involve getting a pimp, when we saw another car parked on the other side of the parking lot. We coasted over toward it and got out and walked up to the window. It was a car full of teenage guys, drinking and smoking. We knocked on the window.

“Hi. We’re Americans, from Kent State and we don’t have any money to get back home.” I couldn’t believe we were doing this. I had never and have never since felt so homeless.

“We were wondering if you would like to buy these two cans of Coors we have in our back seat. They are $2.50 each.”

We got the $5 and one of the guys’ address, and we turned over the beers. When I got back to the dorm, I sent him a $5 bill and a thank you note.

Now why can I still remember that road trip experience and not one that I did a little over a year ago?

Maybe some things are just best left unremembered.

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