Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them” – before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain…
The Cross Country Drive
We started off on June 7th, having loaded a 10’ U-Haul ($1,800 rental) with all our earthly belongings the day before. Turns out Ian’s dad has an unearthly affinity for fitting couches, tables, cardboard boxes, and bicycles into a room the size of a big closet. It took us a while to get away from our families, what with all the hugging and sighing and advice-giving (“don’t die”), and our final do-we-have-everything checks. Eventually we got off, with Ian driving; I stayed awake through North Bend, then woke up for Cle Elum and our first of dozens of gas stops ($62.88). The truck, we later learned, averaged about 13 miles a gallon and cost approximately $60 to fill ¾ of the way. We never let it drop below ¼ of a tank, both of us having a healthy fear of long, dead-time waits for help on the North Dakota stretch of I-90. With Cle Elum I started three practices we carried out the rest of the trip: Taking pictures at each stop, however dismal, marking our stop on the US map, and my doing 50 jumping jacks each time.
Day One: We drove through Eastern Washington, reading crops that farmers had considerately labeled for the I-90 drivers (“potatoes… alfalfa… corn… oh boy, more alfalfa… peppermint?!”). My first leg in the U-Haul started in Spokane, right after our lunch break. I maneuvered us back onto the freeway and started getting the feel of that lumbering beast. I drove through Idaho into Montana, with only a brief stop in Kellog for more gas ($59.10). By Bozeman I started feeling sleepy, so Ian took over again after we filled up the truck with gas ($56.05). He got us to Livingston, Montana, where we slept briefly in a slightly overpriced Travelodge that only gave us one flat pillow per person. After a day of driving, the seats left me sore and stiff, what with their inability to recline or adjust at all, really.
Day Two: We woke at 5:30 on June 8th and I felt like crap. Not enough sleep combined with a boardlike bed and the prospect of another day of driving made me want to crawl back under the scanty covers for a few more hours. Instead, we enjoyed a free breakfast courtesy of the motel and hit the road again by 7:00. I slept for a while, and eventually we stopped in Hysham for gas again ($59.20)—a move of desperation, as we’d misjudged distances, and dropped below the ¼-tank safety limit. At a rest stop somewhere on I-90 Ian and I traded off, and I picked up driving into North Dakota. We stopped again in Medora, North Dakota, which is a ridiculously touristy, faux-Western town with a permanent population of about 150 people, all devoted to sucking gullible Easterners dry. I enjoyed the stop, using it to do my usual 50 jumping jacks to get my heart pumping again while Ian shelled out $66.50 for more gas. The whole place seemed cute, actually, and I seemed to remember seeing the “famous” Medora musical on the cross-country drive my family did years ago. How ironic. Next came Jamestown’s expensive gas, which outed us $71.16, and left me exhausted enough to switch off with Ian. I slept again; that became a favorite pastime of mine, as reading in the car is antisocial and leaves me feeling queasy.
I say “antisocial,” but in all honesty Ian and I didn’t talk all too much. Or much at all. We kept our peace and sanity by watching the endless rolling hills, commenting only on the geology, towns, and animals/roadkill we saw along the way. We crossed the Clark Fork river 13 times and counted cop sightings. A couple days before we left, the Seattle Times ran an article in its Travel section about road trips, featuring a man who went on one with his girlfriend—and discovered on their trip that she had so many negative traits, he didn’t want to date her anymore. The article included suggestions such as making the trip themed: for example, a bowling-themed trip would involve stopping at every bowling alley you see to play a game. We didn’t have time for that kind of silliness (other kinds of silliness, however, we had in abundance), but did enough things to keep ourselves awake and on the road. Occasionally when we had cell phone reception—which wasn’t often in Montana or North Dakota—we called home to let our families know we hadn’t died a horrific, fiery death.
After Jamestown, we drove on through Alexandria, Minnesota ($49.62) and straight past our planned stopping place of St. Cloud. Instead, I carried us the last exhausted miles to Hudson, Wisconsin, where we slept like rocks from 11:00, when we got in, until our 6:30 wake-up. Bear in mind that each day we lost an hour of travel time by crossing time zones, which also means that 6:30 in Wisconsin feels like 5:30 in Montana and 4:30 in Washington. I won’t lie when I say that those mornings made me seriously consider taking up coffee-drinking, if it would alleviate the deadness that plagued me for hours after getting up. The good thing about that, though, is I found I could sleep soundly even scrunched up in that horrid U-Haul seat.
Day Three: On June 9th we left our Super 8 Motel, which actually seemed a step up from the Travelodge, and I tried driving first but only got to Northfield ($60.00) before utterly pooping out. I nearly fell asleep at the wheel, and did fall asleep immediately after we got on the road again. Ian drove us through the increasingly interesting Wisconsin countryside, which seemed to have billboards for three things: cheese, fast-food restaurants, and cheap places to kip. We passed up lots of opportunities to buy Wisconsin cheese, and who knows—maybe we’ve missed the cheesy experience of a lifetime. But I have the feeling my life will be plenty cheesy without Wisconsin’s help. In Beloit ($44.24), right on the border with Illinois, I took over driving again. This meant that I got the joy of paying the piddling Illinois tolls ($0.30 to $0.80 at a time. If you’re going to charge for roads, why do it in such small, short increments? It slowed down traffic and left us dimeless rather quickly) as well as… drum roll please… Chicago!
Oh, I’m sure the musical is great, but our three-hour stint in the Windy City left me wanting nothing more than to never drive through again. We hit traffic at 1:00, inched our way through the city in stop-and-go traffic for three hours, and finally reached the Indiana border. Those hours marked the low of our trip, I’d say; we both snapped at each other, stared at cars, and debated what lane I should be in. I pulled a half-dozen Masshole driving tricks that a U-Haul should never do, often in an attempt to squeeze into a lane that I learned 15 minutes later actually would take me into the heart of the city rather than Indiana. Probably 20 people cut me off in maneuvers at least as illegal as mine; we saw 7 cops in Chicago alone (raising our count to 13, 14, and 15 since leaving Seattle), but none of them stopped the atrociously blatant, rampant shoulder-driving that made me want to ram those little sports cars. That’s enough about Chicago.
Because when we reached Indiana, it all changed. The roads cleared, we paid one toll the whole way, and I felt like we’d reached driving heaven. I felt so good, in fact, that I drove all
the way to the “oaisis” at Howe ($56.50). Ian took over through to just outside Cleveland, where we traded off and I drove us to Painesville ($55.03). By then it was dark, but we generally got a good feel for Indiana despite its bad rap. I-90 took us through a few big cities, yet we saw mostly green and growing things. Quintessential farms, a few cows, lots of trees. Not too bad, considering the run-down industrial state I always think of.
Day Four: On June 10th we left Painesville after sleeping in a beautiful Best Western. This place had a king-size bed, two TV’s, a separate sitting room, fridge and microwave, and a great continental breakfast. Plus it was unique-looking and beautiful, in a smaller town that I somehow just liked. Maybe it’s because we slept so well there, or because Ian acted perky from using the free Internet access, but that morning we set off sturdily, ready to do or die—we planned to push all the way from Painesville, Ohio, to Marlborough, Massachusetts no matter how long it took.
Ian drove us through to just past Buffalo ($45.24), I got us to Schodack, NY ($60.95), and he got us to Marlborough. That stretch between Buffalo and Schodack, driving all the way across the state of New York, felt like the longest road I’d driven yet. It meandered on and on, endless trees and the same scenes over and over. By then we’d worn out, were close enough to only want to be done but not close enough to actually finish. We skipped lunch, driving straight through what otherwise would have proved a lovely section of road, not even talking very much. It felt like an endless waiting game, just hanging on until finally, finally we could pass off the U-Haul to some other unlucky drivers. At least we didn’t leave white dog hairs all over the cab like the people before us. By the end we both sped blatantly, hanging in the left lane and passing nearly all the other cars in our haste to finish for good. The truck, however, capped out at about 85 miles an hour—at 80 it started shaking violently, and by 85 you began to fear the wheels would come off if you went any faster. Fortunately the speed limit through most of the states stuck around 70, although the closer to Massachusetts we got the slower the roads became.
At 5:00 on June 10th, we reached our destination. We drove 3,172 miles in four days and I never want to see a U-Haul truck again. Of course, we still had plenty of work to do moving furniture in. So on June 11th we recruited our friends and after church we unloaded that sucker. At one point I gazed out across the boxes and furniture and asked myself: Will all this truly fit into our apartment? The answer has yet to be determined, as some of our belongings still need permanent homes. However, the prognosis looks bright, as I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday working hard to get everything squared away. I moved furniture; I opened boxes; I sorted until I didn’t think I could sort any more. I also cooked Ian a beautiful twice-baked potato dinner to celebrate his first day as a real working engineer at Raytheon.
He started his job in Sudbury on Monday the 12th. We’ve settled into a bit of a pattern, me dropping him off and picking him up and doing work at home the rest of the time. I start my job at Charles River Labs on the 26th, assuming I pass the physical and drug test they’ve scheduled for me on the 20th. I can’t imagine why I’d need a physical—the job description says I’ll have to do lots of “standing, sitting, and walking,” which hardly sounds strenuous. Although I’m enjoying my free time, I also look forward to working: this stint as a childless homemaker makes me realize that I’d go nuts without some sort of employment. Given all the time, though, I’ve washed lots of clothes and dishes, made the bed consistently, vacuumed, and noticed an ant infestation in our kitchen. I have also replaced the cabinet knobs in the kitchen with stainless steel ones, gone grocery shopping, made several more time-intensive meals than usual, and organized the kitchen, bathroom, living room, and our loft bedroom. The den contains Ian’s boxes, which will take longer to unpack since he has to do that in the evenings after I pick him up.
You might think he’d do it this weekend, but we’re going on a camping trip with Michelle, Darren, and Brian all weekend instead. It’s just car camping, which always strikes me as cushy compared to what I’m used to, but I’m looking forward to it anyway. I’ve not spent much time in New Hampshire, and we’ll be somewhere in the White Mountains. Pictures and details to follow.
Now if that doesn’t take the cake for the longest, most detailed, most boring blog I’ve ever written—I don’t know what does.