I want to thank you. For transporting me from one world to another just when I needed it most this summer. You see, it’s been a while since the tires of our Korean-made car have rolled along your smooth skin, and I have to admit I missed the sensation of being with you. All too often these past two years, I’ve been cheating on you with airlines. Indulging in the speedy mobility that flying provides. Luxuriating in the cool confines of airport terminals. Rolling my luggage around the sleek linoleum floors. And noshing on a $250 salad from the food court because it’s the least expensive thing available on the menu. But having the chance to take a long overdue South-to-North-to-South road trip with my husband and our rescue pup this summer, I was reminded of how very much I adore being on the open road.
It is a sensation I have missed. One I grew up on. One I don’t plan on ever-growing out of. And as our portable family unit criss-crossed your circuitous lines these past few weeks on our South-to-North-to-South trip to visit family, it occurred to me how very lucky I am to get to spend time with you.
Sometimes you smell of the freshly cut grass wafting from the farms in the rural areas of your route. Sometimes you stink of diesel fuel or a nearby paper mill, causing my husband and I to gag dramatically as we attempt to seal up every air vent in the car. Sometimes you make us curse really loudly as we find ourselves forced to take life-saving measures to dodge tractor-trailer drivers who seem hell-bent on squishing us as they pass unnecessarily from the right lane to the left lane to the right. And sometimes you inspire us to sing really loudly as the miles roll into other miles and we happen upon a local radio station playing a heavy metal love ballads rock block.
I forgot how fun it is to constantly get in and out of the car to fuel up and stretch out as we count down the miles along your path. I forgot how fun it is to admire your bumps and bruises in your construction zones and guess which drivers will fail to reduce speed in time to avoid a speeding ticket from the kindly highway patrol officer hiding her vehicle behind a sandbag. I forgot how fun it is to gauge the likelihood that the restrooms at a Rest Area are clean enough to utilize and that the fellow travelers using it are civilized enough to not snatch me for human trafficking. I forgot how fun it is to play “Spot the Lot Lizard.” I forgot how fun it is to watch the sun set in different states and spot wildlife peeking out behind trees in those same states. I forgot how fun it is to hear the local accents of the local people dotting the residential areas of your route. I forgot how fun it is to nap in the passenger seat because you not only allow me to rest my bare feet on the dashboard, but encourage it. To mock your poorly worded billboard signs and questionable speed limit suggestions. To buy heinous souvenirs at Pedro’s South of the Border because you, and you alone, thought to take us to that magical place.
Sometimes you get in the way of our fun, though.
Like, say, for instance, when you leave a 10 foot ladder in the middle of one of your lanes, threatening to take out all 400 cars coming up on it. Or when you permit a bunch of texting-while-driving a**holes to slip in and out of their lanes without incident while the rest of us have to duck for cover from their fast advances. Sometimes you cramp our muscles and test the linings of our bladders when you fail to provide a Rest Stop in a timely fashion. And sometimes you force us to improvise a three-course meal out of whatever packaged food items we can find at some creepy gas station since the Carter administration. And sometimes, you have a cruel knack for pouring torrential rain through our sunroof with no warning whatsoever.
Despite all this, though, you sate me. It’s not that your pretty (you’re often not.) And it’s not that your functional (you’re often dysfunctional.) But you have a power right now in my life that no other entity has: you make it possible for me to see the people, places, and things I am missing while simultaneously helping me escape the people, places, and things I am most sick of.
All in about 22 hours one-way.