Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Great Road Trip of 2011

I’m leaving tonight to begin The Great Road Trip of 2011. Well, okay, that may be a tad overblown, since it’s not like I’m driving cross country and plan to stop in each of the 48 contiguous states to check out the biggest ball of twine or the Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue or something.

Instead, I am driving to Cape Cod with my parents so they can spend the summer there. We have several stops to make and I’ll be driving a little over 900 miles, though, so it’s not like it’s a quick little jaunt. One I’ve (safely) deposited my folks at their cottage, I will fly from Boston back to good ol’ Central Ohio.

Fortunately, I’ve reached a level of maturity (I think) where I don’t require the stereo to be loud enough to break the sound barrier. Nor do I need the internal vehicle temperature to be sub-zero. Because, believe me, neither of those scenarios will be tolerated. A little music and A/C might be nice, but I suppose the eight to 10 hours of radio silence will be a good time to reflect on my life and try to figure out why I’m not stinkin’ rich so I could afford to hire a real chauffeur to drive us to the northeast. And perhaps the sauna-like conditions will provide some health benefits, too. Like maybe I can sweat off a couple of pounds. Hydration is overrated.

Our destination is known in the family as simply “the cottage.” It was built by my grandparents back in the ‘50s and has since been passed on to my parents. I’ve been there nearly every year of my life. In fact, there have only been maybe two or three times I can recall not making the trip.

I was driven there as a kid with my parents back in the day when my siblings and I had Buckeye Market paper grocery bags that served as our “luggage.” I’ve also driven up there with my parents when I was old enough to ditch the paper bag and could afford to buy my very own suitcase. As a young adult, I drove up there with my sister and with friends at various times for a week of sun and fun. And, most astonishingly, I’ve even driven up there all by myself. And I can proudly say that I didn’t end up in Nova Scotia.

So, after all that, driving it now shouldn’t be a big deal – right? Uh, no, the correct answer I'm looking for here is "wrong."

It is a big deal because, first of all, it has been quite some time since I’ve actually driven there. Personally, I find the skies much friendlier, particularly when someone else besides me is the pilot and/or the navigator.

I mean, you know about my directionally challenged affliction, don’t you? If you don’t, read here. Or, heck, just take my word for it – I nearly get lost trying to find my way out of my own neighborhood. And the older I get, the worse it gets.

Plus, it’s not like we’re going from Point A to Point B. First I have to drive to my parents’ place in Alliance. This is about the only leg of the trip that doesn’t concern me. Been driving this route since I was barely old enough to vote (and that is a LOT of Presidents ago). I don’t even need Mapquest or Gladys Garmin to help me along on this portion of the journey, thank goodness.

However, we’ll leave Alliance and head to Connecticut to visit relatives. We plan to spend the night there before driving to New York State to visit my brother and his wife for a couple days. After that, we’ll make a detour in Massachusetts to visit an uncle before finally ending up at “the cottage.”

I’m not even sure Mapquest will allow that many stops. If they do, I imagine the detailed instructions would be the size of the…well, I was going to say “phone book” – but it has been a while since I’ve actually seen a phone book – so I don’t know how thick they are anymore.

Nevertheless, I’ve been preparing for the trip by studying maps. I’ve Googled and Mapquested and GPS-ed the trip to death. This, in hindsight, may have been a mistake. Why? Because I’ve been given a multitude of options and routes. And now I’m even more confused.

And in the end, we will take the route that my dad has been taking for, oh, about 40 years now. Do I take comfort in this? Of course not. I am not a driver who can afford to take things for granted. Like I never assume that my co-pilot is actually paying attention to road signs. The worst thing I could hear is, “Oh. I think we were supposed to take that exit we just passed.”

No...on second thought, I take that back. The worst thing I could hear is, “Uh. I think we’re lost. Do you know where we are?”

My universal response in that situation? “Are. You. KIDDING. Me??

I’m not one of those people blessed with internal compasses who can reconfigure the route in their heads. Consequently, I’ve driven many a country road not knowing where the heck I was going or how to get back to where I started.

So I need a piece of paper in my hand and a Route or Exit number in my head so I’m comforted. At this point, I’d even be okay with Gladys Garmin telling me she is recalculating for the gajillionth time.

But I think I’m ready. I’ve shared all our destinations with Gladys. And I’ve printed out what Mapquest has to offer (And, yes, the printout is indeed the size of a small phone book.) I’ve also entered the route into my iPhone GPS. (Although this is usually a mistake as Gladys and iPhone rarely agree.) And, finally, I’ll have to rely on Dad to keep an eye on the road – and the exits.

So I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with my parents. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get so confident in my navigational skills that I’ll schedule another trip sometime soon to see that big ball of twine – or the Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue.

Or…maybe not. Probably I’ll still prefer to fly the friendly skies.

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