Leaving: The road trip

February 2, 2014

blog_craig_convissorOff Broadway. A blog by Craig Convissor. 

There’s always a certain amount of nervous excitement when it comes to leaving your place of comfort and familiarity. The road promises uncertainty and adventure, new sights and tastes and smells. One never really knows what this adventure will entail. It will most certainly be a mix. But then, is that not what all of life is? Our foolish attempts to protect ourselves against any eventuality just cost us money. So, with a limited amount of your STUFF, you bravely venture forth. After all, you do have a credit card.

It was in this spirit that we went over the check list and locked up the house until our return three months from now, giggled and bumped fists and immediately got stuck in the driveway. I refused to take this as a sign of anything other than fresh snow over ice. It did not take long to free ourselves and the rooster-tailing of snow on the garage would be melted by spring.

Last year when we left the weather was bad, the schools along the coast were all closed and we headed to 131 where the driving was passable and even easy once we reached Indiana. It felt much the same this time: the schools were closed and the plan was the same. I could not have been more wrong.

Our plan was to go to Lansing where my daughter Julia lives and had agreed to watch Tanner the Cat while we are gone. It was out of the way, but not by much considering the length of the trip. Tanner was not pleased with this arrangement, which we had not discussed fully with him, but between the two of us, we were able to get him into a cat carrier without damage to anyone. Lansing, after all, was his home town and I expected that on some level that would help.

The ride was uneventful, though it took concentration and a lot of windshield wiper fluid. We had a wonderful visit with 2 of my kids, 2 siblings and partners and nieces. The next day we headed out in snowy conditions. It was immediately apparent that this day, at least for a while, would be slow and steady as she goes. It was more exciting than that. Cars were in spin out postures on the highway at regular intervals. Police cars and tow trucks were out in force. We called 911 twice this day, once because there was no way of stopping to check. Traffic was medium-heavy and I think that everyone was a little surprised at how compromised the roads were. At one point, we were following two vans. The first, a white van, apparently put on the brakes while the red one just ahead of us braked hard and swerved left to avoid a collision. I was already pumping my brakes and looking for an opening between them as the red van headed for the median. He tried to avoid that, turned right back in front of me sideways and now it became where to hit him in the safest spot. The white van was to my right. The red van accelerated, passing inches in front of the white van and flipped over off highway, allowing me to pass safely. This all might have taken five seconds and there’s stuff I’ve forgotten!  Ahead a short distance were police cars and what later appeared to be an 8 car incident, which is probably why yhe white van braked in the first place. I pulled over, walked back, while Laurie called 911 again and determined from the other driver that things were OK. But on the way there, a hundred yards back another car spun out slowly.

The day continued on this way into evening, though much less dramatically for us, with spun out cars in double digits and one overturned van, through Indiana and right up to Illinois 150 miles south of Chicago where we saw the first dry pavement of the day.

As I registered at the Watseka Motel, I listened to the manager on the phone telling someone in a steady voice that he wanted his money. I could tell by the look on his face when he hung up that he didn’t think he would get it. I casually asked what the weather tomorrow would be and he told me 8 degrees. The person in the mirror behind the counter didn’t quite look like me: open mouth, slack jaw, vacant stare, but it was. Forgetting his own problems for a while, with a crooked smile on his face, he handed me the key and said, “Sleep good.”

The morning brought the promised 8 degrees and as I stood in the rather uncontrollably hot shower I couldn’t help but reflect on the 150 degree difference. I stepped out quickly and saw only pink flesh and another vacant stare. I got an immediate flashback to 1974, Istanbul, a Turkish bath, some muscled guy throwing me around on a piece of marble scouring my body with a sandpaper glove. Was the tan I thought I had after months of travel in the Mideast actually dirt?

I talked to Latash (our van) before attempting to start her heart, apologizing for the abrupt wakeup call. She responded well but seemed to sleep through the warm up phase: I didn’t see the temperature gauge even move for the first twenty minutes.

But, once on the road, we had dry pavement and by the middle of Missouri the sun actually appeared and lightened our hearts substantially. The snow was gone, the sky was blue, the pavement was dry. It finally felt more like  traveling and less like fleeing.


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