The long and open road

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

There are two types of peo­ple in the world: those who make stops dur­ing road trips, sa­vor­ing the jour­ney, and those try­ing to set land speed records.

I fall into the lat­ter cat­e­gory, I’m afraid. De­spite my best ef­forts to re­lax, I’m all about the es­ti­mated ar­rival time. Com­fort breaks are non-ne­go­tiable, of course; us­ing the fa­cil­i­ties and grab­bing a quick, greasy sack lunch just go with the ter­ri­tory. But de­tour­ing to see a road­side cu­rios­ity, stop at a farm stand or eat at a sit-down restau­rant — es­pe­cially one not in view of the exit ramp? Not so much.

Ever the yin to my yang, my hus­band falls on the other side of the fence. Spencer is all about max­i­miz­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence, find­ing cute cafes and sights to ex­plore as we head to New York, Penn­syl­va­nia, West Vir­ginia.

Of course, ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent with a baby.

Our re­cent drive to North Carolina was Oliver’s long­est trip to date. We went to see fam­ily out­side Get­tys­burg, Pa., last fall, but that was a cou­ple hours — and this was al­most five, an in­ter­minable stretch for a tod­dler. Ol­lie did sleep on both legs of the jour­ney, which made it less mis­er­able for all of us . . . but we still paused fre­quently for food and stretch­ing of the ol’ legs. I tried to just go with the flow. If par­ent­hood has taught me any­thing, it’s that I re­ally need to chill out. I’ve shared my cal­en­dar-keep­ing and list-mak­ing with you many times, and that has eased since Oliver’s birth. But at my core? I’m still a record-keeper, and it’s hard for me to face a day with­out a game plan. I want to sched­ule what I’m do­ing and when, print­ing out maps and lo­cat­ing land­marks and hav­ing a course of ac­tion. Lo­gis­tics calm me down.

Our Outer Banks cruise was good prac­tice for the com­ing storm: an eight-hour trek to West­ern New York. The John­sons are con­ven­ing on Chau­tauqua Lake in July, and we’ll be driv­ing up so Oliver and I can meet the ex­tended fam­ily — many for the first time.

Six years of dat­ing, nearly three of mar­riage, and there are still fam­ily mem­bers I haven’t met. In our mod­ern world, I do feel like I “know” many of them al­ready — through Facebook. Once I be­gan pop­ping up in photos with their cousin, the friend re­quests fil­tered in. I ac­cepted them all, ea­ger to be em­braced by my boyfriend’s tight-knit crew; the John­sons are a lov­ing fam­ily who cast a wide net, draw­ing in ev­ery­one with­out judg­ment. That was a re­lief.

I al­ways look for­ward to our vis­its in New York. Life moves slower there, far from the hur­ried pace of sub­ur­ban life. There are no com­muters weav­ing in 301 traf­fic, no back-ups to pile into the drive-through line at Star­bucks. There is no Star­bucks: just a Tim Hor­tons on ev­ery cor­ner, a north­ern chain where neigh­bors still sit a spell over dough­nuts and cof­fee. A place where my Mary­land ac­cent is of­ten mis­in­ter­preted by smil­ing clerks.

Feel­ing like a sweet South­ern flower is just one of many rea­sons I en­joy our trips up to the Buf­falo area. True to form, Spencer of­ten con­vinces me to stop at one of the many “junk shops” in one-stop­light towns through Penn­syl­va­nia. Noth­ing prompts squeal­ing brakes faster than a good flea mar­ket.

We find them — in the mid­dle of nowhere, it seems — be­cause my hus­band treats turn­pikes like bat­tle­grounds. If a wind­ing back road can get us where we need to go, we stay off the high­way. Best to en­joy the scenery, breathe the wild air and what­not. This used to make me crazy. As co-pi­lot on our drives, I’m al­ways clutch­ing the GPS. “Google says to take this exit,” I’ll ad­vise, suck­ing in a breath as Spencer whizzes right past it. We ig­nore the clipped voice of our nav­i­ga­tor telling us to “make a U-turn,” plung­ing into the great un­known as he fol­lows signs for an­other route. “C’mon. That would have saved us 10 min­utes!”

With a baby howl­ing in the back, we might need those 10 min­utes. Ten min­utes to find a place to stop for a feed­ing; 10 min­utes to pull off for a di­a­per change; 10 min­utes to track down a chain restau­rant so we can feed our­selves after feed­ing Oliver, the con­stant chal­lenge.

After the suc­cess of our Outer Banks drive, though, I’m feel­ing less anx­ious about New York. I’ve re­signed my­self to stop­ping when nec­es­sary — even fre­quently — and not wor­ry­ing about how long the jour­ney takes.

As long as we also brake for cof­fee.

Some things are non­nego­tiable.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.