Saturday, September 22, 2012

Long and Winding Roads Continued

As I related on Wednesday, we went North, and I managed the return trip solo.

I've already recounted the riveting, heart pounding tale of the first nine miles of the seven hundred mile trip. On to the next 691!

Door to door, Augusta to Detroit is a fifteen hour drive. If I leave from my parents' house on Pelee Island in Lake Erie, we shave three hours off the drive.  I have a theory about long drives.  It sort of fits the 80/20 rule, but please don't do the math. The first "half" of the includes 80% of the time involved; the second "half" is the remaining 20%. On a fifteen hour drive, the first twelve hours seems like "half" of the trip; the remaining three hours feel like the second "half." Bottom line: The three hour shave makes the whole trip seem much more manageable.

Paper airplane flying through the van bearing the message, "Mom, can I have something to eat?"
Except that the 80/20 rule still applies. The first half is nine hours; the second half remains the final three hours.

No matter how we slice it, the last leg kicks our tails.

Our twelve hour tour began in Sandusky, Ohio.  There I got a bit befuddled trying to get on the Ohio Turnpike and finally opted for the scenic route which would lead us to I-77. Normally I avoid scenic routes because the only scenery I'm really interested in is my bed in Augusta, Georgia, and the faster we get there the better.

What can I say about Ohio? When you grow up in Michigan and attend the University of Michigan, you're really not supposed to say anything nice about Ohio. If I were to be completely honest here, I would admit that a bag of hand-me-downs recently came my way and in it was a perfectly serviceable Ohio State t-shirt.

I threw it away.

How awful is that?

But, really, we simply don't do Ohio State sportswear in our family. No.

But there we were in the Ohio, turning onto Highway 250, and I have to admit, it was lovely. Rolling hills, grass of a shade of green you find only in areas that get heavy snow falls. This is Amish country. The hills are peppered with white houses and bright red barns, The kids spotted horse drawn buggies, little girls in blue dresses, little boys in straw hats.

Our route took us past Dover, Ohio. Our dear friend Bob V. hailed from Dover. As we drove, I prayed for the repose his soul.

Pretty as Ohio is, it's also long. By the time we reached West Virgina, I thought John Denver was spot on when he called this state "almost heaven." It's the most mountainous state along I-77, offering gorgeous views of sprawling farms and, like Ohio, green, green hills. West Virginia also offers two bridges and two tunnels which, of course, the little kids love.

But this go around, West Virgina also offered a challenge we were not anticipating: constipation. Yes, I promised some mention of bodily function, so here we go.

Many mothers think about potty training and ask pertinent questions such as: Is the child ready? Am I ready? I think about potty training and focus on one succinct point: When are we driving to Michigan? A half-potty trained toddler in a car for fifteen hours? No.

So we potty trained in June. Problem solved. But when you're sitting for hours on end and not running around as usual, well, as they say in those commercials, things can get irregular.

"I've got to go potty," Ainsley informed me in the middle of Nowhere, West Virgina. And I do mean Nowhere. Miles and miles and miles from an exit or rest stop. So we pulled over. And this was scary. The road was curvy, and big rigs were everywhere.

 Ainsley looked at me with a woebegone little face and said, "It's just not working."

And we got back into the van. And merged into traffic cruising at 70 miles per hour. And I don't like that.

And fifteen minutes later: Mama, I need to go potty. And it still wasn't working.

And twenty-two minutes after that.

I put her in a pull up and begged her to go. Well, let me tell you, that is an indignity of the highest order. When you've cheered her every success, mounted a chart with stars on the refrigerator to track her progress, invested a bundle in cute, cute panties, well, there's no going back to pull ups.

And on it went.

West Virgina was long. And not very heavenly.

Then we were on into Virgina. What can I say about Virginia? On the far western end, it's skinny -- mercifully, blessedly skinny. In and out. Welcome to North Carolina. Can I hear a great shout out for the state of Virgina? Love you, Virgina!

As for North Carolina, this state offered the nicest rest stops, the cleanest bathrooms, the prettiest wild flowers, and no constipation. Thank you, North Carolina!

But North Carolina, too, is long and by the time we reached South Carolina, the old eighty twenty rule, as stated earlier, was kicking out hind quarters. What can I say about South Carolina? Lived there for eight years. Home to Charleston, which I would deem the prettiest city in The United States. Gorgeous beaches. Of course none of this is anywhere near where we drive. Our route follows a long, boring, non-descript path.

We passed Winthrop College, notable only because Dave and I attended Engaged Encounter there many years ago and because there's a street called Dave Lyle Boulevard. We laugh about it every time we see the sign because Dave's middle name happens to be Lyle.

Dave Lyle Boulevard. How cool is that?

So we were whipping down I-77 at 72 miles an hour, and suddenly I caught a glimpse of green on the side of the road and realized there was a Dave Lyle Boulevard sign lying on the shoulder of the highway. I was going too fast to make a sudden stop, and were already like a zillion hours into a drive that would be a zillion hours plus three. But guess what? I threw caution to the wind, took the next exit, drove eight miles NORTH!, and got back on I-77 South to find the sign.

I slowed down, looked for it, looked for, it, and there it was! I pulled over and told the kids what I was doing. They, of course, were convinced this was Grand! Larceny! They were absolutely undone that their crazy mother was about to "steal" a street sign. I began to freak out just a little and grabbed Kolbe's coat to cover up the contraband sign. I loaded it into the car, and we all had a laugh that we were now the proud owners of a Dave Lyle Boulevard sign.

And on we went.

And let me tell you the last hour or two had all the flavor of the Bataan Death March. Ainsley napped briefly only to wake up wailing, wailing, wailing, "I can't take it anymore!"

I think she spoke for all of us.

I directed Tim to the hidden stash of M and M's and told him to dole it out judiciously-- this was our final cache of chocolate.

We made it home.

We always do.

On every trip like this, there is at least one excruciating moment that gives me pause, that leads me to ask myself, "What were we thinking? Why do we do this? Why?"

The short answer? It's just what we do.

Some years once, some years twice, one year three times -- this is what we do. I wouldn't hazard a guess as to how many miles (both frequent flyer and road) we've clocked. We travel for births and deaths, for weddings and anniversaries, for graduations and Bat Mitzvahs.

It isn't easy.

But we continue to do it.

And now for the long answer . . .

We do this because, despite growing up seven hundred miles from their grandparents, my kids think Grandma's basement is magical and that Grandpa is the best chess player ever.

Because my children cheer for the Wolverines even though they've never lived in Michigan.

Because all of them remember sitting on Papa's lap listening to colorful renditions of that Dolin family classic, Harvey's Hideout.

Because my kids are so close to their cousins, you'd think they grew up a block apart.

Because John and Ainsley will never forget the evenings we spent catching fire flies in Grandma's yard or the afternoons playing in her little pool.

Because Tim and Kolbe remember the year Papa grew pumpkins for all the grandsons and carved their names into them.

And, finally, we do this because of  the phone call I received on the road, just north of Charlotte. It was my sister calling to say my mother had fallen and re-fractured her collar bone.

While we sit in the Dodge Caravan hour after hour, we wish time would only move faster. But in reality, it's moving fast enough, and not a one of us knows how much longer we'll have together.

Decades ago, Dave and I left Michigan, but we didn't leave our families. The road is indeed both long and winding, and we'll keep on travelling it.


Kris said...

We do the same thing to be with fmaily near and far. It's worth it every time.

Anonymous said...

Those all sound like very good reasons to me. Hope you aren't arrested for taking the sign, but look forward to your prison blog if so. Just kidding! xox