Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NC 70 to NC 147 to US 40 to NC 52 to US 74 to US 77 to US 80-90 to OH 20 to OH 2 to M-23 to US 75 to M-32 to M-66.....

There's something about the strange buzz of caffeine energy mixed with the heavy weight of exhaustion - it's a feeling I've gotten used to over the past few years. Last night, while Brian slept into the wee hours of the morning and I ate sunflower seeds and bobbed my head to techno-dance-pop in order to stay awake on the road, I tried to estimate how many hours of driving we've logged in trips to Michigan. Let's see, thought my sleep-addled brain. We take about two thirty-hour round trips to Charlevoix per year, on average. Add in approximately two more trips to Detroit, and that's an additional forty hours. So one hundred hours a year is spent in the car, watching the hours on the clock slowly pass while nothing changes but the scenery around us. (Last year, though, we made four trips to Charlevoix. One hundred and sixty hours. Almost an entire week, out of fifty-two in a year, spent simply driving up to Michigan.)

And when I take over for Brian around ten at night, we trade places, switch the radio station, and take turns with the water bottle so that he can take his downer (NyQuil) and I can take my uppers (caffeine pill). Sometimes the buzz of the caffeine does nothing more than make my heart beat faster, which only pumps more blood to my eyelids and makes them heavier, heavier, heavier. That's when I start eating - which always helps, as long as I keep eating. So by the time we get home, I've got a queasy stomach and that weird, tired caffeine buzz. But the good thing is: we always get home. Although it often feels as though we'll never make it, that we'll just keep driving and driving until we run off the edge of the earth, we somehow always manage to reach our quiet, dark subdivision, where I roll down Bo's window and smile to see him recognizing all the smells of home. After all, even though we say we're leaving "home" when we drive past the Michigan-Ohio border, it feels incredible to walk into our house together and know that this is the only spot on earth that's ours alone - just Brian's and mine.

When people hear that we've driven up to Michigan again, or that we're planning another trip, they tell us that we're crazy. Or young and chipper and full of energy. Or wasting days of our lives. But I have to admit that I don't hate the long car trips. I complain about them, sure - and it would be nice to have some extra hours in Michigan after a short flight - but there's something about them that is really special. It's our time to sit quietly and hold hands or to listen to a talk radio station until we drive out of range and the signal disappears. Sometimes we listen to music on the radio - "You like this song? This was what my parents listened to!" "How can you like that? You can't even understand the words." "Michael Jackson sings this?" - and talk about memories that some songs bring to mind. Sometimes, Brian serenades me with a sing-along to George Strait. ("I've got some ocean-front property in Arizona...") Most of the time, the radio's off, and we talk. Sometimes we hash out an issue that's been bothering us me. Sometimes we fight. Mostly, we don't. Every now and then, we'll get slap-happy, and I'll hold my stomach, laughing, while Brian cracks joke after inspired joke. Sometimes I'll read articles to him from books and magazines that his grandma has passed on to us - I'll read from issues of Alaska and Western Horseman until the articles get boring (to me). Then I'll pull out Reader's Digest and Ladies Home Journal - "Do you want to hear 'Thirteen Things your Mother-in-Law Won't Tell You'?" "Sure." Our favorite feature in LHJ is "Can This Marriage Be Saved?", an article that lets us wallow in delicious criticism and judgment of some strangers' marriage. ("Brian, we're in for a treat!" "Oh boy. What's that?" "You and I get to sit in on a counseling session for Lisa and Phil!" "You're going to read that whether I like it or not, aren't you?" "Yup.") We usually both agree that the wife needs to chill out, but at least I always try to take her side.

There's no TV, no laptop, nothing but the road ahead of us and the dog, curled up sleeping, behind us. (He's a great traveler, by the way. Except for when he throws up all over the back seat. For the record, I blamed Brian for feeding him that morning, and he blamed me for not holding Bo's head over a mess of napkins. I suspect the true culprits were the Kia, the Smoky Mountains, and the stretch of West Virginia road that winds around like a plate of spaghetti noodles.) In my opinion, the car trips are a testament to our relationship - proof that we really do love each other and that we can make even the mundane fun. There's not pressure to carry on stimulating conversation the entire time - all we have to do is sit together. And we do it really well.

I have a feeling that one day, I'm going to look back on these trips as some of the best days of our lives.


  1. this very nearly made me cry, and I am again really impressed by your writing, my dear friend...the winding roads of WV are like a plate of spaghetti noodles...! this is truly the best, deepest love, I am assured, and I can't wait until Phil and I begin on this journey in a few, short, 80 days...!!!

  2. Oh Bit... I can only hope that someday you and your intended will log in a few car hours of your own...on a trip to Raleigh, NC! YES! Or, I can pick you guys up at the airport. :)