As I was rolling along on the final leg of my Spring Break Trip, I was musing about what I’d been able to do this week. I set out Monday evening, and got home Friday at noon, having traveled 1911 miles in between. We joke about wanting portals we can step through and instantaneously travel to anywhere we want to be. Don’t get me wrong: I still want portals, I just can’t hack the math to become the engineer that creates them. Get crackin’ kids! But it wasn’t that long ago when a very good day’s travel was 20 miles, and you might want to rest the day after, if you were traveling en famille.
My mind’s a bit fuzzy from driving for 20 hours (ok, 4 of that was napping in the car). I think that means my trip would have taken three months, minimum, traveling by horse, and that’s at top speed every day. Even after the automobile became a thing, a trip from Ohio to Kentucky in my First Reader’s childhood took a whole day. Now, we routinely do it in about 3 hours with a stop for a meal and dogwalking. Back in the days of 20 MPD (miles per day) he and I would never have met, much less married. Communication at the speed of light wasn’t possible – but I can talk to my kids over a 900 mile gap with no delay. Which means my son can make fart jokes at me and I can laugh on cue.
Cost is also a consideration. I was driving a beat-up car this trip, with gas stops every 200 miles. Pretty cool, if you think about it. The old cars of my childhood that were built like a tank and could pass everything but a gas station are long gone. I can make a trip to see my distant family for about $200, depending on the cost of gas. I once heard someone opine that Americans should have to pay the same rates for gas as Europeans do, which bent my brain a little. This drive I did wasn’t even the equivalent of one side of our nation to the other. I don’t know what it would be in European (or English, which was specifically what he was talking about) terms, but a LOT is what I’m thinking with my fuzzy brain. Why did he want gas to be so expensive? Well, I wasn’t real clear – I’m not sure he was, either – but it seemed to be that if gas were expensive, we’d use less of it.
Above and beyond what that would do to the costs of goods, like the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and, well, everything. The result of forbidding or limiting travel would be to destroy our nation as we know it. Right now, we’re free to explore, to travel, to visit family, to move if we want to. If there is a better opportunity in Ohio, we can go there. Or somewhere else. Limiting that, either explicitly or implicitly through the artificial control of gas prices, would lead to a balkanization of the states. We’ve seen where that goes in Europe. Let’s not try it here.
Besides, in a few months I have to make this run again. I’m learning, everytime, and it’s an adventure, even though there are hours where it’s just long, tedious, and boring. But it didn’t take me three months.
Things I learned:
Hydrate. My friend Amanda told me to buy a 24-pack of water bottles and put it in the footwell of the passenger seat, where I could reach them easily. This helped me drink enough and balance the energy drinks I was carefully drinking no more than two-in-a-24-hour period. Protein shakes are also a great way to stave off hunger pangs.
Dark is your friend. Driving the long interstate stretches in the dark is boring, but traffic is minimal. Stopping to nap at will allowed me to make most of my time without dealing with congestion. On the other hand:
Look at a map before trusting your GPS. I wanted to route southerly on the way home to avoid a snowstorm, and wound up in rush-hour traffic and congestion from Manchester NH until darn near Scranton PA, about six hours of driving. I could have done a better route with a map. Lesson learned.
If the Car gets hiccups: pray, drive carefully on congested roads, put injector cleaner in at the next fuel stop, drive some more, stop for Dinner (I don’t, normally) and breathe a thanks when they go away again.
Pack snacks where you can reach them. I may not eat trail mix again for a month, but at least in the middle of the night on I80 with nothing for miles and miles, I didn’t go hungry.
Stop and walk around. Or nap. Or both. Hydration really helps to remember to stop more often than just when you need gas in the car.