Friday, July 24, 2009

Suddenly, a road-trip summer

[So I've since realized that I had the formula on my spreadsheet wrong and I've only been about 5,200 miles so far this summer. Don't know why I though it could've been 4,000 more than that. Still, it's been a great traveling summer nonetheless.]

It hit me about the time we reached the curvy section of I-80 in western New Jersey and the distinctive hills flanking the Delaware Water Gap came into view: This is a road-trip summer.

I hadn't really lamented the lack of cruising vacations in recent years, but I had noticed it. I wasn't taking long trips in the car from May to September, at least not to new, undiscovered places. There was a wedding in the Outer Banks in 2007, but we had planned to fly down to Virginia Beach and drive from there -- until our flight out of Newark on Friday night was canceled and, afraid that I wouldn't get there by early afternoon to join up with the rest of the wedding party, we took a cab home and got in the car at 1 a.m. and drove through the night. But that was done on the fly and our time in North Carolina so short, it didn't have the feeling of a road trip. More like a travel recovery.

Otherwise, most of our trips in recent summers have been to Casey's family in western Pennsylvania or up to familiar haunts in Maine. But something about this summer feels different, and I love it. It started with a quick overnight to Washington for a baseball game in mid-May with some college buddies. A week later, we commenced a partial repeat of last year's Memorial Day week visit to the Pine Tree State, but we started with the holiday weekend in Boston and Cape Cod and added a night in Bar Harbor, leaving us time for a day trip up Route 1 to Lubec and the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse on the U.S.'s easternmost point.

Then we had last weekend's jaunt out to Cleveland specifically to see the Bruce Springsteen exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and cap the day with an Indians game. On the way, we stopped off at Bucknell for lunch, then did the same on the way back. And in the morning, a few hours from now (how many is yet to be determined; it depends on when I get to sleep after work), I'm off on a solo drive up to Maine to meet up with my college roommate for his bachelor party: two nights of camping and a day of rafting on the Penobscot.

Even before the Maine trip, which will add just over 1,000 miles, round-trip, the car's been roughly 9,434 miles this summer -- and I've been in it, if not driving, for just about all of them. I looked over my mileage records and this is only the second 8,000-mile summer I've had since buying the car in June 2000. Just based on the odometer readings from the first fill-up after May 14 and the first one in September, only the summer of '02 had more miles than what we've compiled this summer -- and a lot of those 9,891 ticks were accumulated on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike as I commuted 60 miles one-way to work.

So now it's time to get on that road once more, to enjoy the mystery of a solo adventure, even if it's just crowded interstates until Augusta and then a group camping weekend once I roll into Millinocket.

Summer miles

Friday, July 17, 2009

If it's summer, there's construction on I-80

Western Pennsylvania, Friday afternoon, Interstate 80, somewhere east of DuBois

Right lane closed and most traffic has moved over two miles before the closure. This single lane should be able to move through the long stretch of construction cones pretty easily now. Bust as some aggressive holdouts continue to zip ahead on the right, a noble pickup truck gets into the right lane to block them off, even swerving at one point when a white Altima comes up behind. The Altima slows behind the truck, tries to move right onto the shoulder, then left onto the dotted line when the pickup swerves right for the block. After the truck counters to the left, the Altima gets by on the right when the pickup decides it's not worth it with the New Yorker in the white Nissan. Before passing, the Altima slows and the drivers exchange words. The tractor-trailer in the left lane plays along, keeping the pickup's spot in line open so he can move back in at the merge point. Only one or two more cars make it by before a line forms behind the pickup, and the last few cards merge when we reach the cones in the road.

Coming back to a favorite place

I went back through my old blog to look at some of my previous July 16 entries (last night I did this) and found myself jumping around to some other posts, in part because I've apparently been pretty boring/bored on July 16. I find myself wanting to write, but then I find myself not wanting to take some time to sit down, organize my thoughts, and type them up.

Looking at my old diary -- because that's what we called it back there on, though I more often referred to it as a journal -- some of my best and favorite works were either college or shortly post-college entries transcribed from notebooks (in my obsessed-with-Kerouac stage, I carried a spiral pocket notebook and pencil to write my thoughts just as he had), or those I wrote in the early hours after I'd come home from the paper and got on my computer in my bedroom at my parents' house. That's when my days were spent driving around the Shore, going on photo day trips, or covering high school sports and minor league baseball. I was out and about, didn't have Flickr or a digital camera or an iPod or Facebook. Or a house. I had time.

But as the entries faded in frequency (I'm not going to count the number, but I split the 2001 archive into three pages, the 2002 into two, and kept '03 and '04 as one) and then in quality, my tasks and responsibilities each day rose. I moved into an apartment. I started dating. I switched jobs. I repeated two out of three of those, the first one three times.

I used to write extensively about my trips and vacations, often at the end of the day on the road. At the very least, I'd put down my thoughts in a file every few days, then polish them at the end of the trip. It was only today that I finally finished off a post about a baseball game back in May, and I still have dreams of something of a travelogue about the rest of the trip. We'll see.

I'm headed home now, and in the morning, we head west to Cleveland for a short weekend trip. But I'm not going to write about it now -- let's see if I make the time to write about it after it happens. And within a few days.