Notes from the Road




Preface:


I can’t tell you if it’s just age or experience, or perhaps the two can’t actually be disentangled, but I have become afraid of airports and flying. It used to be just that anytime I planned a trip by air I would end up having to spend a night in some airport somewhere, be it Cleveland or San Francisco*. Now, in 2022, I worry about people IN the airport that might have guns or bombs or whatever the crazy people might decide they needed to do in a crowded place.** Not to mention, I worry about getting the COVID virus, which I have been fortunate enough not to have gotten yet.*** Not to mention, the out-of-control people ON airplanes that I keep reading about, whether they are belligerent about having to wear a mask or just a mean drunk looking for trouble. No, thank you. So, for these reasons, I decided that the best way that I could get to Michigan to see my mother was to drive myself. I would save money that way, so I thought.


“Driving means that not only do I not have to deal with airports and planes,” I reasoned with myself, “but, it also means that I don’t have to rent a car once I’m there.” Win-win!


So, I decided that I would drive my little 12(!!)-year-old Scion xD to Michigan. The one thing I had forgotten, since I had not driven across the country for at least a decade, was how damn BIG this country is! At one point, Paul offered to let me drive his 2019 Subaru Forester that had hardly any miles on it at all since he bought it right before the COVID pandemic hit. I immediately said no because I wanted it to be my own trip, so I wanted my own car. Later, as I thought about it, I decided that if he offered it again, I would accept.


But he never offered again.

Paul couldn’t go because he was tied down with Ursus, who is 15.5 and has a lot of geriatric issues. Not only would we worry about how a kennel or sitter could deal with him, but he never did travel well. Paul decided to stay home. Actually, I think he also did it because he understood that I needed to get out of the house and have some sort of adventure after two years of basically being locked up inside the house together. Or maybe it was partly because Paul doesn’t feel comfortable out in the real COVID-is-here-for-good world that I decided to go back into despite knowing the risks. Or maybe he just wanted to get rid of me. Anyway, it would be no dogs and no Paul. I took Izzy’s toy that looks the most like her. It is a Bernese Mountain Dog plush, but I “docked” the tail and sewed it to look more like Izzy. I’ve always called this toy Bella to try to differentiate it from all of Izzy’s other toys. (I’ve named them all, seemingly for myself because I never have actually trained her to do anything with that).


I had just called Rock’n’Road Cyclery in South Haven and reserved a bike similar to the one that I had rented a year earlier. After I hung up, I mentioned to Paul that I had reserved a bicycle for the trip.


“You’re driving,” he said. “Why don’t you take your own damn bike?”


Duh. It hadn’t even occurred to me.

I waited a couple days and cancelled. Waiting to cancel would help save face, I thought.


In preparation, I had our mechanic look over the car to see if he thought it was road-worthy for that long of a trip. He came back with it was okay but “you should keep an eye on the oil. It isn’t leaking, but it seems to be seeping.” Oh boy, I thought. I remember stories of people blowing up their engines because they burned the oil out. I was really concerned about that. So I vowed to myself to check the oil a lot. I even went out and bought a big jug of the oil that I needed for the car. I then went to Les Schwab to have them look at and rotate the tires. Of course, it turned out that my battery wasn’t very good.


“I thought I just replaced that,” I said.

“July 8, 2018,” he said flatly.


So, I replaced the battery.


On a morning walk, I came up with the idea of asking my cousin if she wanted to ride along. I’ve always looked up to Tina because she was a few years older than me and seemed really cool. I can always picture her and my middle brother, David, walking out into the backyard holding hands and looking for mud. Maybe they didn’t actually hold hands, but that is how I see it. I was always jealous because I wanted to hang out with Tina and I always got stuck with her little brother, Chris. Tina and I became friends later in life and had some fun times together. I thought this would be a great girls’ trip. It took her a while, but she finally said she would. I started looking for plane tickets for her, while feeling guilty simultaneously, for making her go through all those things I was trying to avoid. I even thought about the minute possibility that something bad would really happen to her and I would feel doubly guilty.


“You know that the chances of anything like a suicide bomber are quite slim,” I told myself. I eventually talked myself into this idea and started looking for airline tickets. Of course, she called back a few days later and said that she couldn’t do it.


“Virgil is coming and will be leaving the 20th of July and that is too close a time for me to turn around and fly out there,” Tina said. Virgil is her son that lives in Stockholm, Sweden now. Tina hadn’t seen Virgil since before the COVID pandemic so I understood. I suggested that maybe she could drive back with me.


I sensed some hesitancy from Tina still. Eventually, I came up with the idea of bringing her along for a side-trip to my favorite places in Wisconsin, the House on the Rock and the International Crane Foundation.


That way, I wouldn’t have to make her fly.


Tina agreed and we planned out our trip to take place starting on the Monday following my niece’s (Becca) wedding.


I must admit some anxiety about the trip. It had been a while since I was on my own. Paul takes over everything when we are together. I pack my own stuff, the dogs’ stuff, and the food. Paul does EVERYTHING ELSE. It’s nice in a way not to feel that pressure that he seems to think that he must take it upon himself as the MAN, but it’s good for me to keep my own problem-solving skills honed.


*I would NOT have minded if I could have gotten stranded in the Singapore Airport. I had four chances, but no such luck.

**Yes, I know the safest place around would actually be inside an airport since you have to go through a security check to even get in. But the head has it’s own reasons.

***Yes, I know that the air filtration system in an airplane makes it a fairly safe place as far as the actual virus particles go, but there’s also sitting in the airport.

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