Friday, June 18, 2010

In which road trips refresh

The past 4 weeks yielded more travel time for me than the previous 52 and I am not complaining. Despite being air-aversive I love to travel. While 2009 was mostly the year of not being able to 2010 has gone far better. Sometimes life in NYC is just as much about getting away from it as it is about living here.

First up was my Memorial Day weekend road trip. I was excited about the chance to escape for a bit. I've been working on big projects both at work and for a college class I'm taking, and a weekend away was the thing I needed to recharge a bit. I was ready to unplug for awhile.

Speaking of which, the first rule of our road trip was no technology besides the car. So no cell phones, no cameras and definitely no laptops. I mostly made it. I did cheat by tweeting a few times but mostly so my fam would not worry if I was still alive or eaten by a bear or running off to join a cult. And a friend of ours followed the first 500 miles to make a short film from it. (After a trio powwow we decided this did not count.) The result is that we have some great stories but little photo evidence. Somehow I think this is just the way it should be.

We started out on Friday afternoon and I flew home on Monday morning. (The boys just got home earlier this week after continuing west.) Over the long weekend we touched 7 states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina. Of those 7 it was my first time in 3.

Miles 1-250: in which I learned that I am no rebel.
We'd hoped to leave on Friday morning but work took priority. Instead we left around 5 or 6 PM. While we wanted to avoid I-95 as much as possible it was the best route for the initial part of the trip. And on Friday of Memorial Day Weekend it was of course packed. As we sat in gridlock we settled on camping somewhere south of Philadelphia. We crossed back over into New Jersey with plans of camping at the Timberlane Campground near Clarksboro. Unfortunately the place was crowded amd we couldn't find a spot to camp in. An attempt to share a lot with a friendly RV crew was foiled so we left. We returned to PA and ended up finding a field somewhere near Chester to camp in, not too far from the Delaware River. The prospect freaked me out more than I expected. I had flashes of bad horror movies playing out on us followed by a panic-attack inducing vision of getting eaten by a bear. We ate decidedly un-camp food (fast food from a local drivethrough), stared at the stars for awhile and then pitched our tent. The boys kindly offered to let me sleep in the middle so I would feel safer. I did feel safer, just not safe enough to sleep. Every car driving by was a cop car or an ax-wielding murderer in my mind. I finally passed out from exhaustion. So much for being a rebellious camper.

We got an early start the next day and made plans to eat lunch in Annapolis, Maryland. It was time for local roads at this point, along which we consulted several guide books for interesting places to stop along the way. (And by guidebooks, I mean my iPhone. Cheaters.) We were all slowly loosening up too, laughing more and enjoying my awesome 70s rock playlist, crowd-sourced through my Facebook friends. Ah, mixtapes in the digital age.

Miles 250-350: in which song lyrics are discovered and misheard.
After lunch in Maryland we headed south on Rte 2. This part of the trip mostly involved singly along loudly to a bunch of great songs. I'd been dismissive of 70s rock for a long time as dude music. While I'm not entirely unconvinced of this at least I have a newfound respect for the journeyman quality of it.

Some random musings during jukebox sing-alongs:
AC/DC "Back in Black": Would be my enterance song if I was a closing pitcher.
America "Lonely People": Sounds funny when sung amongst a group.
Bachman Turner Overdrive "Taking Care of Business": Hey! This song is about when I used to commute into the city...wait, are you taunting me??
Blue Oyster Cult "Burnin For You": J sang this song to a car next to us in traffic, complete with wonky hand gestures to the lady driver. Got laughs out of both cars.
Credence Clearwater Revival "Born on the Bayou": Makes us wish we were born on the bayou too, chasing down hoodoo there.
Doobie Bros "Listen to the Music": D's vote for easiest song to harmonize with.
Foghat "Slow Ride": Made us wish the Chevelle had hydraulics.
Jackson Browne "Take it Easy": At least he's honest...
Iggy Pop "The Passenger": Should not be sung from the backseat.
Steve Miller "Jet Airliner": Confession -- I always thought the lyrics were "We going to Carolina." Oops.
Three Dog Night "Shambala": Best sing-along song on the trip. A-woo-woo-woooooooooo!
The Who "Baba O'Riley": Inspirational tune for the beginning of each day.

Mile 295 or so: in which I almost killed the guys.
At rest stop in northern Virigina, the boys moved the car while I was using the facilities. They parked behind a big truck so I couldn't see them. They played it just long enough so I started to freak out over whether they'd really left me. Not cool! (But very funny, I admit.)

Miles 300-400: in which we made friends for dinner.
On night two (Saturday) we camped at a KOA campground just outside Virginia Beach. It had been a long day and by the time we made it to the campground we'd missed most of the local restaurants. We were debating whether to chance fast food again (bleh) or to look for a 24-hour grocery. A neighboring RV family was cooking dinner and the Dad made D an offer he couldn't refuse: a 30-minute ride in the Chevelle in exchange for some good-looking burgers and a beer. Done! D took the Dad for a cruise and an hour later we were wolfing down some fine-tasting beef patties.

The next day we made a pitstop at a friend of J's to shower and then continued southward. J and I spent most of the morning nagging D to let one of us drive. When D repeatedly refused to give up the wheel we started doing play-by-play of his driving, critiquing every curve and analyzing imaginary instant replays of his light change takeoffs complete with Madden-esque gems like, "When you gun the accelerator, you're gonna go faster more quickly!" Yes, we're nerds.

Miles 400-500: in which we made airplane noises and climbed lighthouses at the seashore.
We had finally crossed over to the outer banks of the Carolinas, our main destination for the weekend. We stopped in Kitty Hawk to visit the Wright Brothers National Monument and see the field where they tested their aircrafts. It was so cool! There are markers at the beginning and end of the first flight and despite park rangers' pleas not to we ran the length of the flight with our arms out making airplane noises. Like idiots. It was wonderful.

A little later we crossed the Bonner Bridge and went down to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Unfortunately the Bodie Island Lighthouse is in the middle of being renovated so it was partially obstructed, but the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was open and you bet we climbed all 248 steps. Totally worth it too -- the view was spectacular. We hung out on the beach for a few hours before heading back to the mainland.

Miles 500-600: in which I realized NASCAR was so close!
Sometime Sunday afternoon it dawned on me that the NASCAR race that weekend was in Charlotte, NC -- just a few hours away! I started pleading with D and J to take me to Lowe's Motor Speedway for the race. They were of course having none of it but we comprimised and agreed to head to Charlotte. I had to fly home on Monday and wanted to pick a city so I could buy a ticket. Charlotte met the criteria (had an airport with JetBlue) and J knew of a great barbeque place.

I whimpered as we drove past the speedway and again when we passed the shiny new NASCAR Hall of Fame, but the boys were right that the last thing we needed to be doing after spending hours in a car was spending hours watching cars turn left. So my long-awaited return attendance at a race will have to wait a bit longer. (Lace race attended? New Hampshire, 2006.)

Mile 950: in which I said goodbye and the trio became a duo.
Sadly, while the boys got to continue on with their trip I had to say goodbye Monday morning in Charlotte. We had an awesome time and I'm so glad I got invited to join the trip. I hope we get to do it again soon.

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