It’s Time

This is one of those days when I don’t have a clue about what to write. The words will come as I compose. My life was very different this week, and I wound up driving a lot of miles. The driving only woke me up to the fact that my body has changed since 2015 which is the last time I undertook a major drive of 1850 miles in one stretch. I’m not so sure I would be able to do that as well as I did back then. The last six years have been somewhat stressful on my system. Today, as I took my walk, I decided that I must undertake a vigorous training program to get into shape to take another driving trip. A few months ago, I posted my thoughts about taking one last trip around the United States by car before I hang up my driving gloves for good. Before my post was completed I decided that maybe that kind of effort has gone and left me behind. Driving around the perimeter of the USA and up and down a few times in between to cover all the points I would like to revisit added up to a bunch of miles that would take weeks, no months, to accomplish. It would be the ultimate “Burning Gas” post.

This week I kiddingly told my daughter that this kind of trip would be best taken in a sleeper van, camping along the way covering the warmer southern states in the winter months and then heading to the northern border for the summer and fall. Surprisingly, she agreed with me. Over the years, I have done this trip, mostly camping along the way, except I did it in two week stretches covering a period of twenty-five years. Ask my kids about it. A couple of them have never traveled since, and another took up discovering the world with her girlfriend. None of her trips were by car. She wised up and learned from the boring miles she spent in the back of the van as her father had to make the miles to a new destination. She learned that what took me days to cover by driving she could do in a few hours by airplane. The difference between us is that on my trips, I saw and savored every mile of the country in between destinations. She slept as she flew over the boring oceans between her destinations. I tell people that one has to experience the space of this country by driving across the Midwest. The vast flat plain between our home in Illinois and the Rocky mountains was always a bore that even I would have done differently if I could. I remember very vividly dreaming about how nice it would have been to drive our van and trailer onto a railroad flat-car and to navigate the plains by train. There actually were some services that provided such accommodations between the east coast cities and Florida, but I don’t think they exist anymore.

I stopped driving trips when I neared retirement. It was time for Barbara and me to take the easy way, we flew to dream destinations at home, in Europe, and the far east. That didn’t last very long because she became sick and died within months after I retired. To honor her memory, I took a solitary driving trip to our dreamed about winter residence. The driving alone part I vowed never to do again. During that trip I thought about all the long distance truckers who spend their lives driving their loads from a to z daily logging five to six hundred miles over and over again, living and sleeping in truck stops or the back of their tractors. I decided I could never have made a living as a truck driver.

After a couple of years of living alone I found a new partner who wouldn’t fly. So I took up driving again, and loved it. She turned out to be a very good travel buddy, never complaining about the hours, or the monotony of covering miles. We toured the western United States and Canada east to west over our ten years of good life together. We spent the last five years keeping each other company as she ever so slowly descended into the inner depths of her mind.

I have my first wife Barbara’s advice to me from her death bed embedded in my brain, “it’s time to get on with your life.”

Grief Made Me Do It

The Great Last Time Around Tour

One of the things I have done recently that I consider to be productive is to come up with an idea that would take my mind away from grief. This one is fabulous in my mind and my friends get excited for me when I talk about it. I sat at my desk one day and began to think about all my friends and relatives that live outside of the Socialist-Democrat bastion of the mid-west. I started a list. I finally ran out of gas at twenty-four. I’m sure there are more, but I would have to change the rules to include a wider span of friendship and relations. What if I were to visit all of these people on one big trip around the United States? I am also hankering to see some of my favorite sites again, like Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Glacier NP, Redwoods, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, and of course Crazy Horse Mountain. The last time I saw Crazy Horse it was just a scratch on the side of a mountain in the Black Hills. If I remember right, the original sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski was still alive in the seventies when I was there, blasting this mountain-sculpt by himself. As I continued to envision the trip it expanded more and more, and the miles began to add up. Hell, I might even have an excuse to buy a new car for this idea.

The next step I took involved Google Maps. I could plan the trip from person to person and city to city in a way that didn’t waste too many miles. I lost faith in Google Maps when I ran out of space to enter more cities at about Phoenix. Hell, so much for all this wonderful technology that can only go so far. I’m sure if I were still eighteen, I would have figured out how to make it all work. As it was I just started a new map and charted the second half of the trip on a second map. After looking at the route on the two maps I realized I missed a huge part of the country by skipping the northwest and northern states. That’s when I decided I wanted to see the Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier again. Another idea came back to me. As long as I’m driving all around the USA why not visit the four corners. I been to two of them(Key West and Washington) but I missed the point in Maine and the one south of San Diego. The problem with the four points route is that I would miss the entire center of the country. Missing so much started me to thinking of revising the whole idea to one where I visit every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. I don’t have friends in every state but I could fix that by making some.

As I write this I am reminded that Peggy and I traveled extensively in Canada. We took several driving trips. She wouldn’t fly nor take a boat so I said okay we’ll drive. It took three separate trips but we made it from Quebec city to Vancouver. I loved those trips and I wouldn’t mind exploring all the Provinces by car. One of my work acquaintances, Myles Murphy, migrated to the USA from Labrador which is still somewhat primitive compared to New York or Chicago. He often told me some funny stories about his relatives whom he visited yearly. He drove and then boarded a ferry. One of his stories involved his mother. It seems she got into his suitcase out of curiosity and found a grooming mirror. She picked it up and held it to her face. She saw the image of a woman, and said to herself,  “look at the ugly old woman he is carrying on with.”

The bottom line here is that the trip I routed on Google maps involves driving for 130 hours over 8500 miles. Since I am only physically able to drive five hundred miles a day or eight hours which ever comes first that amounts to seventeen days. If I spend a minimum of three days at each location that would add another 75 days. The whole trip would last three months provided I live through it.

Least of all I had to name this venture. I call it “The Great Last Time Around Tour.”

. . . and I still haven’t touched Alaska or Hawaii.

I Have Been In Many Places, But I’ve Never Been In Cahoots

Cover of "The Bucket List"

Cover of The Bucket List

I love to travel, and have visited many countries and most of the United States. I have written about many of my travels under a series title of “Burning Gas-XYZ.” Recently, this recommendation of places to visit came to me from a very dear friend. Many of the cities are strange and exotic, but mostly just strange.

Visit the link below and add these places to your bucket list, and  try to contain your excitement about doing so.

I Have Been In Many Places, But I’ve Never Been In Cahoots.

 

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