There seems to be a storm a-brewin’ in them thar hills just outside. Or something that one day aspires to be a storm. It rained for a solid thirty seconds or so, just a proper and sudden downpour, and then nothing. I hear the occasional rumble of thunder here and there, but I’m not sure it’s not one of the neighbors making a bit of noise.
All of this, of course, is being posted from the Chicagoland area (specifically Plainfield). That means I survived my first-ever long road trip! I am a weird blend of highly enthusiastic and road-lagged, the latter being slightly exacerbated by woes of a non-vacation variety creeping in from one time zone away. Thankfully for everyone, those woes are not what this post will be about. Instead, let’s talk about my adventure, and it certainly was an adventure, from Carnegie to Plainfield. And how the end of the trip involved Mother Nature making an attempt on my life.
Day Forty-Eight – The Day-Late Travel Journal
Yesterday morning, with more than just a touch of anxiety knotting my stomach up, I made sure everything I needed was packed up and ready to go. My definition of what I needed, of course, may differ from what people actually need for such trips. It included my laptop, my Surface 2, my 3DS, two pocket-sized Moleskine notebooks with three carefully selected pens, Snoozie Sloth (the stuffed animal sloth I bought at Sarris Candies not that long ago), a thing of Burt’s Bees lip balm that includes vitamin b and peppermint, and a copy of Cuban Fury. There’s more than that, of course, but those are the non-essential essentials I just had to bring. Jason was still asleep when I was starting to prepare, and so I grabbed a bowl of cereal. Anxiety-induced stomach anger aside, I knew I should eat so I wasn’t hungry within the first hour of travel. My mom and Tom, my stepdad, were going about their usual motions for the morning. Once Jason was awake, I packed up my car, cleaned off the windows with some Windex (which worked well, but also now seems a touch pointless given the number of exploded bugs on my windshield), and set off.
I was the leader for the first brief moments of the trip; just up until we got our obligatory pre-travel Starbucks. Given how little sleep I got the night before, I opted for two extra shots of espresso in my drink. I’m pretty sure they helped, but who knows.
I tensed up a bit more as we approached I-79 North. In hindsight, it seems ridiculous as I’ve traveled along that road plenty of times before (more as a passenger than a driver). Merging went far more smoothly than I’d expected, and I followed closely behind Jason as he drove along. Yes, I had a vague idea of the route we’d be taking. The GPS on my phone was on, and talking here and there, but I wanted to simplify things by following along instead. I would end up regretting this mindset later, unfortunately.
The moment the gravity of just how far I was traveling set in was when I reached the Neville Island Bridge. It had always acted as a major landmark when I was traveling to and from Edinboro, as a reminder of the journey ahead or the joys of returning home. I’ve never driven over it before, and so I felt a tremendous deal of excitement and pride. This was now my adventure to have, and it may sound a bit ridiculous, perhaps a bit exaggerated, but I felt like this was something that mattered.
Once we’d made it onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and then the Ohio Turnpike, I fell into a pretty simple rhythm of switching lanes as necessary, maintaining speed, and so on. All of the standard, relatively boring travel things. This was about the point I’d realized I only bothered to make two CDs for an eight-ish hour trip, and hindsight kicked in with full force. The plus sides of that were that the music became background noise and didn’t post a distraction, so I guess I should be happy with this as a small victory.
The first rest stop happened a little bit into Ohio, probably just under three hours into the trip (give or take). My sense of time had gone elsewhere since I’m used to two hour drives at most, and this still had a good distance left to it. I bought more coffee for Jason and myself, and then the journey continued. As someone who is used to traversing mountains, and hills large enough most people consider them mountains anyway, I found myself growing a bit bored with the flat plainness of Ohio. Just before we made our way into Indiana, just before we hit the final three hour stretch of our journey, Jason and I stopped once again. Food was planned, but failed to happen if only because the rest area was bustling with so many people and I couldn’t justify waiting twenty-or-more minutes for Burger King.
Indiana was pretty simple, and we made good time up until the Indiana-Illinois border. I noticed the temperature had dropped about ten degrees. Then fifteen. Twenty. The sky ahead looked darker as I drove, and I wasn’t particularly keen on driving into a storm.
Naturally, that’s exactly what happened. Lightning criss-crossed the sky, with one or two bolts standing out against the light blue cloudlessness far ahead. I had turned my GPS off to prevent burning through my monthly data allotment, which I regretted by this point. There was a detour, plenty of traffic trying to get from here to there by way of potentially separating me from Jason, and a tremendous amount of anxiety I would end up entirely lost in a city as large and riddled with toll roads as Chicago. Not a particularly fun time for me. I may have spent a fair bit of time tail-gating, preventing people from getting in front of my car, until we finally made it safely to Plainfield. By the time I stepped out of my car, I was more than a little certain my legs had been replaced by sad jelly replicas of their former selves.
The trip has already proved to be more than worth it, I’ll say, and I”m definitely looking forward to making this pilgrimage again and again. The Chicago area has a special place in my heart, perhaps if only because it’s home to a rather important part of my family (I will never, ever get to live that comment down, I’m sure). Coming here felt like going home, and so I think I’ll enjoy this relatively low-pressure (in terms of responsibility) vacation.