Thoughts on the Road10:24 PM
The first thought I have is that “thoughts on the road” can have several different meanings. It could mean that I am thinking thoughts about the road—and that either figuratively or literally. Both could possibly be applicable, but not at the moment. It could also mean, and this is my primary meaning, that I am thinking thoughts while traveling on the road. Of course there’s also the idea that there are actually thoughts on the road, like roadkill or tire marks.
But as far as I can tell, there are no thoughts on the road, at least none to be picked up. Actually, though, there is an interesting little game going with road signs in the part of country I’m traveling in. We pulled away from the rest stop and breakfast burritos only to pass 11th Ave. It caught my eye. I said it aloud. And then we skipped over twelfth and came across 13th Dr. And then came 14th St. Then 14th Ave. Then 15th Dr. 16th was a circle, and it showed up twice with a couple of Lake St.’s and Spruce Ave’s in between. So amused was I that I pulled out my laptop and apparently missed the rest of the numerical signage. (Update: Just looked up and saw 19th Ave.) This leads me to believe that even road-naming personages sometimes lose creativity, like the best of us. I doubt there are as many words in the dictionary as there are streets and back alleys and highways. Still, I think it a little tacky to have a 14th St. and a 14th Ave. back to back. The postman must hate that stretch of town.
Another thing I hate—oh, but I shouldn’t even start out a sentence like that. On long road trips, that’s like cracking Pandora’s box. Everyone has something to let fly: “I hate sitting next to the trash bag. It smells like rotten bananas.” “It’s hot back here.” “Someone’s elbow’s in my way.” “Don’t sleep on me. Your head’s bony.” “I’ve got a headache.” “I lost my pen.” “I CAN’T GET OUT MY BACKPACK.” Plus the endless shuffling of bags, books and pillows over three sisters’ heads with about, I don’t know, zero inches of elbow room. And that’s being generous with the measurements. We’ve got a twelve-passenger van (The Bergmann Bus) which strangers gawk at like we’re driving around in luxury and space. But do they have themselves fooled. There are two seats open, one because our Marine isn’t coming down to Texas with us, the other because it’s crammed between the two littlest boys. But I suppose, if anyone’s planning to hitchhike down anytime soon, we could squeeze you in. At least we’d have a new voice of complaint to listen to.
Mornings are the hardest to travel during. At first light everyone’s half-dreaming about golden sunlight on green cornfields, or wondering at how the traffic lights are different at five in the morning than five at night, or just staring straight ahead. Then once everybody wakes up a bit, they’re all stoic: settling in seriously with a novel or crossword puzzle, listening to their iPod on shuffle, heroically trying to nap leaning on the seat in front of them. It’s a long trip, you figure, so you might as well take your lot in life and eke out enjoyment while you can.
That lasts until the first rest stop. By that time, two hours hip-to-hip with siblings leads to lower back cramps, books bring on nausea, nap-attempting ends with a crick in the neck, the repeated songs are like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from. And then you forget about being tough and enduring; you’re bored sick and there’s no way around it. Unfortunately, I’m the only person who’s fed up with toughin’ it out, so the next phase of extreme boredom—the exciting roadtrip games and infamously annoying travel songs—is slow to coming about.
I wish I were one of those people who can read in the car. I think it a particularly cruel joke that a bookworm becomes hopelessly ill the second she picks up a book in a moving vehicle. No, not even a moving vehicle—I’m so bad that death is at the door whether we’re parked in the garage or speeding along the highway. Otherwise I’d be able to finish a whole stack of books and win a Nook at the library. As it is, I don’t know why I packed two novels. They’ll do nothing but clutter the already crowded floor—and since there’s no point in reading when Texas family life is far more exciting, I’m not going to crack them open once we reach our destination. I guess—but now I’ve lost my train of thought because I have just now learned that there is a Formica Rd in the world. Who’s in charge of naming these things again? (See paragraph two for more details.)
Ignore that last bit. I finished a good hundred pages (and the entire novel) crammed between Bethany and Hannah. They find me extremely comfortable as a head/foot rest. I’m taking that as a compliment. Maybe one can outgrow horrifically extreme bouts of motion sickness? (As a side note, I’m totally fine in scary fair rides. It’s just the terrifying ordinariness of family vehicles that gets me woozy.)
As one of my closing thoughts, I just wanted to mention my opinion of rest stops. The first one we crawled out to at seven-ish in the morning is the one we frequent every two years, either coming from or going to Wisconsin. Don’t believe me? The maintenance worker recognizes our family. He told us so. The second one we visited, at lunchtime, was a living Confederate shrine. The bricks outside the ladies’ bathroom were all engraved with different facts and names of the Civil War. And there were these amazing chained bullet-shaped thingies out the front door. (Not as amazing as the coffee vending machine Mum discovered. But that is her joy, not mine. I drink hot chocolate, strictly.) The third one brought the most fun. NO PETS ALLOWED a sign proclaimed on the glass door. EXCEPT SANTAS REINDEER some smart aleck had stickered in below. Without the apostrophe, I might add.
Penned in the Bergmann Bus.