Thoughts on the Road

10:24 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.)

[several hours later]

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.

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7 impressions

  1. Hilarious! I'm glad I don't have the problem of getting nauseated while trying to read on road trips. I find that road trips are some of the best times to read the really long books that I haven't gotten around to, especially when my parents limit me to a certain number of books that I can take.

  2. Ah, yes, I know it well...traveling in a big van with 9+ people is fun for the first hour then all you want is to be there and get out! Reading in the car also makes me sick, but I've found that sucking on a fruity-flavored candy helps when you feel sick after reading:)

  3. lol...

    That sounds very familiar.

    As a tip to another Bergmann Bus rider - if you lean your forehead on the seat ahead of you, put a piece pillow or something betwixt yourself and the rough carpety-stuff on the seat. (Otherwise you will probably not be able to sleep for wondering if you'll have any skin left on your forehead when you awake.)


    Love you! .. And.. (if you'll allow me to sound pathetic) I miss you.. :(

  4. Haha, I can definitely relate to your motion sickness. Mine, however, did not show itself until we moved to Japan, and since leaving that country it has stayed away. (For the most part)
    Just as a P.S, may I say again how much I love your blog? I can relate to so many of your posts... and I put your button on my new website/blog, It's not much yet; I'm still ironing out the kinks, but at least it's up and running. :)

  5. Yes, it sounds so familiar. We're fixing to take an all-day trip to Tennessee in a couple weeks. That should be fun ... once we get there.

    Seriously, though, it has its compensations - most of the time, I can read in the car (van in this case), so I get to read nearly nonstop for a full day. *giggles* The best thing is that our new-to-us van has air conditioning. YES!

  6. Yes, I have leaned my head against the seat in front of me and tried to sleep that way. You are right; it always ends with a cramped neck. We have a twelve-passenger van, also, and we fill it to the max. I am always torn between staring out the window and thinking, and reading a book (I don't usually get bad motion sickness). Long trips are a good time to think.

  7. "Don't sleep on me. Your head's bony." That made me laugh out loud. My sister complains I have a bony shoulder. My tip would be, stick all the smallest people (that don't need to be in carseats) in the back where the seats are smaller. They don't like it, but it leaves more room for the bigger people. :)


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