There’s something to be said for seeing the country the old fashioned way. I’ve been in the mood to take a road trip for quite some time and was fortunate enough to both get some time off to do so, and to have a friend willing to give me a destination point. There’s a connected-ness that happens when you put wheels on the road. Very distinct, and much much different from air travel. I’m always a little off balance when I arrive in a city by air ; and that’s not just due to my inner ear pressure being scrambled. Travel by car allows me to experience the places I travel through directly; and allow my mind and body to acclimate.
Let me talk for a minute about the interstate highways. Arguably, one of the most significant achievements of the Eisenhower Administration.
He signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act on June 29, 1956. American lives have not been the same since. At this point our future as the United States was about to become a reality. (Coincidentally for you trivia buffs – Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller in White Plains, New York on that very evening) There’s not an item you have that has not traveled on an interstate highway to get to you – thanks to the truck drivers of America.
As a child of the 60’s and 70’s I can’t remember a time when one was not able to travel on the interstate. My mom can tell you stories of literally all day drives to get from southwestern MA to upstate Vermont taking what we now call “the back roads” all the way. You can still take back roads anywhere but with the interstate, why bother? You can get there much quicker on the highway. That said, there’s something very pleasurable to me in driving myself somewhere; and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of each region. My car wheels roll and hum on the roadway; the tires softly thudding at predictable intervals as they cross the thin lines dividing each section of pavement. My navigator and sidekick for this adventure – my fourteen year old daughter. Our destination: The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley – Virginia.
Our GPS guided path took us south through Connecticut and into New York City on the I-95. A hot concrete and chrome fast/slow crush – smelling of exhaust fumes and faintly, low tide. The City Proper – hazily visible to our left under thundery skies. The Freedom Tower a beautiful soft focus exclamation point on the mid-afternoon skyline. Next, the crowded hustle and bustle of Newark NJ and the Garden State Parkway. Everything’s close together and moving fast.
Things slow down and spread out as we reach Pennsylvania on I-78. Farm country, the Lehigh Valley. Rolling hills divided by neat white fences that enclose single and twin siloed red barns. Barns with stone foundations that seem to come straight up from the ground itself. White farmhouses with wraparound porches. Everything neat – spic and span; as the saying goes. The first haying has come and gone, the second, now rolled up and drying on the fields. Horses and cows graze contentedly in green gold pastures. Closer to the road, fence lines are covered with fuzzy, dusty pink flowers,
wild roses, and creeping vines. Thunderstorms are coming in from west to east and it rains on us sporadically. It also creates splendid cloudscapes as the afternoon sun lowers behind them. We stop for a break, and I’m struck by how similar things are on and around the interstate. Mile-high signs announcing food, fuel, and lodging. Restaurant and Hotel chains providing the same services all up and down the road. There’s a standard level of service on the interstate; which gives the traveler a sense of stability as they go along their merry ways.
We resume after refueling ourselves – and the car, and as we leave Pennsylvania behind crossing the Delaware and the Mighty Susquehanna, I am suddenly aware of a difference in the air quality. It’s become softer. The thunderstorms have now tracked well to our east, but continue to provide a spectacular sky show to my left – as the late afternoon sun turns the line of massive thunderhead tops berry-pink with alpen-glow; with bruised purple foundations underneath. A dramatic, stunning backdrop for the farms dotting the low hills. On I-81 now, we arrive in Virginia where the air seems even softer and smells sweeter. I later discover that the scent is a luscious, heavenly combination of honeysuckle and sweet pea. The Blue Ridge Mountains live up to their name as the sun sets behind the last ridge in Virginia in a purple, gold, and peach blaze of glory. Getting off the highway, we now take the back road directly to my friend’s house. On the way, a white tailed deer is grazing by the side of the road. We slow down to take a look and startle her into bounding off – back into the woods. It was a nice “a-ha” moment to appreciate.
After arriving at TL’s house, we settle in and relax, chatting up a storm with her and her son Ceej. Getting to know the rest of the family – the cats: Miss Katie Scarlett, Paul Newman, Jack Sparrow, and Gandalf. And the dogs: Ruby Thewes and Miss Daisy. (TL has an affinity for literary characters). Mayhem and I felt welcome and at home; bonding with the entire cast of characters instantly. I doubt TL and I stopped talking the whole time we visited. It was great fun. Next post will be about our profoundly affecting trip to the Civil War Battlefield of New Market – with pictures – and then later, our trip home.
To end this particular post, I thought I would leave you with a list of my favorite “Road/Road Trip” movies. What are some of yours? And, do you have a favorite recollection of a road trip you might like to share?
- Duel (1971)
- Easy Rider (1969)
- Electra Glide in Blue (1973)
- To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything. Julie Newmar (1995)
- The Gumball Rally (1976)
- Thelma and Louise (1991)
- Psycho (1961)
- It Happened One Night (1934)
- The Wild One (1954)
- The Long, Long Trailer (1954)
- Smokey and The Bandit (1977)
- Speed (1994)
- From Dusk to Dawn (1996)