People complain about air travel. Sure there are the airlines' endless fees and loose regard for scheduled arrival times, but I can live with that. There's something magical about folding yourself into your couple of hundred square inches of space on one side of the country and emerging mere hours later --though a little sweatier and more disheveled-- on the other side.
I wish I were one of those people who could value the journey just as much as the destination, but I'm much happier to spend a few hours balancing a little cup of warm Diet Coke on my knee and trying to ignore a full bladder while watching repeats of Real Housewives on the seat back screen if it gets me to where I want to be in a hurry.
Car travel holds no magic for me. I am not a road trip girl.
My first extra-long road trip came the summer before my senior year in high school, when my parents combined a college tour of the eastern seaboard with a family driving vacation to Florida. On that trip I discovered the miracle of Dramamine for passing long hours in a blur, and was dragged on more than one campus tour drool-slicked and bleary-eyed.
Almost ten years later, my husband and I decided that driving to Miami would be a good idea, despite the fact that we were in the middle of buying our first home and had no cell phones with which to stay in touch with the mortgage broker, lawyer and realtor, who all seemed to require constant contact. It is a wonder that we didn't both end up with trench mouth given the questionable sanitation of the side of the road pay phones we used to make our calls. After explaining to the exasperated realtor that she'd have to repeat some complicated title issue to me one more time because a semi-truck was passing by the first time, I told my husband that we would never take another driving trip again.
But, of course, we did. When Little E was about seven months old and Big E three and a half, we drove as far as Richmond, Virginia, where my husband and I went to college. On the return trip, trapped in gridlock traffic outside of DC with Little E inconsolable about an unfortunate diaper incident and Big E herself making weepy, desperate demands for a bathroom, I bellowed, "We will never take another driving trip again!"
So, naturally, I find myself planning another major driving trip for this summer. I need a big change of scene at least once or twice a year, but my part-time salary calls for austerity measures so we won't be buying plane tickets like we have the past few summers. Instead, we'll be driving to Florida with some stops on the way and staying gratis in my grandmother's Florida condo.
I am trying to banish images of the endless gray pavement of I-95 and fly-infested roadside toilets. I'm trying to pretend that portable DVD players will fully entertain the girls for the endless hours of driving, that there will be no tears or shouting --from them or from me. I'm trying to conjure, instead, visions of walking the girls along the lakeside path that my husband and I strolled together as college freshman and of the girls sifting through the sand on the Gulf Coast beach where my brother and I searched for shark teeth on our family vacation.
I'm also trying to become someone who can appreciate the journey as much as the destination. But I'll probably pack some Dramamine just in case.