HOW DO YOU DEFINE a road trip?
I define road trip as a recent 3,029-mile drive through nine states that took my husband and me from Minnesota to our destination—Somerville, Massachusetts—and back. We followed I-80 through Iowa (to stay mostly south of Chicago) and then I-90 through New York on the way out and took I-80 through Pennsylvania on the return home.
There was minimal time to play tourist, although we tried to do so in Buffalo, New York, location of Niagra Falls. We were lost for 1 ½ hours in a rough and seedy part of town and never found the American side access to the falls. Road construction and inadequate road signage left us totally confused.
Without smart phones, we relied on directions printed from Google maps, a borrowed GPS system (which challenged me more than once), a good old spiral-bound Rand McNally road atlas and road signs.
We navigated around major cities, swooped up and down the wooded hills of Pennsylvania, delighted in the beauty of upstate New York, survived morning rush hour in rainy Hartford, Ct., saw more dead deer than we ever hope to see again (Pennsylvania wins that count), rated restrooms, groaned at yet one more road construction zone, and complained about the toll roads.
I didn’t pack nearly enough CDs for the journey and hope never again to hear Cher sing Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves. At times I felt like a bit of a gypsy.
Five days of driving takes its toll.
But everyone should take a road trip like this at least once to gain an appreciation for the immensity of this country, for the diversity in landscape and peoples and communities, and even barns. I did a similar trip nearly 40 years ago as a college student.
Everyone we met, upon learning we were from Minnesota, responded the same: “Oh, it’s cold there.” I found that interesting, that a single word defines our state to those who’ve never been here. Yes, it’s cold. Sometimes. But it’s so much more. It’s lush green and wide open spaces and minimal traffic congestion (except in the metro). It’s home.
After traveling 3,000 mostly Interstate miles, I am even more appreciative of Minnesota. We met some genuinely friendly people in every state, from a young couple at a state park in Indiana to Pat from Michigan who also got hopelessly lost in Buffalo to a native Bostonian cop with a thick Boston accent.
No matter where we live, we are still just people. We each have our own niche, our place where we feel most comfortable, that we call home. For me, that shall always be Minnesota.
FYI: Check back to read more about this cross country journey, beginning tomorrow with the reason for the trip.
© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling