Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Born to Run on the Fourth of July...

The sun is low in the sky and I'm driving behind a tractor trailer in the rain. We're heading home after a holiday getaway on the east coast. The words on the back of the truck say something about the company's best resource sitting 63 feet ahead; I hope they are right. I've always been a little nervous driving in limited visibility, but my knuckles go white on the wheel when I have my whole family in the car with me. I keep my distance behind my blocker. My theory is the truck drivers see more above the road spray and if we were to stumble upon an accident or a downed tree the sheer mass and inertia of the behemoth would cut a path and keep us from the worst. Hands at 9 and 3 o'clock, feet on the ready, headlights on as I watch and wait for the inevitable maniac to come speeding by as if it were the Indy 500 instead of a stretch of highway with dangerous conditions. 

Soon the rain slows then stops, the sun emerges for one last hoorah. I'm able to safely open up the throttle a bit. Red barns with white roofs roll by, lines of heavy clouds signal more rain to come, and toll plazas seem too frequent. Speed traps abound, the radio is playing but it's hard to make out. I just need to make some headway. I need to make "good" time.  When we make it home the screaming will stop... won't it? 

The screaming. Piercing calls of dismay, anger, annoyance, exhaustion, and hunger have been emanating from the back seat from the start despite regular pit stops. The kids seem to take turns whining and crying so as to achieve maximum coverage.
 How long have we been on the road? Was that "Hay un amigo en mi" I heard about half an hour ago? That wasn't the first movie of the ride. Was it the third? I've lost all sense of time and space. Ohio? Indiana? Still Pennsylvania!? That can't be right!  Vv has called for our surrender a few times over the past hour. I have stubbornly refused, certain the tyrants will soon exhaust themselves and fall asleep and we'll enjoy hours of blissful, golden silence from the children. While they slumber we'll play cards on the dash, smoke cigarettes, pour a few stiff drinks and listen to Rage Against the Machine as we cut a path through the night. Not really; that is just how we imagine it would go if only the crying would stop and their little eyes would close. Our ride would instantly become a party wagon, transporting us to a fading memory of youth and freedom if they would just succumb to sleep. No, it's not a minivan dammit! It can't be a minivan because I'm a ramblin' man! The Marlboro Man, a manly man! Oh good grief... is that a poopy diaper I smell? Another one!? Do manly men say "poopy?" Hmm. Back to reality. There will be no poker night in the front glow of the dashboard navigation light; No straight flush illuminated by an ever shrinking 'time to destination.'

"You were right, let's call it a night. See if you can find us a hotel." I mutter from the driver's seat, a beaten man. "Tomorrow we'll get home. I just know it; We'll ride like the wind I tell you!"

I see my wife smile in the mirror, it reminds me of the little girl in the third row (still not a minivan) and I feel a love swell up inside so strong it could swallow the night and everything in it. Sunshine in the dead of night, beaming into my brain from the rear-view mirror despite the auditory assault that is traveling with children. Vv opted for the hot seat in the middle row (not a van) in the hopes she could calm the savage backseat beasts. We've both downed energy drinks in anticipation of driving through the night. Now, instead, we'll enjoy the jitters as we lie motionless and silent in a hotel room; to move is to risk waking one of the banshees which will immediately awaken the other. What is nearly impossible to remember during times like these is that they are the "good times." Every screaming mile, and all the fun we had between, were the cream because we were all together. I'll smile when I read this in 10 years and I'll cry when I read it in 25 years (Lord willin' and the creek don't rise). Later on a lumpy hotel bed, I feel my eyelids growing heavy, finally overcoming my shot of stimulant and in my head Bruce Springsteen sings "Born to Run." It's a lullaby for a ramblin' man, the Marlboro Man, a manly man. 
"In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream. At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines"  
How does the rest of that song go? It is really about driving? I do remember a few lines, 
"we're gonna get to that place, where we really want to go and we'll walk in the sun" 
I think that place is home.


  1. That place is home, for sure. But there's something to be said for those late-night, I-give-up hotel stops that make me feel all nostalgic. Of course, I say this remembering my past without the screaming children in the back seat and projecting my 1-year-old child years into the future, but I stand by my comment. I will still remember the "we're just not gonna make it to CInci tonight" hotel room we got in St. Clairesville, OH as one of the best parts of the trip. Hopefully I'll have those memories with my daughter in the future.

    Glad you made it home safely.

  2. Ha, no video in the car is the last principal I still keep. Hey, if looking at little white lines on the road and at power lines going up and down for hours in the car was good enough for me, it's good enough for them!!!

    But like @dustinrecsports said, some of my best memories from family road trips were the hotels.

  3. We rented a minivan while in Portland, OR a couple weeks back. And it had a DVD player. It was nice and quiet a lot of the time, but our little one sure did miss some gorgeous scenery.

    Love this, by the way.

  4. Thanks and thanks for reading!

  5. The view always seems pretty limited in these giant car seats. I'd like if they could see out the windows better and we could talk about the scenery. Stay strong... you will give in though. Oh, you will give in. Ha!

  6. Yep, they don't know what they're missing. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Are you paying over $5 per pack of cigs? I'm buying high quality cigs from Duty Free Depot and I'm saving over 50%.