Long Haul

My husband and I drove back and forth between the New Orleans area and Minneapolis/St. Paul during our few years of him working in Louisiana.  Those were the hardest road trips of my life.  Twenty hours total drive time and driving conditions that were less than ideal during the seven or eight hours closest to Louisiana.  My first clue that driving through Mississippi would be a test was when I saw a sign for a rest area which read "Security Provided."  The gas stations were no better; I learned to roll up the cuffs of my pants to avoid the filthy floors.  That was also the era where I started traveling with hand sanitizer, a precaution I'd always found silly in past travels.  We found ourselves avoiding water and coffee until we were almost through the state, but it was impossible to clear the state completely without stopping for fuel.

We did that drive maybe two or three times a year during that period, and it wore me out.  So when we were transferred to Canada, at first I refused to drive home.  We were one 3.5 hour flight from home, why would we drive?

Then I watched flight prices skyrocket.  Ever since we arrived, flights have remained consistently between $700 and $1000.  I got really homesick and started to research a little.  How hard would it actually be to drive?  There was a border in the way, which was a new hurdle for me in a car.  The trip looked to be, per Google, around 18 hours.  In eighteen hours, if I remember correctly, you can fly from Atlanta to Dubai. Or you can drive from Calgary, AB to Detroit Lakes, MN.

Turns out, it's not that hard.  Approximately $400 for fuel, much better than the price of two flights.  Another $100 to make it to the Twin Cities and back, but also the freedom of our own car during the trip.  And, the nice surprise is that I like this drive better than the Louisiana-Minnesota route.  People wrinkle their nose in distaste at the idea of driving long distances. However, I don't find this one very hard.  Driving the length of Mississippi felt much more strenuous to me than driving across North Dakota and a little bit of Montana.  I like to revert back to my naughty college days and crank the music while sucking down caffeine. I force myself to listen to songs and podcasts in their entirety, in order to practice patience and to find unexpected inspiration.

My husband and I have road trip in our DNA. His grandfather drove trucks many years ago, before starting his own trucking business.  My own parents chucked me into the backseat for many, many trips to the cabin.  Most of these trips were only three or four hours, most weekends of the summer, but for about five years, they were about twelve hours, only one time per summer.  I was expected to entertain myself and not make a fuss.  I have never slept well in the car, so mostly I read, in between occasional rounds of Alphabet game, I Spy, star gazing and license-plate watching.   I learned to report my need for a bathroom break well in advance of the situation becoming an emergency, and also that parents are very susceptible to requests for McDonalds on a Friday afternoon after a few hours in the car.

Driving satisfies my curiosity; now I can picture the space between where I live and where I'm from.  I am comforted knowing that I can get home of my own accord if necessary.  I also now know that there is a town called Bloom, North Dakota, and that the National Buffalo Museum is in Jamestown, North Dakota.  I know that when you cross the border from North Dakota to Saskatchewan, you can buy a sweatshirt with the logo "Saskatchewan: Hard to Spell, Easy to Draw", and that there are badlands in North Dakota.  and that there is also a stretch of highway near there called the Enchanted Highway, and the metal sculpture sign for it features enormous geese.

Driving home and back helps me undersand where I am in the world.