Janet and I recently drove our son Rob’s SUV from San Diego to Maryland…we are storing it for him for the next two and a half years while he and his family are stationed in Japan. I posted pictures and updates to social media throughout the trip, calling it Rob’s Truck’s Cross-Country Adventure and using the whimsical hashtag #wheresrobstruck. Now that we are home, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the thoughts and reflections that came to me during the drive.
I had no great epiphanies to speak of, no deep reflections on the meaning of life…mostly just random thoughtlets that came and went. Here are 10 of the thoughtlets that seemed to recur most often during the drive, and as you can tell, they are pretty random:
1. We live in a beautiful country. It is large and it is diverse on many levels, to include its landscape, its attractions, its people, and its cultures. This much is clear just from a truck stop view of things, and I am eager to go beyond the truck stops on a future trip.
2. We (me and Janet) need to spend more time exploring our own country as we continue to explore the world. Our bucket list of domestic destinations has grown.
3. SIRIUS/XM radio has access to virtually all the music ever recorded in the history of humankind, yet they broadcast the same 8 hour repeating playlist featuring the same musicians every day. On the channel I tuned up for most of the trip we had a steady diet of Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, and Christopher Cross. Every…song…they…ever recorded. We heard all of the Michael McDonald with the Doobie Brothers songs, the Michael McDonald with Steely Dan songs, the Michael McDonald solo songs, the Michael McDonald/Kenny Loggins duet, and who can forget…the Michael McDonald/Christopher Cross duet. The same tunes over and over every day. One can only take so much Michael McDonald, so after the fourth day I tuned to another channel for a break. Guess who the featured artist on that channel’s 8-hour repeating play list was?
4. People west of the Mississippi know how to drive. People east of the Mississippi don’t.
5. From Arizona to Tennessee, during each of our rest stops masks were virtually non-existent. That isn’t something to celebrate when hospital ICUs throughout the region are full of unvaccinated people suffering from preventable cases of COVID-19, yet celebrate it they did. Vaccinate and mask up.
6. I81 in Virginia sucks. We drove a total of over 2800 miles in five days, which included a half-day detour up to see the Grand Canyon. In all that time and distance, we only lost 1 hour and 45 minutes to traffic. All but 15 minutes of that was lost because of the 161 mile stop and go, rolling backup we encountered on I81 in Virginia. No accidents. No disabled vehicles. No active construction. Nothing. How can this country move traffic through 2639 miles without delay but Virginia can’t fix the problems on a 161 mile stretch of I81? Can I just say, I hate that road!
7. For all the noise about a COVID-driven shortage of truck drivers being responsible for shortages of everything else we hold dear in our consumer existence, there was no shortage of trucks anywhere along our route. I have never seen so many trucks on the highways.
8. 24-hour cable news is a toxic environment. They focus on scarcity when we live in a country of abundance, fear when there is so much hope out there and so much to be hopeful about, and division when there is so much to unite us. I had the radio tuned to music all day, and even though listening to Michael McDonald got tiresome, it was way better than listening to the news. I didn’t miss it.
9. Janet easily did half of the driving on this trip, and when she wasn’t behind the wheel she played the license plate game. She did well, spotting tags from all states except Alaska and Hawaii. I noted that most of the states have gone the way of Maryland and monetized their auto tags. Gone are the days of a single tag design that you either liked or, in most cases, hated. Now most states offer multiple tag designs to choose from. For a price, of course. Only in America.
10. Driving cross-country doesn’t get old. It does, however, get harder as I get old. Next time we’ll have to allow more than five days so we can get off the highway and explore more of what America has to offer. Go beyond the truck stops!