My son and I recently packed the car and drove to Massachusetts to deliver a piece of family furniture to my cousin. We estimated the drive to be about 14 hours and the toll expenses to be about $25. These estimations were based on many past trips to visit relatives in the Northeast.
In an effort to outsmart anticipated traffic congestion, we left at 3:00 a.m. Our plan was to arrive in time to freshen up before supper. In reality, we pulled in shortly after 8:00 p.m. after spending $48.80 to get through the cash lanes of the toll roads and bridges on our route.
While a couple of days in relaxing Rockport stripped us of our travel anxiety and weariness, we experienced the full spectrum of emotions one would on a daylong car excursion.
It began with excitement. The adrenaline created when the time finally arrives for an enthusiastically anticipated trip is what makes it possible to spring out of bed at 2:30 a.m. and not bite off Hubby’s head for forgetting to set up the coffee pot to automatically brew the juice a brain needs to function properly. We were hitting the open road. We could stop at a variety of all-night venues and grab some java to go.
The happy hormones one’s body creates upon embarking on a weekend getaway are also capable of keeping a 20-year-old awake all night and allowing him to still feel energized enough to co-pilot for his mom. We were a chatty pair as we made our way out of town, convinced we’d find coffee and a caffeinated soft drink soon after beginning our adventure.
As the sun rose over Virginia, we settled into the next emotional stage. The traffic was light and our timing was impeccable for skirting rush hour in the major eastern seaboard cities. We were overly confident and optimistically strategic.
We filled up the gas tank in Virginia. It would be the cheapest gas we’d see until our return trip. We planned to top it off in New Jersey, a state that enjoys gas prices comparable to North Carolina. We planned to avoid stopping at gas stations in New York and Connecticut, where you need to hock a child to fill up your tank.
Zipping right around Washington, D.C., and then past Baltimore at a respectable pace only fed our confidence. We were listening to music and enjoying life. My son, at my direction, texted updates insinuating we might actually arrive early.
When we stopped for a restroom break, gas fill up and sandwich in New Jersey, I programmed the GPS on my smartphone. We plugged the phone in via a converter for our electronically antiquated van’s cigarette lighter. We confidently hopped back onto the NJ Turnpike and made our way to the George Washington Bridge.
Now, I truly feel the transportation department powers that be should rethink the name of this historic bridge. The way people cut people off, swerve around, blast their horns and use profane gestures and language has to have a negative impact. Do our Northeastern youth really need to associate our founding father’s name with such R-rated behavior?
Although, the behavior is fitting for the transition from feelings of confidence to stage three: Frustration. The frustration has plenty of time to build up, and the passengers have plenty of time to snap photos of the skyline, whilst the car is stuck in traffic.
When it takes 2 1/2 hours to travel a few miles in the absence of wrecks and construction, there are too many people in the same place at the same time. When one doesn’t drive faster than 30 miles an hour between New York City and Boston, one quickly shifts into the next emotional stage: Delirium.
We did everything we could to distract ourselves from the weariness and frustration that caused us to teeter on the line of sanity. We sang loudly. We discussed ways to redistribute the population of the Northeast to the Midwest. South Dakota could use a few more residents.
As we brainstormed ways to lower the population and updated folks about our ETA, which would now be well past our initial estimations, my smartphone died. We no longer had a GPS. Our lifeline was abruptly cut off. We couldn’t call, we didn’t know how to get to my cousin’s house, and we had to find a restroom.
We pulled into a service area in Connecticut, thrilled we still had lots of gas. I would have hated to lose my co-pilot in order to make it the rest of the way. We then bought an old-fashioned atlas.
More than 17 hours after we embarked on our adventure, we pulled into my cousin’s drive. The sun was already setting. But we quickly transitioned into the last stage as we experienced a sense of relief and accomplishment. The transition was hastened as we enjoyed our first bites of real New York-style pizza.
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Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.