Cross Country

(On the third anniversary of our drive across the US and our arrival in the PNW, I think back and talk about what it was like on each day of the trip. This is Part 1 of an 8 part series)

January 21, 2011

The night before we, with the help of a good friend and my wife’s mother, cleaned out our apartment and turned in the keys. We threw everything into the car, and headed to the hotel for the night. In the morning we said our goodbyes and drove West on the Penna Turnpike. Yes, all of the states have had two-letter abbreviations for a while, but some of the PA Turnpike signs still say Penna. And almost all of the signs are large keystones.

It was cold, but not too cold. The road was familiar, as we had driven on the turnpike both East and West many times in the almost 7 years we lived there. We drove by rolling hills with snow that pushed up long grass like a young boy’s tousled hair, the larger hills (we called them mountains) in the distance. We passed by familiar route numbers (81), exit names (New Bedford), restaurants (Hoss’s) and gas stations (Hess, Sheetz).

I don’t remember when, but at some point I started a tradition of holding both my hands up and going “whee” when we crossed a state line. My wife could have shook her head at the sight of this strange custom, but instead she would always join in, usually with a smirk on her face. Participating in this custom as we crossed into Ohio reminded me of all the other trips we had taken. We would often go through New York and Connecticut to go see my family in Massachusetts. We went to Maryland a number of times to visit old battlefields or see some good friends. But this time we wouldn’t be going back to PA.

That night we stayed in a Motel 6 in South Bend Indiana (home of Notre Dame). Being the plan-ahead person I was, I had made a reservation there this morning. When I walked into the motel office, the staff probably thought “oh there’s that crazy guy that made a reservation”. I mean, who makes a reservation for a Motel 6 in the middle of January in Indiana when it’s below freezing out? But I figured it’s better to make a reservation then have to drive all around town trying to find a hotel after 9 hours of driving because there’s a snow festival in town or some such thing. We had bought a few gallons of Turkey Hill Green Tea before leaving that morning, and we brought them in, so they would not freeze overnight. The door didn’t keep the cold out too well, but we just turned the heater up and went to bed, excited about the journey that had just begun.