This is the first chapter of a nine week cross country road trip JB and I took in 2020, just before the pandemic began. God only knows when if ever this adventure will find its way to publication, but it may just find a home here on my blog. It was QUITE a trip: I recommend hitting the road 100%,
Signs From The Road
My fourteen day state quarantine hadn’t even ended when I was pretty sure I had the Corona Virus.
At first I felt a heavy weight on my chest, and then a headache on my left temple. I waited it out for a few days before I called my local health center. An aide called me back, asked a half dozen questions about my symptoms, and a half hour later a clinic nurse called and asked me the same questions. As soon as I told her I’d been traveling in California, she set me up for the test the next day. I’m seventy two and I’ve had pneumonia twice. I pep-talk my lungs to stay strong. But two months after a fantastic cross country trip, I was curled up, lethargic, with a slight headache, and an on-again off-again sore chest. The little guest bedroom off the living room was black, and so were my thoughts. These were the early days of the pandemic when New York body bags were too many to store, and being paranoid, and scared, and talking to myself left me questioning if I had the courage to get through dying on a ventilator, no family allowed in my final moments, myself aware and alone. That was the Corona Virus in March 2020.
I had to wait four days for my test result. Negative.
Janet and I had rushed home, condensing a two week return trip from California to Provincetown in four days in order to stay ahead of the rumor that New York would be closing entry in order to control the already rapid spread of the virus. This rush return trip home was the exclamation point of a very worthy nine week road trip. For three wild days we drove the empty highways with our dog Mattie, fourteen wheeler truckers, and pelting rain and fog.
It was a wild end. Eight weeks, 25 cities, 20 states, 15 friends and family, 20 hotels, 8500 miles, one 2012 Toyota Rav, one good dog, and one damn pandemic. A pandemic, like the plague of 1812.
When my partner JB and I first got the idea for a road trip, I bought a few road trip books from Amazon. We hadn’t mapped out our trip yet and mostly I wanted a sense of how to think about it all--how to plan and how to pack. In our case, two months on the road in our own car with our dog. We’d be gone for weeks. We’ll be in all kinds of weather and temperatures. How should we pack? How far should we drive? We’d need dog-friendly accommodations. Where should we stay? What should we see?
The road trip books I chose disappointed me. So here I am now, based on our actual hits and misses, presumptuously writing my own travel guide for how to hit the road in your car with your dog, with all weather clothes, with snacks, and with a promise to control our frustrations and tempers.
It turns out road trips are a lot like life: it’s tricky to balance planning ahead with savoring the present. This book aims to achieve both. The chapters are organized as journal entries, by date and location, each entry dotted with practical information (planning the trip, mapping the stops, budgeting time and money,) but also with our very human and often laughable exchanges and experiences along the way. We meet a pregnant dog sprawled across two bar stools in Tybee Island, Georgia. We have ten minutes of total and misguided exhilaration thinking we won $ 10,000 on a Florida lottery ticket. We sink into six inches of mud in Topanga, California (not our car, our feet!) We giggle at an electronic flashing road sign on the Sopchoppy Highway: This Saturday: Fish Fry for Doris!’ And I can’t even remember where this gem of a sign found us: “Fold Your Worries Into Paper Planes and Turn Them Into Flying Fucks…”
So dear reader, if you’re ready to hit the road, here we go!