…But is it really a road trip if you spend 18 hours straight on the road?
We leave Madison at sunrise.
And we hit that corridor of highway boredom. Heading south, to Chicago... stuck in rush hour city traffic... through the industrial swamp hugging southern Lake Michigan... then onto the flat landscape of Indiana and only slightly more perky Ohio.
Ed and I share a love of the backroad, but this time we’re in a hurry and so we’re stuck on those never ending ribbons of highway that sound great in a Woody Guthrie lyric, but when you're on them -- feel as spiritless as a bowl of pasta with nothing on it.
We push forward, one book-on-tape after another, past billboards and gas stations and exits, tempting one to get off, get off.
I do most of the driving at first. Ed knows what he has to do to get me to take over – a few miles of working the wheel with his wrist (it’s comfortable that way! Out you go; I’ll drive).
Somewhere off the too-long highway in Indiana we make stops to borrow WiFi from parking lots of motels and fast food chains. We buy cheese and crackers and pickled mushrooms at a grocery store. Road food in a hurry.
By late afternoon, we finally cross over to West Virginia. Google has put us on a country road that twists around the hills of Appalachia. Bridges cross muddy waters, green forests hide old homes and private lives with untold stories.
But I am getting tired. In direct proportion to the fading light. Our goal for the day is Chapel Hill (Ed’s friend will overnight us there), but I protest that this is too ambitious. We begin the discussion as to whether we should pause for a rest in West Virginia, continue it in Virginia, culminating to a nonstop gentle back and forth on the wisdom of driving this late all the way across North Carolina.
In the end, it’s a little like childbirth: if you don’t choose the anesthetic early it becomes too late to benefit from it. Because even though we finally do stop, just an hour short of Chapel Hill, it is past two in the morning and the benefit of a fitful sleep is lost.
No matter. In a few hours the sun will be up again and we’ll continue east.
The fog was lifting, a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me...