Road Trip Discover the joy and surprises of road trips by Staff 6 January 2024 written by Staff 6 January 2024 Sometimes, I like to do the opposite. Serious moment? I might crack a joke to ease the tension. Confronted by a bully who wants me to cower? I smirk and I laugh (they hate that). Sitting in a courtroom once, awaiting a jury’s verdict as I covered a trial for a newspaper, I considered the judge as he sat behind the bench. He was the most stern judge in Effingham County at the time. I pretended to be serious. “Judge, I don’t care what they say about you,” I said in a measured tone. “I think you’re alright.” He looked at me — sternly, of course — and tersely, yet with a tiny hint of amusement, said, “What case do you have pending?” I feigned meekness and a bit of fear. “None … yet.” In this gloomy winter weather, I’m thinking about warm days and that quintessential American staple: the road trip. I’ve lost track of the road trips I’ve taken over the years, and I’m not sure whether to count the ones where I moved, helped someone else move or “had to” go to something like a family wedding. Spoiler alert to the 20- and 30-somethings: Road trips aren’t quite the same after you’re 50. My world seemed to widen with each bit of travel undertaken, and I haven’t actually traveled that much. My “been to” list is short: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia (although I think I get extra points for living there and later in Houston, too); San Antonio and Dallas and Galveston, Texas; Chicago; the Grand Canyon; Memphis, Tennessee; somewhere north of Green Bay, Wisconsin; Philadelphia; New Orleans; and that’s all I can think of at the moment. In my college years, it was a “big trip” to go a couple of hours across Central Illinois. My ex and I once took two nephews and a niece (and two Pugs!) in one four-door Chevrolet Cavalier all the way to Nashville, Tennessee and back. The dogs were fine. Two out of three of the kids were fine. The third one … intentionally wet his pants before we even got to Kentucky. Good times. I’ve made the Central-Illinois-to-Atlanta stint of nine hours in a stick-shift truck without cruise control and making only one stop: to fill up the truck’s gas tank and empty my own tank, then soldier on. I drove alone in a U-Haul with a faulty muffler from Atlanta to Houtson. I’d just gotten my first cellphone. I was standing in a gas station Subway as they made my sandwich. I heard a phone ring. I didn’t think much about it. I heard it ring again. I wondered why no one answered it. As I walked back out too the U-Haul, I realized it was my own flip phone that was ringing. I once drove alone from Houston to Southern Illinois: an 18-hour trip made in one shot with no stop to sleep. I had a literal duffel bag full of music CDs to play. I sang along until I got to Oklahoma and my voice was giving out. I left the singing to the pros for the rest of the trip. I’ve helped drive from Illinois to New Jersey and, I’ll tell you, it seems like they just put you on a loop and you’re in Pennsylvania forever. One of my sisters and her two kids and I went to the Grand Canyon just a few years ago. It was a 24-hour drive out there, but we stopped in Oklahoma City for a night. I enjoyed the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. And the Grand Canyon … wow. Just wow. On the way back, we got stuck in traffic at a standstill, with no exit in sight. From the back seat, my nephew indicated he needed a restroom. I won’t name the kids out of respect for his sister’s sensibilities. There weren’t many options. His mom gave him permission to use a water bottle in which to empty his bladder, and he thought that was fun. His sister, on the other hand, although on the opposite side of the back seat, made her objection known with a long, “Ewwwww!” My friend Penny, who I call my “Twin,” and I made a winding trip from Georgia and up through the Carolinas to Washington, D.C., then west to St. Louis for her to catch a flight back to the Atlanta area. At least we did that one over a few days. The older I get, the more stops I have to make on a long trip. My body gets stiff. My left knee has allowed some arthritis to take up residence and being in the driver’s seat a long time isn’t conducive to this development. But I still love road trips. I may spend the upcoming cloudy days dreaming of sunshine, blue skies and the open road. Or I just may do the opposite and hit the road this month sometime. Sometimes, my mind wanders. Better go after it. 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