The Big Trip: Day 1

Dad and I.JPG

The sun is rising as I look out over the lake which was not visible in the dark of night. It looks beautiful and for a split second I forget about the room that looms behind me. Yesterday was day one. We pushed through almost 700 miles of highway, setting off around 12:30pm with the car packed and Chuma snuggled into his area in the back. Chuma spent the morning at the empty house and the poor guy probably thought he had been left behind.  Lately he has struggled to jump into the car, but not yesterday. He bound into the back with sheer excitement that he too was heading west. As if I would leave my old man behind. He has always been by my side, a loyal companion.

We immediately put on The Cuban Affair, our first of many audiobooks, that Dad brought for the journey. This fictional thriller by Nelson DeMille is listed as an instant #1 New York Times Bestseller, which instantly engaged us in mystery, murder and passion. It captivated us to the point of driving 10 hours, 3 hours past our original goal, ultimately stopping in LaPorte, Indiana. (Note – when driving with your father be prepared to turn flush red with embarrassment at several sexually explicit points. Thankfully we both started cracking up).

We are driving the most direct route, straight across the country, leaving Pennsylvania via 76 West. I have traveled this highway many times while in corporate real estate as I managed several properties in Harrisburg. I reflect on my past and that life that I lived 6 months prior feels as though it never existed.  As I drive West, chasing my dreams, I realize that everything up to this point has guided me here, this was meant to be.

On our first stop we filled up the tank. I made turkey sandwiches and Chuma got a quick stretch. We were are hopeful about our progress but unsure of how far we would drive given that we started at 12:30pm. Our stop was brief, we resumed the book and drove back onto the highway.  Passing different cities, trees, and rest stops, I note that this route doesn’t differ from the South route I drove many years ago.  Countless miles passed, as we drove through the countryside. We wondered what those people do for a living being in such a rural area. The thought of being such a distance from a large city seems a far-off concept.  The sun was setting as we reached the Ohio-Indiana border.  It’s late, but we are amazed how light it remains.  As the sun drops beyond the horizon, it blazed onto the highway, staring us in the face. Sunglasses in place, I pulled down the visor and chased the sunset towards the West to begin my new life.

Dusk set in as we traverse Indiana, making the welcome sign difficult to photograph. We passed several exits littered with hotels, but payed no attention, as we were extremely focused on the tale coming through the speakers. Without sharing a word, both Dad and I feel we know the fate of Captain Mac and his boat. My hands gripped the wheel, I was on the edge of my seat, listening and driving. I felt I was amidst the deep swells with the darkness surrounding me, as it did Captain Mac.  Ultimately, as with all books, it came to an end. Through his writing, DeMille, left me wanting more.

Dad and I were jolted back into reality with the final sentence. We looked around, it was dark, there was nothing in sight. Our smart phones aren’t working well. I call Alexis for assistance, it isn’t the easiest looking for a hotel that accepts pets. She asks us our location and we have absolutely no idea. We are reading signs and mile markers in attempts to track down our location, laughing all the while. After about 10 minutes an exit sign appeared.  We quickly exited and headed to the first hotel – they didn’t take dogs. Luckily, The Blue Heron Inn just a few miles down the street was pet friendly. We grabbed our things and headed into the room. Dad hands me the key to unlock the exterior door. This has me worried, I haven’t seen actual key entry into a hotel in years. In fact, we needed a key to not only enter the exterior door, also the stairway.  Trudging up the stairs I was overcome by a musty smell. We opened the door to the room and entered an alternate time, we were back in the 1970’s, the decade in which I was born. At 1030 at night, the room worked for us, it had 2 beds, a clean bathroom and allowed dogs. We settled into bed, preparing for the next day. It took me a little while to fall asleep, but I ended up with a decent night’s rest. Dad on the other hand wakes up and immediately lets me know what a bad sleep he has had; “the pillows where horrible, the bed even worse”, and the heat kicked on in the middle of the night making it stifling.

I am once again lost in my thoughts about this big adventure, it is so cool and surreal. I turned back to reality, jumped in the shower and am ready for another long day.

Jenna Szyluk