the only way to get there is to go.
so off we went.
we set sail on Monday morning. it was closing in on 9am by the time we bid farewell to Shank at the Blue Coyote.
we arrived in Pike County, Pennsylvania Thursday night at 11.
it rained every day. 10+ hours a day behind the wheel, keeping a steady pace in and out of heavy rains requires a level of diligence and awareness that i have not been practicing. i never got to use cruise control. 2,000+ miles of continuous subtle motion. how did i used to pull it off in one straight go?
my eyeballs need constant blinking today. and my entire right side, from the back of my ear to the back of my ankle can’t chill out. the biochemical thoroughfare is all still integrated and buzzed, and chatting with each other like endurance athletes often do. i’ve been making feeble but consistent attempts to stretch out in efforts to tamper their celebration and put them back in their place. all my my muscles and neurons need tweeking for alignment. we have miles to go before we sleep. this was leg #1.
we gave ourselves all week to make the journey. we also made plans for a day in Chicago on Wednesday – so we had a checkpoint.
like the bike ride we took in August, our road trip blew away all the expectations i tried not to have. we. know how. to do this.
homies know how to pack. they’ve allowed themselves to learn through experience. by now, we’ve had enough road and camping trips to far-away places that they’ve got it down to suit their style. they are travel suave with their backpacks and water bottles and fire tablets and headphones and journals and pencils. i carry PJs, toothbrushes, and clothes for the next day….and bathing suits for hotel stays. Furocious and George are on board the ship too. they come in every night. homies keep track of their chargers and do the necessary deleting and downloading when they connect to WiFi.
Our together-soundtrack included the sequel to a book we listened to together over the summer – about a young girl in the Arctic tundra who accidentally found herself living with a pack of wolves. this one included village living and the ancient ways conflicting with tribal corporation building with the help of the US government. so the soundtrack included questions…barrels and heaps of questions. it also resurfaced the practice of biting each others noses to assert dominance – to show who is boss. after you get bitten on the nose, you have to nuzzle under the chin. to acknowledge who is boss. i remain the nose nibbler, but i know it is only a matter of ticks and tocks before i am not.
Once we learned the Miox would go to school and fulfill her potential on her terms before she considered marrying Daniel, the dancing Inuit from Siberia, we moved on to The River. Another sequel of a book we read in the spring. about survival and instinct. and selflessness and triumph.
By the end of night #1, we learned that Tinker.com could not use his new Amazon Fire Tablet in the car. he puked. in fact, his journal for the week records whether it was a “pukey day” or not. he learned after the first night what was his limit. he was able to use it in small spurts, and he could listen to his own downloaded audio books – although he preferred to plug his headset into the splitter and listen along with Quill. They were listening to the same stories, afterall.
The final day, it was On the Banks of Plum Creek. We began listening to it in the early fall from a CD we borrowed from the library. It was too scratched though, so we returned it before we got too far in. It was impossible not to draw parallels to our actual life. When we finished the chapter on the blizzards that kept coming and coming and the Ingalls stayed put on their land for months, and ran the schedule: wake up, chores, lessons, play, supper, share lessons with Ma, play together, chores, prep for dinner, clean up, bedtime it was like seeing my life in a crystal ball…except i was looking at in in side the wheel well of an 18-wheeler on i-80 in 2019.
When he wasn’t, he was subjected to my soundtrack. Often NPR, or some other public access non-fiction from my local public cyber library. Whatever it was, Tink had questions. He wanted me to pause every breath it seemed, to explain the whats and whys behind things. he’s a thinker. i get it. confessed thinker myself. he is constantly grokking. i couldn’t be prouder.
our stop in Peotone felt filled to the brim with love. we arrived to open arms and wide smiles. time and space have little significance when measured beside the woven bond of DNA. Tinker was a little reserved upon arrival, a slight bit shy. it is all novel. every single thing on this road trip is outside someone’s comfort zone. that’s why we are here. to grow.
Quill gets herself all riled up about “peopley-places”, and Tink would prefer to never ever “talk to strangers”. They are comfortable with their routine and their lives and their relationships. this first expedition sets out to challenge all those status quos. to let them know what it feels like in all sorts of different shoes and from all angles and perspectives. oh, perhaps they are too young to internalize it all…. maybe so…. but it’ll get stored in their tissues nevertheless.
our Chicago tour guides led us to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. We arrived when it opened and left when it closed. everyone seemed adequately stimulated every minute of each of those hours. impossible to retain it all, but some of it stuck. i know because i learned forever the way the human heart flows from walking through it at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia when i was in elementary school. i was fascinated with the human body ever since. sometimes i tie my BS degree to that exhibit.
once we touched and interacted with almost EVERY thing on every level, we closed out the museum. i’m not sure if the lights were blinking on and off when we finally made our way to the elevator for the parking garage, but it felt like they were. we drove through some flavorful South Chicago blocks on our way south to the suburbs where it is homecoming week. we were treated to Chicago style Deep Dish Pizzas. they are something else, that’s for sure, neither kid was sold on their merits, but i was down. it was another endurance day. lots of steps, little snacks. i was incredibly proud of how Tink and Quill held it together. It was a gold-star day.
we also listened to meditations and short stories of being cool and being kind. one evening, while we were driving in the dark and the rain, someone noticed that we hadn’t pulled our prayer flags out yet. they were nestled safely inside my bag and i was not about to pry my white knuckles off the steering wheel to fetch them from the bag. we decided that we would go through the list and send our friends kind thoughts and good wishes. the practice made a wee little tear form from my lacrimal gland. and the lump in my throat swelled up too. from the darkness behind me, my kids went through our list of beloved friends and with sincere intention shared their hopes and their love.
“i hope he feels loved and cared about” “I hope something makes him laugh out loud today” “i hope he gets some new words before we get home” “i hope she has a successful hunt” “i hope he collects enough firewood” “i hope the baby is cute and cuddly” “i hope the house building goes well” “i hope he still gets to raft before its time to ski” “i hope they move back to Dubois” “i hope they know how much we love pounding nails into the block at recess” “i hope he catches lots of fish” “i hope they know how much we love them”….
it lasted a while. i felt my grip on the wheel lighten up. i felt my whole self lighten up in fact. out the windshield in front of me to the east, and in the mirror behind me from the west, was a whole bunch of love and my wee little homies were squished smack dab in the middle of it. lucky ducks, indeed.
we are slightly travel-hungover, so taking it easy in the Pocono Mountains for the weekend. soaking in sights and smells of a Pike County autumn. drinking cider, peeling apples, and raking leaves. when i am here the lines between home and home-away-from-home get blurred. which is which? what matters?