Time to hit the road

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. –Robert Louis Stevenson

Michele and I have a road trip coming up soon. It’ll take us through what many people would consider the “boring flyover” states (Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas), but it’s a route we both enjoy. It’s long and flat and hot, but it’s a familiar drive, one that we’ve made many times before. Lots of time to talk, read, and listen to music in the car, and nothing to challenge our rather limited navigational skills–just get on 80 and stay there.

One reason we’re especially excited about this trip is that it’s the last big road trip we’ll be making before (Lord willing) the baby arrives in autumn. (Oh, and if you don’t know–we’re having a baby.) We’re trying to steer clear of the notion that Our Lives Will Change Forever once Baby arrives (yes, “Baby”–trust me, you don’t want to hear the array of Byzantine, ancient Mesopotamian, and Tolkien-derived names we’ve put on the list of Possible Baby Names), but there is that sense that we need to be extra deliberate in our enjoyment of this trip, since we might be making just a few minor lifestyle changes once our cute little broodling joins the family.

Odd as it may be, I mentally associate traveling through the Midwest (highway 80 in particular) with our marriage. While Michele and I were dating, I made the drive between west Michigan and Chicago countless times. The Saturday-morning drive to Chicago was a joy because at the end of the trek Michele was waiting; the Saturday-evening drive back to Michigan was a joy because I had just spent several hours with my future wife. (But credit where credit is due: I want to thank my indefatigable red Chevy Cavalier, the Dandy Warhols, and Depeche Mode for making those trips a bit more manageable.) Once we got married, the travel continued, along the same route even (Michigan to Chicago) but extended further out to Nebraska, where Michele’s family lives. The Cavalier, which I figure has put in its time, has been retired; but the Dandy Warhols and Depeche Mode still keep us company along the route.

For both of us, road trips also mean books. I have a little habit of choosing a book to read on each road trip we take. (Usually more than one, actually, but I always designate which book is the official Road Trip Book.) I love reading in the passenger seat as Illinois and Iowa roll by outside. Invariably the experience of reading my chosen book gets woven into the road trip experience, so that my memories of one are permanently intertwined with the other. Last year it was Alan Moore’s Watchmen; before that it was Umberto Eco’s Baudolino; Nabakov’s Pale Fire and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine (written with somebody else, I forget who) happened in there somewhere, going all the way back to our honeymoon road trip along highway 80, which was accompanied by the decidedly unromantic Six Armies in Normandy by John Keegan. This year it’s A.S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance, and I’ve already cheated by reading the first 50 pages before the road trip’s begun.
So we’ve got a road trip coming, and I’m mentally and emotionally ready for it. If Baby can hear us yet, s/he will be treated to our comfortable routine of Generation X music, political banter, and nostalgic reminiscing about the days when The X-Files was still good, people treated each other with respect, and the Fourth Crusade had not yet sacked Constantinople. I hope Baby enjoys it, because Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, the three of us have many years of these trips ahead of us.

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