Back east

I left Portland on Saturday morning around 8 am. I had packed the van up the night before so I just had to get gasoline.

If you've been reading this blog then you know I'm a baby when it comes to long-distance driving. I don't like to drive and I hate driving for more than an hour. Much of this year involved inching across the country hour by hour.

But for this east-bound trek I wanted simply to get it over with. I decided I'd push 'the limit' of my tolerance and see just how long I could stand it.

The result: On Saturday, I drove 12 hours. Sunday, another 12. Monday, 10. Tuesday, 10. And Wednesday, 8.

Those totals include 4-5 stops per day at a rest area to jump out, go to the bathroom, splash some water on my face, buy a coffee, and jump back in the van. On the first 3 days I stopped at 12 hours because that was around when it started to get dark out and my night-vision is poor.

The pictures on this entry show how quaint and often beautiful the rest areas along Route 84 and Route 80 are. The first picture of the cows is in Idaho. The one above, of me on the ledge, is the southern Idaho/Wyoming border.

To keep my mind occupied while driving, I listened to Podcasts on my iPod. I'd never bothered with Podcasts before; but they're really cool! Now I know why everybody else was always raving about them. The most enjoyable listening was from the "Well Told Tales" channel, which offers short stories of the sci-fi, horror, or hard-boiled variety, read aloud by professional actors, sometimes with sound effects.

Above is a truck stop I stayed at in Ohio. By the time I pulled in each night I was usually pretty fried. I'd have just enough energy left to eat a sandwich, have a drink, put on the radio, set my alarm, and pass out.

Above: self-portrait called "rest stop blues".

The hardest segment was crossing Pennsylvania on the last day. It took me nearly 7 hours. It was mountainous, rainy, and I was surrounded by trucks the whole way. Then when I crossed the Delaware River and hit New Jersey, I saw an epic traffic jam on I-80 Westbound. It was 3-4 lanes deep and at least 7 miles long. It was, I'm assuming, all the people who work in NJ/NY but live in Penn trying to get home.

Above: My cat Summit.

I'll be in NJ for a few days, then RI, then NJ again, then I'm heading down to North Carolina (and I'll post entries here about it all).

There was a very strange moment once I got into NJ and got to my mom's house. I went into the little guest room where I usually stay when visiting. It was around dusk, raining, and cold out, and I could see the van parked in the driveway, and it brought me back to when I was here in October. That was before I'd done any van-dwelling but was about to embark on the adventure. I was all anxious about shit that didn't turn out to be important at all. I had no idea what was to come. I remember sitting in that room reading about camping in the Pine Barrens. There was a tremendous feeling of uncertainty; I was on the precipice.

Now it's essentially over. Interestingly, when I think of the whole trip and try to conjure one essential image, I think back to those first few nights on the road, in the Pine Barrens of NJ, in November. Cooking the first meal. Sitting bundled-up and half-frozen in the van listening to country radio and writing in my journal. Hiking in Wharton State Forest. Maybe those days made such an impression on me because I was so electrified by the trip finally starting after so many delays and doubts.

I was thinking today how funny it feels to be living in a house all of a sudden. I feel acutely aware of the floor, and the feeling of other floors below me; of the sound of electronics humming; of the safety, of the mindlessness, of the ease.

Last night I woke up from a dream and looked out the window. It was raining hard. I could see the van down there in the driveway getting soaked. I felt guilty; it was as if it were my close friend, rather than my ride, trapped out there in the storm. I thought about all the nights the van had kept me warm and dry (more or less) in storms.

And I reflected on how I never really named the van, and I never got into the ritual of personifying it like some people do to their vehicles. I never called it "her" or "she" etc. I never talked to it.

So looking at it out there in the rain, I sent it a little thought: Thank you.


MsBelinda said...

I have been reading your blog for a while and I must of missed the part where you hate to drive more than an hour. Kind of strange for a person that sets out see the country in his van.

I liked what you said about how you felt guilty that your van had to sit out in the rain while you were dry...I think you bonded with your van whether you ever named her or not.

Don said...

I've been following your blog too and, if you stop blogging, I'll miss you & your adventures. It's been a great trip.

What's in your future? Any ideas? Gonna sell the van or keep it? Go back to school or work or???

kate said...

oh, man, i can so relate. this last trip of mine cross country to the east coast was grueling. i don't know how you did 12 hour days....i was fried after 8 or 9. this is a great p[ost, sand a great blog.....i'll be watching for more!

alexisv said...

I remember coming home after a road trip to New Mexico- the final push through PA was the longest stretch of any trip that I can remember. It's almost NJ, almost home, but not quite there. And it just keeps going.

kate said...

yeah, my homebase is NE PA....80 is like the never-ending road....at least i don't have to go into nj on 80....that's some crazy driving!