Hitting the Road with Deb Eileen

I trust by this point in the week I shouldn’t have to tell you to get into your cars and make a road trip to your local bookstore to pick up a copy of Driving Sideways.

My longest road trip was a cross country odyssey- Boston to Vancouver. Devoted husband and I had been married only a few months when he took a new job in Vancouver. Being that we were broke and still paying off the cheese balls and fruit kabobs from the wedding, we couldn’t afford to ship our car to our new home. We were going to drive it. From the East Coast to the West Coast. In December. Ah young foolish cheap love….

We planned to make an adventure out of it with stops at The Corn Palace, The Largest Ball of Twine, and of course Wall Drug. Alas, due to mover issues we weren’t able to leave Boston when we wanted and we had a mere four days to get across the country. This meant 15 hour days in the car with barely a restroom break let alone time to see the sights. With every billboard we passed for the Wall Drug, I wept just a tiny bit.

You discover a lot about the person you are with on a long road trip. After the first few hundred miles you exhaust the everyday conversations and you either discover that you don’t really have much to say to each other, or, if you’re really lucky, you realize you’ll never run out of things to talk about it. I don’t remember everything that we talked about on that trip, but I know I felt like I could have talked to him forever. I knew I loved him before we took the road trip – but somewhere on a road in the middle of America – I found out that I also really liked him.

Driving Sideways is the perfect road trip book, and I never once got tired of listening to what Jess had to say. Her humor and heart were in every line. If I’m ever driving cross country again- she’s invited for sure!

Now tell us- what was your best road trip?
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11 thoughts on “Hitting the Road with Deb Eileen

  1. Understanding “best” to mean “makes the best story,” my hands-down winner is the first road trip I took with my husband (then, brand new boyfriend). We drove from our college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Richmond, Virginia for the three-day Easter weekend. He wanted to introduce me to his family, since we’d been dating for three weeks already.

    First step was to put up a notice on a bulletin board to see if we could recruit another DC/Virginia student to share expenses. We got one, a Navy ROTC from Hampton Roads. His girlfriend would drive the two hours to Richmond and meet us at a designated McDonald’s. We projected our time of arrival at 7 a.m., driving overnight as soon as our last class let out at 4 p.m. (Oh, major detail: This was in ’86, before college students had cell phones.)

    Next, we hopped a bus to the airport to rent a car. Fortunately, I was over 21 and had a credit card…because my new boyfriend wasn’t and didn’t, and the people at Hertz were not about to rent him a car. Neither were the people at the other counters he visited in sequence before I stepped up and pulled out the plastic.

    From the airport, we hit the road. Or roads, according to the directions John had gotten from a DC-native friend. And such easy directions to remember: from I-94, we’d hit 90, then 80, then 70 (neat mathematical progression), bypassing DC on 270 and 495 to 95.

    We arranged the shared driving schedule. I went first, because I was the only one with experience navigating the Tri-State Toll Road. Shift change was at 9 p.m., when ROTC took over. John and I spent the next five hours kissing in the back seat. At the next shift change, about 2 a.m., I moved up and napped in the front seat. Or rather, I tried to nap, but kept jerking awake as John repeatedly hit the gravel shoulder. “Are you falling asleep?” I asked, also repeatedly. “No, I’m fine,” was the equally repeated answer. (This is a major clue to the story’s punchline.)

    Eventually I did fall asleep, waking at 8 a.m., the appointed rendezvous time with ROTC’s girlfriend. The morning sun was brilliant on rolling hills patchworked with thick woods and verdant pastures. “Is this Richmond?” I asked. “No, I think we’re still in Pennsylvania,” was the answer soon confirmed by an official I-80 sign.

    Five minutes later, I noticed another sign: “New York 75.” As a former geography bee winner, I was pretty sure the most direct route from Wisconsin to Virginia does not pass through New York. We started looking for a gas station. This is when ROTC woke up and started looking at his watch. After a half hour, we found a a cheerful (jeering?) gas station attendant who informed us that the nearest big city was not Richmond, nor even Washington, but Scranton, PA. Evidently, someone forgot the “76” that breaks up the nice, neat “90-80-70” Interstate directions. So we spent the next three hours touring the central Pennsylvania mountain region on a series of skinny, snaky roads. I reclaimed the wheel for another 5-hour shift, and then ROTC took his (no backseat makeout session this time, thank-you-very-PENNSYLVANIA-much). Finally we pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot where ROTC’s girlfriend, in true future Navy wife fashion, had been faithfully waiting for almost nine hours with no communication.

    Just two days later, we bummed a ride from John’s mom to the Richmond airport, where we rented another car, which I drove back to Milwaukee all by myself. Because ROTC had decided to fly back on his Navy discount. And because I had learned from John’s brothers that before this trip, his driving experience consisted of his road test and the 2-mile round trip for senior prom…neither of which involved gravel shoulders or Interstate directions.

  2. Oh Eileen – that’s a great story. Sometimes being broke works FOR you! My best road trip is yet to come. It WILL BE (dammit) the 10 hour bus ride that husband and I will be taking to NYC in August. We will have so much fun, playing sudoku, telling each other jokes and snuggling together, knowing that we weren’t just being cheap by taking this route instead of flying, we were doing it to have 10 (x 2 – it is a return trip) hours of each others undivided attention. Oh I just can’t wait!

  3. Driving across Ireland with hubby and the Cooks, of course! To the left, to the left, we’re all going to die.

  4. I love it!!! You are SOOOO right about your road trip partners. E, did you actually WANT to go to Wall Drug? Ha!

    Kay, When I got to the part about ROTC girlfriend waiting for NINE HOURS at a MCDONALDS, I nearly fell out of my chair. That poor woman!! But it was quite funny. 🙂

  5. I think the best road trip I ever took was with my husband, son and daughter. We were delivering our daughter to University in Iowa — from Canada. No idea what to expect as we were not seasoned cross border travellers. My husband and son had made a list of hightlights to see on the way. They all involved food – Popeyes, Cracker Barrel, White Castle, certain chocolate bars. Culinary high spots (my tongue is firmly in my cheek)not available up here in the Great White North. We made a video of the entire trip and I still drag it out when she comes home to visit. We talked the entire way – family memories and plans for the future for everyone. It was concentrated quality time. The guys did get their tour as well. After getting spectacularly lost in Chicago, we spent a lovely couple of hours visiting with some folks at Popeyes. We’ve since made the journey many times ( my husband will not fly!) and I have an amazing American son in law!

  6. My best road trip?

    ANY road trip taken with my dear husband is the best road trip. I cannot choose between them, because he makes them ALL so darned fun! 🙂

    We have driven to Niagara Falls, then down through New York State to New York City, and back to Illinois. We have traveled through Arkansas and Tennessee, gone to Dallas, driven all around Missouri and Iowa, Indiana and Michigan . . . and they were all special.

    Sorry – – can’t choose between them – – but as long as he is my road trip partner, it will be FUN!

  7. Kalynne- I loved your road trip story!

    Jamie- ah I remember the driving in Ireland all too well. In particular when your husband took us the wrong way through a road about. The other driver’s faces were priceless.

    Joanne! Bus trip! You have the added bonus of checking out your fellow passengers.

    Jess- Yes, I did want to go to the Wall Drug. It is one of my great regrets that we didn’t make it.

    Luanne- a road trip based around food- a girl after my own heart. Love those popeye biscuits.

    Liz- That’s the truth isn’t it? As long as you’re going with someone you like then all the trips are fun.

  8. Oh, I love hearing about everyone’s road trips! I’m supposed to be writing right now, so I can’t share mine (or even figure out what it is) until later, but you’ve got me thinking at least.

    Back to the grind. I mean, the wonderful work of art I’m creating. Sigh.

  9. I’m so late but I enjoyed your sweet story. And Kalynne–sheesh! Lots of fun road trips. Probably most enjoyed the hitchhiking from Zaire to Kigali Rwanda, though in tight quarters picking up very smelly people along the way…my olfactory system struggled with that aspect of it 😉

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