“Trot trot to Boston
Trot trot to Lynn
Watch out Baby
So you don’t FALL IN!”
My road trip expectations always exceed their reality. Last Wednesday evening, after a frantic day of packing which included a trip to the tailor to pick up her favorite dress being repaired for a ripped hemline, my daughter and I set out in her aged Subaru for Boston, MA where she will begin her residency in Internal Medicine in a few weeks. The last time I did this particular road trip was 1979, when I myself set out in my bright red Camaro—armed with a six foot five male friend and apartment neighbor whose airfare home was paid by my parents in return for his perceived protection. My daughter had to settle for a Taser. Last time we barreled through Montgomery AL, Atlanta GA and Washington DC where the unfortunate Camaro had its side bashed in by a group of inebriated sailors returning from a night on the town. We drove all day and most of the night, my friend Ed’s CB radio alerting us to lurking highway patrol cars ahead. I didn’t see much of the countryside but I did learn my fare share of trucker lingo, including a meaning for the word “beaver” that in my naivete, I had never even considered.
This time was going to be different. I polled patients and friends alike regarding the best, most scenic route to take. One of my patients, a former long distance trucker, voted for a drive through the eastern part of Tennessee and the western half of Virginia, declaring definitively that the truck stops there had both the best restrooms and the best souvenirs. My dog showing friends, who regularly hit the road with Hyundais full of hounds concurred. I imagined myself lazily browsing for antiques along the back roads of Knoxville, and scanning the craft shops of Gatlinburg for handmade brooms, the better to sweep up the ever present dog hair collecting behind the furniture at home. I dispatched my daughter’s cat to the boarding kennel and bought her a cheap ticket to go retrieve him once she had settled in, since several days in a car with the perfume of kitty litter was not my idea of a vacation, no matter how well behaved or adorable the cat.
Despite a first evening arrival in New Orleans at nearly 1 am, and spending the night without either the food or beverages the city is known for, my back road dreams were still intact when we reached Knoxville late on day 2. It was the morning of the third day, when two locals laughed across the aisle at the Cracker Barrel at my mispronunciation of Sevierville (it’s SEVERE-ville, not SEAVER-ville, for the uninitiated) before they revealed that Gatlinburg, and the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park were at least a 45 minute drive each way from the highway, when it finally dawned on me that one does not drive nearly 2,000 miles in 3 days and sightsee along the way. No trips down the off ramps to sample the fare at local diners, no sweeping vistas to photograph at 80 miles an hour, no local yellow dogs rolling over to have their white bellies scratched. It was Boston or bust, and we coasted into Beantown on Saturday night of the holiday weekend, having taken nearly 5 hours to drive in pouring rain around the city of New York.
One of these years, I will climb in my old Suburban “Big Red”, 200,000 miles and counting, and really drive across this great country of ours and I will stop along the way, whenever I want for as long as I want. I will buy Cajun hot sauce, brooms made of fresh straw and local honey along the way. But for now—mission accomplished—in good time, with good company! Tomorrow, back to work with my back road daydreams.