“Dogs feel very strongly that they should always go with you in the car, in case the need should arise for them to bark violently at nothing right in your ear.” ~ Dave Barry

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.” ~ Johnny Depp

I sat down to write a post but ended up playing Spider Solitaire. I just couldn’t find the words. So I thought I’d post these wonderful pictures. After all, it’s hard to compete with a smiling dog.

                   

Music by Nicolas Jaar, “Encore”

“Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.” ~ Mac McCleary

Snow completely covering a road in Clifton, Virginia during December Blizzard 09

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. ~ H. Jackson Brown

Vintage Christmas Card

Today is the day I slated to do my Christmas cards . . . finally. Look. I used to be very anal about getting my cards out before the middle of December. In the past few years, I have found myself to be quite pleased if I managed to post them by Christmas day. This year, if they make it to the post office before New Year’s Eve, I will be content.

Anyway, we received so few cards this year that I am truly beginning to think that people just do not take the time to send things via regular post any more, and that, dear readers, is a shame. Opening Christmas cards and holiday greetings from friends and relatives is such a wonderful moment in time, even if the sender does nothing more than sign a name. I mean, at least the presence of the name in ink means that someone took at least a few seconds out of the ever-decreasing free moments in our lives to remember my family and me.

But this is not a discussion on the dearth of letters and cards that arrive in the mail, making all of the accompanying bills and flyers pale in comparison. No, this post is to update everyone on the saga of the December trip to Ohio . . .

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.  ~ Dave Barry, Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn

So, how was this latest trip to Ohio?

Oh, not bad. After the first twenty-four hours in the vehicle, your body is so numb that you really don’t care any more.

Twenty-four hours? Are you serious?

Actually, it was twenty-seven. We actually pulled out of our driveway at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 18.  We pulled into their driveway on Saturday, December 19 at 10:40 p.m.

DuPont Circle, Washington, D.C., December Blizzard 2009

No. It’s more like 696 miles, give or take, depending on which route we use.

So why so long?

I don’t know. Maybe it was because we were driving in snow, ice, and blizzard conditions. Or maybe it’s because once we got past Newport News, the traffic began to move at about 30 mph. Or, it could be that for every five miles that we traveled, we saw at least one car in a ditch, or on a tree, or upside down.

We had scanned the radar for the entire area, and the usual route through the western part of Virginia was out of the question. They were expecting 12-18 inches of snow, and there were warnings that some roads might be closed. That left going north around DC, into Maryland, and across to Ohio. Little did we know that there was no good route.

Then there was the little problem with the windshield wipers.

What happened to the wipers?

Well, at first, we thought that we needed new ones because one entire area of the driver’s side wasn’t clearing with the swipes back and forth. So when we finally made it to Fredericksburg, a trip that normally takes about two hours but took about eight (I mean, we didn’t make it to Richmond until after midnight, and that’s a 90-minute drive), we stopped at that bastion of American consumerism, Wal Mart, and bought wipers and Rain-X spray to keep the windshield from freezing because by then we realized that the wipers themselves were freezing.

That worked better, for a while, but then there was that whole Pennsylvania turnpike thing after we stopped for breakfast in Maryland. Of course, we only stopped because I threatened Corey with bodily harm if I didn’t get the chance to get out of the van and use a real bathroom. But trust me, I was only thinking of him . . .

I mean, Corey hadn’t had a break since the Wal Mart and he was getting grouchy (wonder why), so I suggested that we stop for a real meal and rest for a bit. We pulled into a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Maryland and ate. I drank about four cups of coffee and tried to convince Corey to let me drive for a while. No go. That whole male driving thing. Don’t ask me because it makes no sense whatsoever to me.

Doesn't even begin to depict the conditions

Why did you go on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?

More coffee and a bathroom. Actually, I thought that since it was such a heavily-traveled road that surely the snowplows and salters would be out (because they certainly weren’t out on the other interstates) and that we would be able to travel faster than the snow. Wrong. It was worse than I95, which was virtually a parking lot.  But by the time we stopped at one of the driver’s centers on the Turnpike, Corey was clutching the steering wheel so hard that I thought he might break it, so I decided to drive. He relented, but only from exhaustion. (More of that it’s not safe for you to drive in this, ya da ya da ya da. I lived in Blacksburg for God’s sakes. Snow is a way of life there.  Bah.)

As I was pulling out of the driver’s center, the driver’s side wiper broke, as in the arm just limped, kind of like a drunk slug. Of course that was before the flat tire.

What flat tire?

Well, we got directions from the first toll collector to an auto parts store so that we could try to fix the wiper. We found that store fairly easily, but when I was pulling into the parking lot, I ran over something, probably the curb that was buried under three feet of snow. One of the employees in the store came out and looked at the wiper and tightened it, and it seemed to be working again. 

Another stop for coffee, and then I drove off, feeling somewhat relieved until the wiper flailed and then died again as soon as I got back on the main road.

So we got off on the next exit as I was trying to see the road through a space of about 12 inches square and got directions from another toll collector for an auto store that was supposed to be eight miles down some state road. (Exactly why are there toll collectors on interstates that are paid for with tax dollars? Another story.) This particular store was not quite so easy to find, and we found a NAPA auto parts store first. We pulled in, and the guy next to us said, “Do you know you have a flat tire?” Lovely. Just lovely.

NAPA didn’t have a part of any kind, so Corey bought a can of Fix-a-Flat (another miracle product), and we tried to find the other store, but when we got there, it was closed. We pulled into the lot of a dollar store and Corey came out with the universal fix-it: duct tape. Apparently, the bolt was stripped, so Corey wrapped the tape around it, and we made a make-shift coupling.

Duct tape is a wonderful thing, just like Windex, but again, I digress . . .

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Beautiful but Treacherous

Corey went back to sleep, and I drove with the window partially down, sticking my hand out in the snow and then rubbing my face with my cold, wet hand. It was refreshing, and I knew that in spite of two gallons of coffee, I was not going to be able to drive that much longer. I just don’t have that y-chromosone-related driving non-stop thing going on. I made it to Washington, West Virginia (there’s a Washington in every state, by the way), which is right on the border of Ohio. By this time, it was about four on Saturday afternoon, and I had told Corey’s parents in the last update not to expect us before four.

Obviously that anticipated arrival time had come and gone.

Then what happened?

The duct tape held for the most part. We had wipers. The Fix-a-Flat seemed to be holding, and the snow finally lessened almost to a stopping point. There was the one incident around Columbus, though.

What happened in Columbus?

Corey missed the bypass, so we went through Columbus, and then we missed our turn. Consensus was to take one of the state roads the rest of the way in. I think that was when I started to see things.

It was probably due to a combination of the coffee, need to go to the bathroom, exhaustion, and the fact that my teeth felt as if cotton balls were glued to them. Of course by this time, we were all punchy from exhaustion. Everything was funny, even when it wasn’t.

But did you get there safely?

Safely is a relative term. No, we didn’t go off the road, although we did spin once. Our bodies were in one piece, but the van had all kinds of sensor lights flashing at us by the time we pulled into the driveway. And I believe that I aged at least two years in two days. Other than that and the fact that when I finally got into bed I had the spins (now that hasn’t happened in a long time), everything was fine.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” ~ Don Williams, Jr.

Plowed Roads on the Way Home

So ends the saga of our trip to Ohio. Our journey home to Virginia was the complete opposite. We left at 10:30 in the morning with the stated goal being 10 a.m., rather a record for us. We drove to Marion to get the wiper part, and then we headed down to Cincinnatti to go to a branch of Joseph Beth Booksellers, my favorite bookstore in the world, well, at least in this country. The best one is the original JB, though, in Lexington Kentucky.

We ambled through the store for about an hour, and then we had a nice relaxing dinner at Don Pablo’s, a chain Mexican restaurant that actually has quite good food. Apparently, Tuesday is all-you-can-eat tacos. Corey and Brett each had their fill. I abstained from coffee, and we got back on the road by our goal time. We took our preferred route, which is down Route 35 to I64 through part of West Virginia and into Virginia. No storms, no ice, no car problems (well, other than the sensor lights still going off in the van), no major drama—just the way I like it.

I have to say that I do enjoy visiting Corey’s family, and the time that we spend there is always full, but I really, really hate actually making the trip. Corey and I thought about it, and I don’t think that we have ever had an uneventful trip to Ohio, whether it’s the weather, car trouble, more car trouble, getting lost, not having enough money for gas, whatever. So with that in mind, we have decided that next time, flying is the way to go.

More later. Peace.

Traditional German Christmas Carol (no, not ready to stop posting them, yet): “Still, Still, Still”

 

“Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness.” ~ Ray Bradbury

Kayaking at First Landing State Park by Karen Roberts

Kayaking at First Landing State Park by Karen Roberts

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” ~ Susan Heller 

Well, this is the latest on our planned trip to Ohio: Corey bought the new tire today and had all of the tires rotated and balanced. The Trooper is still acting funny, which gives all of us a warm, happy feeling.

I think that we are going to try to change the brakes and fix the one window while we are in Ohio and Corey can get some help from his brother and his cousin, both of whom know a lot about cars. At least, that was the plan yesterday.

We both tend to get a little anxious and testy before these trips because it’s not just a three hour trip to D.C. It’s a good 12 hours in the car, through mountains. While the Trooper is a very comfortable SUV that does reasonably well on gas, she’s been driven hard for the last few years, and she just isn’t what she used to be. I’m hoping that this will be her last long trip.

“And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel:  it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.” ~ Dave Barry

Pew Island Trail
Pew Island Trail at Indian Lake, Ohio

We’ve decided to get a motel room  in Sidney, which is outside of Bellefontaine (a lovey French word which is pronounced Bell Fountain in Ohio???). It will be easier for everyone because our arrival is supposed to be a surprise for Corey’s dad, and while Chad, one of Corey’s brothers, had invited us to stay in his house, it’s really too much for the three of us plus Tillie to show up at his house, which is not any bigger than ours, and his girlfriend’s kids have all been bitten by dogs, which makes them dog-shy.

Tillie wouldn’t bite anyone, but try to get a child who sees a big black dog to understand that. It’s simply not fair to the children.

So we’ve found a fairly inexpensive hotel that is pet-friendly and is on the way to Indian Lake, which is where we are supposed to meet everyone on Saturday. 

In spite of all of the pre-travel stress, I know that Corey is looking forward to seeing all of his family and spending some quality time with them. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Indian Lake as the last time that we were there, I was unaware that there was a nature trail. I’m also hoping to rent a kayak.

I haven’t been kayaking in years, but it is not terribly strenuous to do. For a while, I harbored a desire to own my own kayak and taking it out on the Chesapeake Bay. Ah well. So much for that.

“What do nudists wear on casual Fridays?” ~ A.J. Esther 

So those are the big travel plans. Eamonn’s job will be to look after the two Jack Russells, who are staying home, and to take care of the house. I don’t anticipate any parties, but with Eamonn, I would never try to predict.

Aside from the upcoming trip, there really isn’t much to talk about. Corey and I spent hours yesterday doing laundry, getting caught up with all of that as Brett informed us that he did not have any shorts. He has shorts, but they were all in the dirty clothes hamper.

Poor Brett. Eamonn manages to acquire clothes that aren’t his on a continual basis, so every once in a while, I take Brett in Eamonn’s room (when Eamonn is gone, of course) and ask him to look through the clothes to see if anything is his. I must clarify, though. Eamonn acquires clothes from everywhere. We have strange things show up in our laundry all of the time—by strange, I mean that I know with certainty that I never purchased these clothes and that I have never seen them before.

blue heron
Blue Heron at Indian Lake, Ohio

My mom used to hate that when I was in school. I would come out into the living room wearing a shirt, and she would say, “Where did that come from?” The answer would usually be Sarah. But mom would go on a rant about how I had plenty of clothes of my own, and didn’t she buy me enough clothes, and what would people think?

I always loved that one: what would people think? Like the guy at the mall was going to know that the shirt I was wearing wasn’t mine? I dunno. My mom had some major quirks about clothes and jewelry. I suppose that she still does, considering that she always has a kind word to say about whatever I happen to be wearing, which is really annoying because she is always trying to give me an outfit that she bought for herself that doesn’t work.

Consider: My mother is about five inches shorter than I am. Her tastes run to fancy t-shirts. She tried to give me an ecru shirt and pants with some kind of embroidery on it and then became really pissed when I told her that I cannot wear ecru becase it makes me look yellow. She said that the set was beige and had never heard of people who can’t wear certain colors.

This is my mother, who has witnessed certain colors of clothes turn me a wonderful shade of jaundice.

I think not.

“When in doubt, wear red.”~ Bill Blass 

I really wish that I had some chocolate to sweeten my disposition because right now, I’m feeling pretty gnarly. Not happy. Not angry. Just gnarly. Only way I know how to describe it.

I’m pretty sure that a chocolate shake from Sonic would help the situation. That or it would give me a headache. Ah, life’s choices. The rich pageantry.

More later. Peace.

I wrote this post last night but forgot to post it. Amazing. Don’t know where my mind is. Then realized that once again, a paragraph had disappeared from my earlier version. My computer has a ghost.