I thought you'd all like to know that we (me, Peri, Nigel and Clyde) made it across country with very little difficulty and almost exactly on schedule.
We were smart enough to load the car up the night prior (with everything except the cats) and it's a good thing we did as it took us a few iterations to get everything in its right place (get everything to friggin' fit).
The drive that first day was relatively boring; through the desert, through Las Vegas, through more desert, etc. We entertained ourselves this day (and the other five days of the trip) listening to music, talking, trying to spot all 50 state license plates (we ended up with 48; couldn’t get either Hawaii or Delaware (Peri is convinced that Delaware simply does not exist)), and, of course, listening to Italian language CDs.
We stopped the first night in Richfield, Utah. We walked to a nearby hometown café for dinner where we had a pretty decent diner-type meal but no alcohol (being in Utah and all); also, we got a clear idea of the local mentality when we came upon a sign during our walk for a video store that said “Coming Soon! Edited Movies! No Sex, Violence or Bad Language!”
The poor cats were fairly traumatized at this point; both of them spent a great deal of time under the beds; or, rather, they tried to get under the beds but since each bed had pedestals underneath them, they were SOL.
The next morning we got up somewhat bright and early, scrounged up some coffee, loaded up E5150 and got back onto the 70 headed east towards Colorado. This day’s drive was by far the loveliest; flat desert terrain giving way to vistas of rangy looking trees and rocks which eventually rolled up into the mountains. We sang along with John Denver as we winded our way along the almost deserted road through the Rocky Mountains; amazed at the scenery, caught up in its simple beauty, and found ourselves giving in to the emotions it provoked (and, by the way, there is something called “Rocky Mountain High” and it has nothing to do with illegal substances; it’s the altitude that makes you silly and giddy and, well, a bit more relaxed and happy).
We made it into Colorado Springs around 5:00 pm. Our timing couldn’t have been worse; we got stuck in rush hour traffic on our way to my friend Shaleen and her husband Matt’s house on the NE side of the Springs. I also noticed that E5150 was gasping a bit (I later realized she was going through her own sort of Rocky Mountain High; cars need to be adjusted if you intend to drive them for long periods of time in the high altitude regions).
We enjoyed a evening of great hospitality at Shaleen and Matt’s. We sat outside on their patio and watched a Rocky Mountain thunderstorm (which breezed in and out in about 15 minutes; I’d forgotten how tempestuous the weather in Colorado can be). We had dinner; shared wonderful food, wine and engaging conversation that ranged from catching up to discussing the CA political situation. We were also treated to an impromptu recital by Matt’s daughter, Mandy, who sang “Part of Your World” from the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid” quite beautifully.
The visit came to an end all too soon (this is the bad thing about road trips, you usually only have one night in each location which makes for insufficient time to catch up with dear friends). After corralling the cats the next morning (which meant dragging them out from underneath the bed as they hissed and swiped at me), we loaded up the car, said our good-byes to Shaleen and made our way up to Denver.
We drove through Denver (Peri was excited to see Mile High Stadium which is just off the I-70); then headed east towards Nebraska. The next few hours of driving were boring and uneventful. By this point in time, the cats had given up meowing (they were quite the talkers on Day One and even a bit on Day Two) so we once again amused ourselves with music, Italian lessons and hunting for license plates.
Although it was a bit dull, we were pleased that we were on schedule to arrive in Omaha by 6:00 or so (we lost an hour the first day due to moving into different time zone and lost a second hour this day). We cruised along the I80 going east and all was well until about 30 miles or so out of Lincoln, Nebraska. All of a sudden, the traffic, which up to this point in time had been fairly light, came to a dead stop. We sat there for about 20 minutes trying to figure out what was up. People were getting in and out of their cars and trucks asking around to see if anyone knew why we’d stopped; no one seemed to. Peri and I attempted to tune into the traffic report on local radio but couldn’t get a signal. We called friends in California to see if they could go on line to see what was up. No luck. Finally traffic started to move but only to a point; about ½ mile up the road we were all forced to make a U-Turn and go back in a westerly direction. This was not so great since we weren’t really sure how to get back in an easterly direction to continue on towards Omaha. Luckily we had an atlas and also the phone number of the hotel we were to stay at in Omaha. Between these two avenues of information and from what we gleaned from some folks we met at the rest area we’d stopped at, we were able to figure out which route(s) to take to get to Omaha.
Here at least we hit pay dirt. My friend Mardie had booked us into the Sheraton in Omaha located in the downtown Market District. Che bel posto (what a nice place)! We got the cats situated (they quickly made a mess of the bathroom by throwing cat litter all over creation) and walked a few blocks away to Old Market District proper where we found a place to eat that I’d been to about three years prior called M’s Pub. We ordered Cosmopolitan Martinis and phenomenal sandwiches and relaxed, relaxed, relaxed after a grueling day of driving.
The next day we elected to sleep in (I slackened up on my Nazi-approach to road trip travel) and had a nice breakfast in the hotel dinning room. The waiter was quite friendly although he appeared to think that Peri and I were interested in alternative music because the first thing he said to us after asking if we wanted coffee was “So, what IS it with Radio Head these days, anyway?” I was quite startled by this (especially as I had no clue who or what Radio Head was).
We left Omaha around 10:30 am and continued on our trek on the I80 east. We had a relatively uneventful drive until we reached the outskirts of Chicago where we had to merge onto a toll road along with countless other cars and a multitude of semis with rude and snarling drivers (whoever it was that told me truck drivers are nice and especially like to look out for the ladies driving alone on the road were full of it). We stopped in a town near La Porte, Indiana to get gas and got stared at. Apparently two women and two cats driving around in a gold BMW was not something the folks there saw overly much! I got a nice compliment, “Beautiful car, ma’am” and one friendly cracker-looking dude made a point of coming around the side of his car to wave at me and say hello.
We pushed on and arrived at my parent’s house in Ft. Wayne around 9:30 pm. They of course were not there (they are currently in Florida with the three grandchildren) but they had offered us the option of staying in their house rather than in a hotel. We managed to get into the house without setting off the alarm and got the cats ensconced in the sun porch. We opened up a bottle of Merlot, took a few pictures of us toasting my parent’s hospitality, and sat out on the porch listening to the night sounds that only seem to exist in the mid-west. I thought I saw a fire fly and I know (when we were driving) we saw a falling star.
The next morning, after cleaning up the mess the cats had made in the sun porch (kitty litter EVERYWHERE); we loaded up and headed on our way for the short drive to Cleveland (where things definitely did not go according to plan!)
We had no problem getting to Cleveland, but once we arrived, we quickly realized we’d been faulty in our planning. We’d hoped to get into town, find a motel to drop the boys off at, and then hit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in downtown Cleveland. Well, what happened was we discovered that Cleveland is NOT a pet-friendly town; meaning, we couldn’t find a motel that would allow cats. After awhile of driving around, I made the executive decision that at least one of us should see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and since Peri wanted to see it more than I did and since I have six weeks in Italy to look forward to, I dropped her off at the museum and headed off with Nigel and Clyde to find a motel.
As it turned out, I had no better luck on the outskirts of Cleveland; I drove around for almost two hours trying to find a place that would accept all four of us. Once I figured out that we were not going to obtain a room in Cleveland, I resigned myself to driving around visiting the few sights that I cared to. I drove by where my father and stepmother Margot used to live in Pepper Pike and I drove by the TRW Headquarters on Richmond Road (Northrop Grumman has not bothered to change the signage here, it still says “TRW”). With an hour or so yet to kill before I expected Peri to call for me to pick her up, I bought an iced latte at Starbucks and Nigel, Clyde and I practiced Italian in a strip mall parking lot. It wasn’t exactly what I had wanted my visit to Cleveland to be but it could have been a lot worse.
When I collected Peri around 6:00 pm, we elected to continue on our trek east towards Pennsylvania. A few miles outside of Cleveland, we got stuck in a horrendous traffic jam. We decided to say the hell with driving to Pennsylvania and pulled off in small town called Willoughby. Luckily in Willoughby there were motels with exterior room entryways. We spent the night in a Red Roof Inn, which really wasn’t half bad, and had a decent dinner at a nearby steak house.
The next morning we headed off to New York at around 9:15 am. Other than a bit of rain on the New York Turnpike and some creepy people we ran into when getting gas in a small town off the Turnpike (which we dubbed “Deliverance Ville”) we had no problems. We reached father and Margot’s farm almost exactly on schedule; at 5:15 pm Saturday afternoon.
Even though it was tiring at times and a bit frustrating at others, the good aspects of the road trip definitely outweighed these minor irritations. For those of you who have never experienced traveling across the United States in a car, I’d certainly recommend it (however leave your pets at home!)
At the end of the road, we had the peace and serenity of Windwood Farm waiting for us as well as several days of relaxation before Peri left for New York City (Tuesday; where she was destined to meet President Bill Clinton in a Toys R Us in Times Square) and I headed for Verona (Friday; where I’m sure I’m destined for many things). My father and Margot have provided wonderful hospitality to us and the cats (who will continue to take advantage of this hospitality for the next six weeks while I learn Italian and otherwise goof off in Italy).
As you can imagine, I’m definitely looking forward to the next leg of my journey!
Vado a Italia subito!