Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I love to travel. Fly. Walk. Take a bus. Catch a train. Drive. Put me on an airplane and fly me anyplace. Put me in a car and let's hit the road. On more than one occasion, I have tried to compile a comprehensive list of the many cities and countries I have visited in my lifetime. That is a long list.

I have great memories of many trips my family made from Brooklyn, New York, down to North Carolina and South Carolina for family reunions. During my earlier years, we often visited a family that lived in New Haven, Connecticut - the father is an African-American man who taught German at Yale. (I didn't realize how AMAZING that was at the time. Now I get it...) We drove from our home in Brooklyn all the way out to California one summer, up to Canada once, and down to Daytona Beach, Florida, once or twice. One of my brothers went to Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and we drove him out there before his freshman year. I loved every mile of every trip. I hated, hated, HATED camping out in the tent we had, but I loved being in the van and watching the world roll by.

We had a 15-passenger van that my father used to drive children to and from school, and adults to the New York School for the Blind in Manhattan. There were four children in my family and each of us had a row/seat in the van all to ourselves. Mine was the third from the front. I would load it with pillows and teddy bears, books and paper, so that I would be alternately entertained and well-rested all journey long.

Those are fantastic memories. Well, most of them are good memories.
There is one truly horrible memory I have of one of our trips - and one very funny memory.

Only four of us made the trip out to California: my mother, my father, my brother, Darryl, and I. One night when we were in New Mexico, we stopped at a campsite and set up our tent for the night. We went swimming in the pool at the camp and then took showers before having dinner. Not long after we had finished eating, it started to rain. Hard. Thunder and lightning. The water began to rise and enter the tent. My father told us to get into the van, which was probably 15 or 20 yards from the tent. So Mom, Darryl, and I made our way to the van. Then we watched in horror as the tent poles collapsed, the tent fell, and the whole thing began to roll away in the water - with my father inside!!! Somehow he managed to get out of the tent, ball it up and shove it into the back of the van. We got the heck out of that campsite - and only then realized how deep the canyon around us actually was. It took us days to dry out all of our stuff. It took us weeks to get over the horror of watching that scene unfold and face the possibility of losing my dearly beloved Dad to a southwestern flashflood.

On that same trip, as we rolled along some hot highway out west, my father decided that we would stop at a rest area to use the bathroom and take a break. My mother was sleeping on the back row of the van. When we got to the rest area, my father woke her up and told her what we were doing. She said she didn't have to go to the bathroom and was going to just stay in the van. So the three of us jumped out of the van and took care of our business. We got back into the van, got back on the highway, and kept on going. About half an hour later, my father asked my mother where she wanted to stop for dinner.

"Honey? Sweetie? Eleanor?"

I looked over the back of my seat to the back row - and it was empty! Mom wasn't in the van. As it turned out, she had decided to go to the bathroom after all. We turned around at the next exit and went back to get her. She stood patiently outside the building at the rest area. My father was profoundly apologetic for having left her behind. She said, "I didn't know how long it would take, but I knew that at some point you would notice I was gone and you would come back for me." We laughed about that for hours.

Anywho... Coosawhatchie is the name of a town off Route 95 in South Carolina. I've seen it every time we drive down to Hilton Head. I should probably look it up on Google or some other search engine and find out where the name comes from. I assume it has some Native American significance.

That, or years ago somebody queried, "Do you remember the name of that town that is about half way between here and the coast? You know the one on the other side of where Aunt Verna lives? What is it called again? Coosy? Coosawhatchie?" And it stuck. Coosawhatchie.

There is something comforting to me about recognizing landmarks, familiar stands of trees, rest areas, and road signs as I make my way from one place to another on my travels. I enjoy looking at the license plates of all the cars that pass me as I drive along and try to imagine where people are going and why. Yes, I'm the person who always drives three to five miles per hour over the speed limit and 97% of the vehicles on the road pass me by - even the 18-wheeled trucks going uphill. I'm also one of the only people my age who has never received a moving violation - and I plan to have that fact etched into my tombstone - She Never Got a Speeding Ticket, Ever.

One of my favorite parts of taking trips is taking naps in the car - as long as I'm not driving. When I am driving, I like taking photos of my son while he's napping. I'm not sure if taking photos while driving is any less illegal than texting while driving, but so far I haven't had any problems. Perhaps I should rethink my epitaph - "She Never Got Caught."

As I drive along, I pay attention to the road crews cleaning up the trash that foolish and selfish people throw out of their cars and trucks. Often they are prisoners, out in the sunshine, picking up the detritus of road warriors too lazy to keep their trash until their next stop. I wonder how happy those men and women must be to be out in the fresh air, grateful to be outside the walls and barbed wire of the state prisons. I wonder if any of them have ever run away from the road crew site. I doubt it because the guards are always carrying shotguns.

 In my wilder daydreams, I used to think about what would happen if I stopped and offered a ride to one of the prisoners. Those daydreams usually ended up with me cut into pieces and left for dead while some hardened criminal drives away with my car, my purse, my clothes, and my journal. Nope, I've never picked up a prisoner or any hitchhiker for that matter.

While driving down to Hilton Head last Friday, I pulled out the small notebook I keep tucked in the door pocket and wrote down the word Coosawhatchie. I wanted to get the spelling right. I wanted to take a photo of the sign as well, but I was wise enough to realize that writing and taking a photo at the same time would mean that I didn't have either hand on the steering wheel. And that is not a good thing while driving along Route 95 South at 72 miles per hour (the speed limit is 70, of course). I wrote it carefully and sailed past the exit sign smiling at the budding blog idea that was running through my head. Suddenly I realized - THAT WAS MY EXIT!!! The GPS recalculated, told me to take an exit 20 miles south, and on we drove. Daniel was roused from his slumber when I said, "SHOOT, I missed my exit."

I love to travel so much that the extra twenty miles didn't bother me. And the total trip time was only about 15 minutes longer than it would have been if I had following the original plan and gotten off at... what's the name of that town again?

No comments: