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Go Beyond the Truck Stops

Janet and I drove our son Rob’s SUV from San Diego to Maryland…we are storing it for him for while he and his family are stationed in Japan. I posted pictures and updates to social media throughout the trip, calling it Rob’s Truck’s Cross-Country Adventure. Now that we are home, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the thoughts and reflections that came to me during the drive. I had no great epiphanies to speak of, no deep reflections on the meaning of life…mostly just random thoughtlets that came and went. Here are 10 of my thoughtlets that seemed to recur most often during the drive, and as you can tell, they are pretty random:

1. We live in a beautiful country. It is large and it is diverse, to include its landscape, its attractions, its people, and its cultures. This much is clear just from a truck stop view of things, and I am eager to go beyond the truck stops on a future trip.

2. We (me and Janet) need to spend more time exploring our own country as we continue to explore the world. Our bucket list of domestic destinations has grown.

3. SIRIUS/XM radio has access to virtually all the music ever recorded in the world, yet they broadcast the same 8 hour repeating playlist featuring the same musicians every day. What’s up with that?

4. 24-hour cable news is a toxic environment. They focus on scarcity when we live in a country of abundance, fear when there is so much hope out there and so much to be hopeful about, and division when there is so much to unite us. I had the radio tuned to music all day, and even though listening to Michael McDonald got tiresome, it was way better than listening to the news. I didn’t miss it.

5. People west of the Mississippi know how to drive. People east of the Mississippi don’t.

6. From Arizona to Tennessee, during each of our rest stops masks were virtually non-existent, in spite of the fact that our trip was at the height of COVID in 2021. That isn’t something to celebrate when hospital ICUs throughout the region were full of unvaccinated people suffering from preventable cases of COVID-19, yet celebrate it they did, and still do. Vaccinate and mask up when called for.

7. I81 in Virginia sucks. We drove a total of over 2800 miles over five days, which included a half-day detour up to see the Grand Canyon. In all that time and distance, we only lost 1 hour and 45 minutes to traffic. All but 15 minutes of that was lost because of the 161 mile stop and go, rolling backup we encountered on I81 in Virginia. No accidents. No disabled vehicles. No lane closures due to construction. Nothing. How can this country move traffic through 2639 miles without delay, but Virginia can’t fix the problems on a 161 mile stretch of I81?

8. For all the noise about a COVID-driven shortage of truck drivers being responsible for shortages of everything else we hold dear in our consumer existence, there was no shortage of trucks anywhere along our route. I have never seen so many trucks on the highways.

9. Janet played the license plate game while I drove…she did impressively well, noting tags from all states except Alaska and Hawaii. I noted that most of the states have done what Maryland has and monetized their auto tags. Gone are the days of a single tag design that you either liked or, in most cases hated. Just about every state offered multiple tag designs for drivers to choose from, for a premium I’m sure.

10. Driving cross-country doesn’t get old. I first drove from California to Maryland when I was in the Army, after I completed language school in Monterey. That was back in 1979. This most recent trip was 2021 and even though the experience doesn’t get old, it does get harder as I get old.

Next time we’ll have to allow more than five days so we can get off the highway and explore more of what America has to offer. Go beyond the truck stops!

(Originally posted on 24 Aug 2021)

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