That was a long effing drive.

Whew. Finally ensconced in Shelley’s aggresively air-conditioned apartment. Yay! Just downed so much Trader Joe’s Cilantro-Jalapeno hummus, which may be the most brilliant thing ever invented. Now to the nitty gritty.

Left Jersey around 4 pm. 1-80 was beautiful driving into the Water Gap across Pennsylvania; shafts of sunlight as the sun set through cumulus clouds, and a rainbow in front of me for a good hour. It was amazing. The rental had satellte so I was listening to the Dead much of the way.

I got gas right at the end of the Pocono range and kept on rolling. Switched to the Outlaw Country channel and caught Alison Moorer (Shelby Lynnes half-sister and, married to Steve Earle) doing a song about Alabama, called “Alabama Song.” No, not the Doors/Brecht song. This was in the folk tradition, sort of a cross between Girl from the North Country and Scarborough Fair, and was utterly gorgeous.

It’d gotten reasonably dark by the midpoint of Pennsy. I had just gotten down to the bottom of my Thermos of Mama’s good coffee, and was in need of a lil rest and refill, when the bright neon of Sapp Bros., PA beckoned me:

Off I went, up a little curve to the diner, Aunt Lu’s,  on the top of a hill.  It had been years since I’d been in that cafe. It has a little five-seater counter, with many truckers sidled up swapping stories and career  waitresses cackling. I walked up to the counter and asked the waitress if she could fill my Thermos. She laughed and said, “Why, sure, I can fill up that big ‘ol Thermos of yours!” Referring of course, to the fact, that my Thermos is rather diminutive…Ali picked it up at the local church sale. It’s from the 70’s, portable, with a glass liner. Probably one pint. I smiled back at her; she went on, “Why, I had one that size in grade school in my little lunchbox!” The truckers didn’t miss the opportunity. “Flo, when you were a kid, grade school hadn’t been invented yet!” “Flo, when you were a kid you went to a one-room schoolhouse!”  On that last one she stared down the trucker and said, sarcastically, “Yeah right.” Awkward pause…then I said, well, yes, it’s vintage from the 70s, my sister got it at the church sale. She smiled, said something I don’t remember about the memory of her own Thermos, then cleaned out my Thermos with hot water and filled it up. Said, “You have a good drive now,” and gave me my coffee with a wink and a smile, and didn’t charge me for the fill. I left her a tip and while I put milk in, the truckers and other waitresses started talking all about the 70s, and their childhoods, and their lunchboxes…it was really cool that Ali’s little Thermos sparked so many memories.

I got back on the highway and soon hit the highest point on 80 east of the Mississippi. The highest point. Ah.

The road rolled on. Late in the game in PA.  I hit traffic–there were at least two hours of driving through construction zones with a max speed of a miserable 40 mph. Yuck.  I found myself in Ohio and, needing another break, pulled off in Lordstown. What I didn’t know is, it’s the site of a GM factory, and there’s no easy route back onto the highway and no services. And so spooky. There was no second shift, so there were no lights on in half the parking lot and all of the traffic lights were out. It was rather daunting. I pulled off again near Lorain Road, outside of Akron, and made a serendipitous wrong turn, and found myself at the entrance of a killer double picture drive-in, the AutoRama. Watched a few seconds of “Cats and Dogs 2” then back to a rest area, where I grabbed the pastrami sandwich Mama had picked up for me earlier in the day and fortified myself the Jewish way..with preserved meat.

At some point along the Ohio travels, I realized I’d probably hit Indiana around sunrise. This led to me sketching out a song called “Indiana Sunrise”, which follows the classic Jeremiah formula of “There’s a girl one is coming from or going to, inclement weather, and there’s a road, a car, or train involved.” Sigh.

Later, outside of Sandusky, the road started smelling really bad. I mean, REALLY bad. Like B.O. bad. I mean, why?

At 3.17 AM I entered Wood County. Heh heh. Followed by Cummings Road. Heh.

And apparently, Ohio Route 420 leads to a locale called “Stony Ridge.” Chuckle.

At 4:20 AM I entered Indiana and saw two shooting stars! The dawn began to rise and I had just finished the last of my Sapp Bros. coffee. I started to get REALLY tired and decided to find a location to grab some shuteye. I got off the highway at Purdue University, and figured there must be a secluded space somewhere there, as college students have a propensity for that kind of thing you don’t want others to see. Nothing too hidden on campus, so I found a little spot tucked in behind a half-built osteopathy center across from the campus entrance. I figured I’d be ok here; no one could see me from the road and it wasn’t even close to starting time for construction workers. I wasn’t even asleep five minutes before I heard a car pulling in. Then another. So I quickly got up and split. It wasn’t a cop; dudes in cars. Probably just early to work workers. Or clandestine encounters. I didn’t stick around to find out.

I made it, somehow, about 8 miles down the road where there was a regular ol’ service area. Pulled in, passed out. Woke up an hour later with the sun in my eyes and covered in sweat..the sun had come up hard and fast.  Pulled myself up, went inside, cleaned up at the restroom, and grabbed some coffee at the counter. (This one wasn’t free.)

Amazingly, though by now it was past 8 AM, I didn’t hit any traffic coming into Chi on the Dan Ryan. Unprecedented. Found a parking space right outside of Shelley’s, and following hummus, passed out til 3 PM….

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One Response to “That was a long effing drive.”

  1. jeremiahmusic Says:

    Also forgot to mention the INCREDIBLE storms through the first half of Ohio…it was so bad I was going about 35 mph for a good while. OR stopped. I have never seen rain that hard–of course, there were douches in fast cars taking their lives for granted while I was struggling to see the road a keep my self from hydroplaning…

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