Our December Road Trip

Thursday, January 8, 2009

(Photo: Rural Pennsylvania scene, Dec 2008)

In the 2 weeks during our Christmas – New Year vacation, I drove almost 2000 miles. Majority of this was the more than 1400+ miles 2-way drive from our northern Chicago home to the houses of my 3 sisters and their families in Maryland.

Eventful Drive. Our drive to Maryland was quite eventful. We started after midnight in a day where there were almost 12 inches of snow in most of the Midwest. I knew we had to leave after the snow settled and the roads were cleared because in another 24 hours, another snowstorm was scheduled to arrive. I was more than scared – so scared that I downloaded a free “last will” template from the Internet; and hurriedly customized one for my wife and one for myself. We had 2 neighbors witness it being signed at 1am, minutes before we hit the road. It was our first time to do our wills.

I worked from home that day and slept for 4 hours during the evening so I should not be sleepy while driving. That was the plan. Bad plan though. At 6am in the morning, we were at the Ohio turnpike, going 60+ mph in not so ideal visibility, and I was slapping my face and hitting my front legs with my fists, and chewing on some candies just to keep my eyes open while maneuvering through what seemed to be mostly 18-wheeler traffic. My wife and I were slightly amused to observe that one truck that seemed driven by a drunk / sleepy driver attempt to overtake other vehicles. To make matters worse, I was driving on borrowed glasses. At a stop-over in Indiana, I was wiping some water droplets from one of my lenses when it fell and I couldn’t find it even after 30+ minutes of searching. My eldest and a kind stranger joined in the search to no avail. My wife’s glasses were a bit weak for me. I could see well on the road, but the signs were not as clear in the dark as my own glasses would have allowed.

I couldn’t take it anymore so I took my sister’s advise, and the best advise ever for sleepy drivers – we pulled over at the nearest service plaza, turned the engine off, set my alarm for a 30 minute sleep, curled up and slept. I woke up after 20 minutes with a very clear head. Daybreak was starting to make the roads clearer. I hit the road again and didn’t get sleepy all the way to our destination. I shudder as I think back on possible scenarios while driving in that sleepy state. For sure, God has sent angels to travel with us on that trip. There were 2 or 3 moments when I actually closed my eyes for almost a second while driving on the highway. It was madness. Good thing my children slept through the whole ordeal. They woke up around 10am and asked for breakfast. I was more than happy to oblige.

All hail the GPS. A sister called us to check on our progress while we were near the Pennsylvania – Maryland border. Bad timing – it made me miss my exit. So, our little faithful GPS re-calculated and showed us a route that made us go through narrow roads and farmlands. It was charming in the first 15 minutes – my wife took pictures of the sceneries while we coasted along. (See pictures above, and at the end of this post). Then, my children noticed something – there were houses, parked vehicles, and livestock roaming around. But where were the people? There was no soul in sight. They were starting to say that the place was deserted and haunted. To make matters worse, we passed by a cemetery that had tombstones on both sides of the road. Eerie! Good thing it was early in the afternoon and the sun was high. I couldn’t imagine driving through that route in the evening. After 30+ minutes of rural driving, our GPS led us back to the highway. It’s a really neat gadget – this GPS.

Our Drive Back. After our Maryland vacation, I prepared for our trip back to metro Chicago by sleeping relatively early in the evening. We started at 5:30 in the morning after a lovingly prepared full breakfast (by my sister) with strong coffee. It must have been the events during our drive to Maryland 2 weeks ago that my wife finally found the courage to drive on the interstate. (Between the two of us, she is the more experienced, and yes, the better driver. She actually was the one who taught me how to drive in the Philippines, and she has driven the Manila – Baguio route several times.) I was pleasantly surprised to see her behind the wheel and take us from Pennsylvania into the Ohio turnpike. I was even able to nap while she was behind the wheel. I drove most of Ohio and into Indiana, but from there, she drove us all the way home. It was our fastest time so far. We spent a total of 12.5 hours on the road, including 1.5 hours of brunch and 2 other bathroom breaks. It was the trip that my kids were least bored. They slept for most of the morning and the afternoon too.

A Future Road Trip? I have this idea of a road trip that I think my family would like to take when my kids are older. We have done the Chicago – East Coast drive four times already. How about doing a Chicago – California drive? I did a Mapquest search from Chicago to San Diego and learned that it was a 31 hour, 2000+ mile drive. I’d like to make it relaxing and do some sight seeing along the way. Our route would take us through Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, then California. I’m envisioning it to be a 14-day vacation, with a maximum of 6-7 hours of driving per day; and an every other day driving to enable us to stay at a place for 2 nights, and use the interval days to sightsee. We would reach our destination on Day 9, and spend the rest of the vacation in San Diego.

We would be so nauseated with driving that on Day 14, we’d just hop on a plane and fly back to Chicago. Does anyone want to join us?

Sharing some pictures where we got lost in Pennsylvania.
You be the judge. Do you see any living humans at all?


Anonymous January 15, 2009 at 6:41 PM  

Wow! What an adventure. Glad you guys are alright after all those incidents.