Sunday Opinion: So Fun To Feel Free

I do not mind the 1.2 mile trip from my house to work.  I can stand just about  anything for 1.2 miles.  Right now, my neighborhood streets are a series of frozen tire tracks-for 5 blocks my ride to work is slippery slick and very bumpy.  Those neighbors with their cars parked on the street-they are tempting fate.  I can handle the rain, the sleet, the ice, the snowstorms-just about anything, for 1.2 miles.  You may gather from this that I am not a happy traveller; you are so right. Any trip over 1.2 miles is an ordeal. I dislike planes, airports, buses, taxis, metro cars, rest stops, gas station restrooms, giant trucks bearing down on me-traffic jams.  I really prefer to walk.  One hour into a road trip I am ready to ditch that road.  I can barely tolerate a sunny dry day driving on an interstate, much less a dark, rainy, snowy, icy or windy day. 

Travelling this past week was so much different than 40 years ago.  The weather reports then were completely unreliable.  The roads were poorly marked.  A winter storm meant treacherous conditions for days. Salted roads-maybe.  If you were lucky. My first car-a Dodge Aspen circa 1971- was in no way equipped to handle winter weather challenged roads, but nonetheless I drove long distances in the winter.  I still remember harrowing trips from North Carolina to Detroit for Christmas.  No matter what route I took, I would arrive with every muscle aching, and shaken. I disliked the Christmas holiday, as it meant I would have to endure an arduous trip home.  Be advised, I took trips to the upper peninsula of Michigan before 1-75, and the Mackinac Bridge were built.  OK, I did not cross America in a covered wagon, but I grew up thinking travel was barely the next best thing after having a root canal.  My trips were an experience at the mercy of nature I have never really forgotten. 

My experience with sharing the road with truckers has not much changed in 40 years.  I realize they see to delivering no end of goods all over this country. They transport fruit and vegetables, vehicles, livestock, sweaters and shoes, tools-Rob did go on about this the minute I got grumpy about it on our way north.  They rule the interstates.  Back then, as now, they drive fast and fearlessly.  Why shouldn’t they?  They have gobs of tires in contact with the road, and they are eminently weighty.  No weather daunts them. They gun it, at every and any opportunity.  They drench my car with whatever weather they plow through.  They slow to a crawl on mountain roads going up, and bear down like a freight train on mountain roads going down.  Unnerving, this.  My only near death experience coming back from Atlanta-a truck passing me on a curve on an icy and snowy I-75 in Cincinnati drifted over into my lane.  The back of his truck came inches from slamming into me. I could see his blue back end looming close in my preipheral vision. I had no where to go, as I was driving under an overpass. I probably could have breaked hard-but my driver’s instinct tells me never to brake hard on ice. Physics and dumb luck prevented a collision.  Though Rob is unlikely to get overwrought under any circumstances, he noticed.  It was 15 miles before my heart rate slid back to normal.

In retrospect, I could have saved myself some trouble.  My Chevy Suburban is a pretty amazing vehicle.  As I intimated yesterday, it is heavy.  4 wheel drive and stabilo-track keeps those wheels on the ground in bad weather.  My knowledge of trucks-how they are designed, and how they work, is just about nothing.  I know stop, go, turn, back up and park.  But this does not even begin to tell the story.  I took the Chevy bus to my dealer for a checkup before the trip.  Most of the work they did had to do with making sure all the computer and electrical systems were working.  Driving to work the morning of the trip-I get a warning light.  The check engine light.  Don’t ask me what this means; I just waited 3 hours, and paid the bill.  Subsequently, Stan told me that my 2004 Suburban was in perfect running order, and would get me anywhere I wanted to go-safely.  This helped to make me feel better, confident. Little did I know.  Though I was driving through a snow/ice weather mix, my slowest speed was 50-55mph through Cincinnati.  I made most of the trip at close to the speed limit. Like a trowel or a spade or drafting tools and a camera, or a front end loader, my Chevy is a tool that enables me to work.  Let me go on-a 2004 Chevy Suburban is a sophisticated tool.   

All of this said, this travelling away from home was a relatively relaxing one.  It was clear I was not sliding around one bit-I finally let the Chevy do what it was designed to do.  I will confess I did strategize somewhat about the truck gluts-it gave me something to do, other than steer.  Rob is a Garmin enthusiast-it made his England trip in September so easy.  I was impressed how we were routed around a “severe traffic problem” and sent on our way in Cincinnati on the south leg of the trip.  My gardening life is so very different than it was years ago.  No small part of that has to do with the new tools I have at my disposal.  Both Helen at Toronto Gardens and Margaret at A Way to Garden were talking recently about amaryllis I am not familiar with.  Google images-wow.  My window on the gardening world is a big one, should I choose to look out.  All of a sudden, I am enchanted by amaryllis in a new way.   

Though I do not get out so much, this week out was a very good one.  I thoroughly enjoyed where I went, and what I saw.  You’ll see-come the 2011 spring.  And after that, the 2011 holiday and winter.  This trip was the first I have made in a good many years that involved stormy weather.  Though I had big worries in advance, generated from the past, my travel was remarkably easy.  Not at all like it once was.  So fun- to feel free from worry.  Worry takes a lot of time away from more interesting things.  Thank you, General Motors.  My Suburban has 75,000 miles on it.  We are probably much the same age.  The both of us-glued to the road.

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