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Driving Midwest to Northeast, or vice versa

Topics/tags: Autobiographical, rambly

This past week, we went east to help Eldest Son get settled for graduate school in Western Massachusetts [1]. It’s going to be hard to have him so far away, but I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes with his life. And I’m happy to know that there a bunch of as close as family folks somewhat nearby.

Eldest and Middle drove out before us to start getting him settled. Then the rest of the Rebelsky Clan drove out in the rusting minivan to bring some furniture. We left Grinnell at about 2 p.m. [2]. At some point in the late evening, we discussed stopping at a hotel. We realized that if we stopped, we would arrive in Amherst in the late afternoon, but if we drove straight through, we’d be there in the morning. Can you guess what we decided?

On the way back, we dropped someone at the Hartford airport at about 9 a.m. [3] and then headed home. Michelle suggested stopping overnight, but I prefer to sleep in my own bed, so I drove straight through. 1224 miles from Amherst to Grinnell, including the detours through Hartford. A bit under nineteen hours.

You know what? It felt like old times. For about half of my life, I drove back and forth between the Midwest and the northeast multiple times each year.

I grew up in the Boston area [4]. I went to college [5] in Chicago. After college, I stayed in Chicago for graduate school. After my first year of college, I spent a lot of time driving back and forth between Chicago and Boston. And then after graduate school, I went out to Dartmouth while Michelle was finishing medical school in Chicago. So I spent time driving back and forth between New England and Chicago.

When I was in college, it seemed natural to drive without stopping. I didn’t want to spend the money for hotel rooms and generally had stuff in the car that I didn’t want to leave in the car at a hotel. And, hey, it was only sixteen hours or so each way. I do recall at least one trip during college in which I ate instant coffee to stay awake.

Even when I was older, I usually drove without stopping for a significant amount of time; perhaps just a nap in a rest stop or two. I recall planning to do the drive out to Dartmouth in two legs and finding that I wasn’t really in the mood for stopping until I got there.

Michelle and I also drove together as we tried to make it east at least once or twice a year. Driving was cheaper, and a chance to spend some time together. We drove in summer, fall, spring, and winter. We still talk about the time we drove through Cleveland at something like 1 a.m. with a foot of snow on the ground. I don’t think we went more than five or ten miles per hour from the bend in I-90 onwards. Since we took the 90 route east this time, I even felt like I could remember the approximate place the snow cleared up.

The last time I drove from Grinnell to Boston was about 11 years ago, which is one fifth of my life. Still, it’s amazing how much of the trip stays in the back of my mind. This time, I correctly remembered the approximate number of the last mile marker on the Indiana toll road [6]. I remembered the normal sequence of interstates from east to west (90 to 84 to 81 to 80). But I feel like one of the parts of that route has changed; I recall some very steep hill somewhere near Wilkes-Barre that didn’t appear this time. Or perhaps I used to go slightly differently.

Will I ever do another crazy-long, one-leg drive? I’m not sure. I’ve done it in all three cars I’ve owned (a Celica, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the now-rusty Town and Country). I’ve also done it in two of Michelle’s cars (a Ford Escort and a Fort Taurus Wagon). I guess that means I should consider driving east in whatever car I get next. But I think that most of the time I go east to visit Eldest, I’ll fly. If I drive, I may take a different route, and drive a more sensible amount each day.

Nonetheless, it’s nice to know that I can still do the full-day drive if I need to do so.

[1] He argues that Amherst is in Central Massachusetts. However, the Western Massachusetts Family Golf Center is in Hadley, which is next to Amherst, so I stand my ground.

[2] We planned to leave at about 9 a.m. However, things happen.

[3] We went to the wrong Hartford airport first. Who knew that Hartford had two airports?

[4] Newton, Massachusetts, to be precise. Newton is the original home of the National Biscuit Company and the namesake of its fig cookie.

[5] The College at The University of Chicago, to be precise. Given that name, I have no idea why anyone would allow The Ohio State University to trademark the The in their name.

[6] Somewhere between 156 and 157, at least as my brain tells it.

Version 1.0 of 2019-08-25.