6 hours of solo-driving later, and I’m back in Michigan.
I’ve spent the last few days out in Illinois, visiting my brother’s family and meeting my newest niece. Since they moved out, I’ve made the trip a half dozen times, always on my own, usually for a weekend stay. There are a few things that always strike me about this trip, which I will enumerate for lack of anything else to write about.
- The countryside is very flat, and mostly full of corn. Not that Michigan is the hilliest of states. And we have plenty of cornfields ourselves. But at any given time, you’re unlikely to see more than half a mile or so ahead of you, as even a slight rise in terrain or a bank of trees block broader views. In Illinois, and on the drive out, I’m often amazed by how far I can see across farmers’ fields without any woods in the way.
- This does not make it boring or somehow not beautiful. OK, this is only partly true: sometimes, the drive does get very boring, especially on the broader highway bits. But my drive Sunday was marked by a dim haze that turned every stand of trees slightly blueish, and this atmospheric effect, subtle though it was, lent the landscape a soft, painterly aspect which I found quietly breathtaking at almost every turn, as if I were driving through a watercolor.
- One can go through long stretches of Ohio without encountering a Starbucks. Also: those signs on the road that let you know what food is at the upcoming exit can be misleading. Here I am, driving down the highway, and I see that Exit 157 has Starbucks. Get off at Exit 157, and the next sign says, “Starbucks: Left, 6.1 miles.” I got right back on the highway. The second-worst offender is when the Starbucks is located in a Kroger or something. Like, guys: the whole point is I don’t get out of my car.
- Semis should not be allowed to pass each other. This is the scenario: Semi 1 is cruising down in the right lane at 64 mph. Semi 2 decides this is simply not acceptable, and moves into the left lane to pass at 64.5 mph. Everyone else gets piled up behind them for the next five miles. Only slightly worse are the folks who decide to park in the left lane and drive parallel to and at exactly the same speed as another driver in the right lane. Dear drivers who do this: move over. Seriously, it is the law. You are breaking the law. It is illegal to stay in the left lane if you are not passing. I am not even kidding you.
- Road trips are one of the great American traditions. I don’t know if other countries do them so much. I know that some countries actually lack the highway infrastructure that makes road trips in the United States possible. I know others have a highly-developed railway network that makes them less common. Honestly, traveling by train is my favorite of all forms of transportation. But I nonetheless love a good American road trip, and am always tempted by the idea that I could keep driving in almost any direction and not have to stop for days. I’d like to plan out some more exciting road trips one of these days, maybe even get off the highway and try a few more back roads. Enjoy the land passing by. Pound through a half dozen audiobooks. Sounds like the life.