Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Joys of Travel

New England Sunset
In my sixty-one years I've traveled quite a bit.

I've lived in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Nebraska, Colorado, Texas, Mississippi, Okinawa, Korea and Germany. I've also visited many places adjacent to where ever we were living at the time (both in this country and overseas).

I've also seen a number of cities which left their mark on me, in one way or another.

London, Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, Brussels, New York, Denver, Boston, Omaha, San Francisco, San Diego, Seoul and Tokyo to name but a few.

Much of my travel was under the auspices of the Air Force, much of it was because where the Air Force stationed me gave me the opportunity to visit places I wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.

Much of the traveling I do now is thanks to the Navy. Not that they're paying for it, but that they've seen fit to scatter the progeny across the country. It's okay, I don't mind traveling to visit kids and grandkids. In fact, I love it.

Now a lot of my travel has been for the purpose of visiting family. Even back in the day. For The Missus Herself has family here in the U.S. and back in Korea (of course). When I was on active duty, so were the spouses of two of my sisters-in-law. We would hop in the car and go visit them. We did that a lot when we were stationed in Omaha.

While Omaha is centrally located in one sense, it's still not a short drive from there to Alexandria on Louisiana's Red River, where two of the sisters lived. But from there it was but a hop, skip and a jump to another sister in Fort Walton Beach over in the Florida panhandle. (A place I would revisit some years later to visit The WSO at Pensacola. Do I like that part of Florida? Oh yes, yes I do. A great deal I must say.)

Now once upon a time, in the summer of some year in the late 1980s, we were invited by the youngest sister-in-law to "come on down" to Louisiana for a visit. Some folks would think that the high summer would not be a great time to head to the South for a visit.

Sure, it's hot and bloody humid. But for me, there's never a bad time to visit the South. Good folks and great food are always an attraction.

We had this new operations plan we had decided to put into effect for this particular trip. We would stay awake all through one night, then sleep the entire day, get up around sunset and hit the road. Traveling only at night. For the bairns were still young and were prone to say the following things if we traveled during the day:
  • Are we there yet?
  • I'm hungry.
  • I'm thirsty.
  • Mom, brother/sister is hitting me.
  • Mom, brother/sister is making faces at me
  • Are we there yet?
  • I have to go to the bathroom.
  • I'm hungry.
  • I'm thirsty.
  • Are we there yet?
  • Etc., etc...
And this while still within fifty miles of home...

We figured if we traveled at night, the kids would sleep most of the way and we could make better time. For the most part this worked. However, there was one fly in the ointment.

I had spent the entire night awake, drinking coffee and playing a submarine simulator on my computer. In the wee hours of the morning, just after dawn, I staggered up to my rack and went almost immediately to sleep.

Only to feel someone shaking me what felt like minutes later.

"Honey. Honey. Are you awake?"

Me: "No, well yes. Now I am. What time is it? What's wrong? Are the kids okay?"

The Missus Herself: "It's 11:30, nothing's wrong and the kids are fine..."

Me: "So... Why are you waking me up?"

TMH: "I need to go to the Exchange and get a pair of jeans. I was washing mine and discovered a hole in them."

Me: "Why don't you just wait and buy them in Louisiana?"

TMH: "I need to something to wear in the car on the way."


Me: "We're traveling at night. Who's going to see a hole in your jeans, in the car, at night?"

At this point I received the "you are an idiot" look and decided that perhaps taking her to the Exchange wasn't such a bad idea. Considering the alternative of provoking her wifely wrath just before a drive of about a thousand miles.

So to the Exchange we went, where we discovered (much to my chagrin) that they did not have any jeans she liked. Therefore she did not buy any and actually wore the ones with the hole (in the cuff of all places, not revealing per se, just shoddy-looking!)

Back home we went, back to bed I went, where I tossed and turned for some time before giving up and getting up.

Me: "Let's go, let's pack the car and get going."

TMH: "I thought we were going to travel at night?"

Me: "If we wait until nightfall I'll probably not make it through the night and we'll have to stop early. Let's just go."

Go we did. Found a motel the next day where they thought it passing strange that we were checking in at dawn, then checking out at sunset.

It didn't improve the staff's opinion of us (nor my wife's opinion of me) when I told the clerk, "We're vampires, we can't travel during the day."

Of course now-a-days they'd think that interesting. What with all this Twilight nonsense.

Eventually we made it to Louisiana. Where I immediately hit the sack and was well on my way to logging at least ten hours of sleep when...

"Honey. Honey. Are you awake?"

Me: "No, well yes. Now I am. What time is it? What's wrong? Are the kids okay?"

The Missus Herself: "It's 4:30 in the afternoon, nothing's wrong and the kids are fine..."

Me: "So... Why are you waking me up?"

TMH: "My sister in Florida wants us to come pick her up. She wants to see us while we're here."

Me: "So why doesn't Smitty just drive up here?" (Yes, that's Smitty of the hamsters fame.)

TMH: "Smitty has to work and..."

Me: "Alright, alright. I'll go get them tomorrow."

TMH: "What's wrong with going today?"

I sensed a trap. My senses were tingling, I knew that just over the next ridge was no doubt the biggest Indian village ever gathered. Unlike Colonel Custer, I had no delusions of grandeur or any confidence in my dissuading The Missus Herself from a course of action upon which she has set her heart. And all of her not inconsiderable will.

So I did not cross the ridge and enter the valley of the Little Big Horn.

Meaning of course that I drove to Florida. And back. With youngest sister-in-law along to help with the driving. As I was tired. Her driving woke me up very quickly. Not that she's a bad driver, she just kept turning around to talk to her sister in the back seat. Which caused me no little amount of terror and concern.

I told her that I was good to go. Why don't I drive so you can talk to your sister?

Needless to say, when we returned to Louisiana, I crashed hard and slept for a good fifteen hours. Upon awakening I heard my lovely sisters-in-law and the love of my life discussing my tendency to stay in bed "all day."

Sigh...

You can't win. Sometimes you can't even break even.

Still and all, it was a good trip. Had a lot of fun.

Did we do it again the next summer?

No. We did not.

16 comments:

  1. While I was in college, my Dad was stationed in Columbus Mississippi 915 miles one way. I'd hit the road by myself at 0300 and in the days of the double nickel would make it home by about 2200 stopping only for gas. I was excited when he got transferred to Nellis. I figgered it had to be closer. It was. It was 914 miles, and I-40 had not been completed yet. Some days you just can't win.

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  2. Need to stay awake? Bagpipe and hardcore bluegrass music. Hard to sleep with that blasting.

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    1. The bagpipes work very nicely for me.

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  3. Ah yes, turning around to look at the one in the back seat while driving... GUARANTEED to bring one wide awake! I saw an older lady doing that coming up 81 last weekend, I couldn't get around her fast enough!!!

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    1. The first time, I was concerned.

      The second time, I began to sweat.

      The third time, I had her pull over and I took the wheel.

      She scared the bejesus out of me! Believe me, I was wide awake the rest of that trip.

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  4. With all the romanticism Rt 66 has today - I drove it a few years ago - through NM and AZ - and couldn't help but think - in pre-air conditioned car days - sweltering heat, screaming/crying children and short tempers all around.

    Still I have told people that in my life getting drafted was a highlight for me - ending up in Germany though a bureaucratic quirk (there were 5 of us at Ft Bliss TX they didn't know what to do with) and 3 of us were sent to Germany.

    I did a lot of travel - but I was surprised maybe 5% of the GIs ever made an effort to see anything.

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    1. My first assignment at Kadena, I was content to stay (for the most part) on the base. I associated only with my fellow airmen.

      While Okinawa is an island and one cannot travel far, that doesn't mean there wasn't anything to see. I wish I had taken advantage of it.

      Like they say, youth is sometimes wasted on the young.

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    2. In Germany the Special Service branch was always organizing day trips - I saw the 1973 German GP at the Nurburgring through them. The Army had taken over all these hotels in Bavaria from the Nazis - and frequently they were among the best in town. Berchtesgaden (where the Hitler complex was), Chiemsee, Munich...and you paid according to rank - I paid all of about $3/night being a Pfc.

      There was a 3 month period where I had a Eurailpass and accrued leave - tried to take a friend with me but he wanted to save his leave and get paid to get a motorcycle.

      So I went along with my AWOL bag and 10 rolls of film - all over Europe from Italy to Norway. They'd let me take 2 weeks - come back for 2 weeks - then off again...

      The only downside was knowing if you didn't come back on time you'd be in the stockade :-) (which came close one time)

      I did get one trip courtesy of the Army - as an observer to a Nike-Hercules battery at Crete - flew in a C130 for 8 hours

      Didn't realize at the time how good I had it.

      Isn't that usually the case?

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    3. With all the romanticism Rt 66 has today... and couldn't help but think - in pre-air conditioned car days...

      Made that trip a couple o' times as a child in the '50s, in the summer. It was NOT a pleasant thing.

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  5. The talking to the back seat worked. You drove, they were able to talk without having to work the wheel.

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    1. That may have been the plan all along!

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  6. It's said travel broadens the mind but what "they" DON'T mention is the corollary: it also shortens the temper.

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    1. It certainly can! A most wise observation sensei!

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