11,000 Miles And Counting

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11,000 Miles and Counting.

The speedometer says we’ve gone over 11,000 miles since we left Denver almost four months ago. We’ve spent most of the time in New England. Our last ten days in nearly-deserted Cape Cod were perhaps our favorite, although the two-week stay at a friend’s house on a lake south of Burlington, Vermont was right up there. We continue to head south, chasing the sun. We’ll end up in South America if we have to. The kids make it easy to meet an array of interesting people.

I thought I’d share a few things that have come to really annoy me over these three months.

1. Exit signs on the interstate that show gas stations, restaurants and motels at the next exit, when in fact they are sometimes miles away. You get off thinking you’re going to gas up and jump back on, and instead you wander about for 6 or 7, once 12, miles to the station.

2. Hotel clerks who answer the phone while you’re checking in in order to make a reservation for someone else. Put them on hold, for God’s sake, and finish up with me. I know the reason—the clerk knows I’m not going anywhere, but the caller could split. It still pisses me off.

3. Starbucks squirreled away inside Targets. The first time, the GPS kept taking me to a Target—I can’t remember where now—and I couldn’t figure out where the coffee shop was, until I finally wandered in to ask. I’m a devoted Starbucks addict, and it just ain’t cool drinking my poorly made Venti Awake Tea Misto Extra hot with 2% in the grubby corner of some Target store.

4. Hotels that advertise “Free Wi-Fi,” but provide a signal so weak it doesn’t make it out of the lobby.

5. Stale Raisin Bran and mottled bananas at the free motel breakfasts.

6. Towns that have parking meters at the beach.

7. Whoever put together a booklet listing all of the thrift stores and consignment shops within ten miles of our condo in Hilton Head.

My two favorite statements of the last three-and-a-half months:

1. “I like my women like my coffee: cold and bitter.” Made by a barista to a customer at a coffee shop in Lake Charles, Virginia.

2. “The floggings will continue until moral improves.” Seen on a sweatshirt on a fellow at the blueberry festival in Scalia, Maine. Wrapped around a skull and crossbones.

Biggest problem in the relationship? Television. I can’t go to sleep if it’s on. Julya likes to have it on while she’s going to sleep. Compromise: she turns it real low, and I hold a pillow over my head. Doesn’t work for horror shows or musicals.

We’ve learned we can find decent places to stay almost anywhere for 60 to 75 bucks a night, sometimes less. At Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, we found an ocean front room for $49 a night. Some of this is because it’s off season. I hate Priceline; they’re rigged so they can put you in smoking rooms without telling you. Julya is the best negotiator: she adds her conditions after the price is agreed upon: the room can’t be near the elevator, or the ice machine, and it can’t have a connecting door to another room. First floor preferred. I add that it should be as far away from the highway as possible, and not overlooking a parking lot full of semis with their diesel engines running all night. Almost all hotels offer free breakfast now, and we’ve learned to get to the breakfast room very early before all of the fresh fruit is gone.

Smartest move? Bringing the bikes. In spite of the problem with the Thule Swingout rack. (If any of you are thinking of buying this rack, contact me first). It’s a great way to tour small and medium size cities that are too big too walk. It’s easier to stop and talk to people, and you get a little exercise.

What I miss the most? Swimming. Hotels pools are too small and loaded with chlorine. The oceans and lakes are now too cold. YMCAs are only in bigger cities. Some health clubs want $20 a pop. I used to get some of my most creative writing ideas while swimming.

I refuse to believe that we’re almost one quarter of the way through the trip. If the creek don’t rise but the market does, maybe we can stay out for two years.

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