I drove from New Jersey to Ohio today, all by myself. It should have taken about seven hours, but I managed to get here in just under eleven. How someone misplaces four hours behind the wheel is a sort of complicated story that has to do with placing too much trust in Rand McNally and Google Maps.
But that doesn't matter. What matters is that I got here safely and had a beautiful drive along the way.
I am here visiting an old friend whom I met nearly fourteen years ago in an online pregnancy support group. We chatted online as we gestated, and she and I hit it off wonderfully. And then, as if by part of some grand master plan, we had our babies on the same day. Her daughter is just a couple of hours older than my son. We have met in person before, but it's been many years. I am very happy to be in her company again. Maybe I'll tell you more about her later, if it's okay with her. But right now I am just going to tell you a little about my drive.
In case you don't have a map in front of you, New Jersey is on the eastern coast of the United States, and the town I'm in in Ohio is just south of Cleveland, about halfway between New York and Chicago. In the middle is the great state of Pennsylvania. I have spent fair amounts of time in Philadelphia, Easton, and Bethlehem, all cities in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, but I have never really spent any time in the rest of the state. (I did spend a night in Pittsburgh once. That's for another post.) Today, I drove the length of Pennsylvania for the first time by myself.
What I want to say is that I had absolutely no idea what a beautiful state Pennsylvania is. I drove over deep river gorges and through mountain passes. Because I was alone, I made very limited stops. My husband, convinced there was a real chance I could starve on a seven-hour drive, had packed me a cooler full of food and drink. I brought my iPhone adapter and listened only to music that I love. I have a terrible habit of listening to songs that I like over and over again, until I know the tune and words by heart. This drives my husband insane, and it is the single biggest reason he hates Taylor Swift. But, all by myself, I listened to all my favorite songs as much as I liked, and no one changed the station.
Also, I am one of those people who is always freezing, so I'm not a fan of tons of air conditioning. I like air conditioning a lot when it's very hot outside - don't get me wrong - but I don't love the sensation of cold air directly against my skin for hours and hours at a time. In charge of the thermostat today without having to cater to anyone else, I managed to achieve and maintain the perfect temperature inside my car all day. I didn't need a sweater or a blanket, as I usually do; I was perfectly comfortable the entire time.
I made bathroom stops whenever I wanted. At a gas station in rural Pennsylvania, the attendant urged me to drive on to the next exit, where I'd find cleaner bathrooms than his workplace offered. He told me exactly which restaurant to look for, and what to order for lunch while I was there. It was a pleasure to be in a place where strangers are kind and friendly, for no particular reason.
On my arrival, I had a great dinner with my friend and her daughters, and now I am watching the Olympic swimming events on TV and listening to a severe thunderstorm outside. The storm is packing 70-mph winds. We don't get that kind of storm too often back at home. I'm glad it waited to start until I was safely ensconced in my hotel room, but I am enjoying the light show and the calming sound of the rain.
It's wonderful to have eleven hours all to oneself every once in a while, and to end the day in a big, comfortable hotel bed with a raging thunderstorm outside. I'm here for four days, and I look forward to telling you more about my adventure as it happens.