Sunday, September 14, 2008

Safe travels (My Sacred Life, Sunday)

You know, as many times as I get in the car and go somewhere, it becomes almost automatic to think I will reach my destination with no problem. When I get in the car with my delightful wife and two sometimes-delightful dachshunds and a back end of our van packed to the gills (did I mention we have an aquatically talented van?) and plan to cover more than 1300 miles in two days, I don't suffer from the same assumption of it being completely non-eventful.

We make this trip now once a year (round-trip, of course--we'll begin the homeward-bound leg nine days from now), and it is by far our longest road trip. More typical for us is a three-hour meander through the Rockies which begins and ends at home, including a stop or two at our favorite places.

In recognition, gratitude, and relief for our safe travels so far this time, here's a bit about the trip east from Denver to Ludington, Michigan.

This time, we had fewer unplanned adventures than last year. In fact, the closest we came to having an adventure was when the dogs escaped from the hotel room as I was making trips to the car to load up after we spent the night between Driving Day 1 and Driving Day 2. Fortunately, they did not make a major break for it, only startling the hotel employee working in the laundry room just down the hall from us.

This was at a Super 8 hotel in Atlantic, Iowa (no, there are no ocean views from any of the rooms). It was stunning to us the difference in experience this year over last, when we stayed at a hotel--a Day's Inn--which was right off the highway at the same exit (Atlantic is seven miles from the highway). The hotels offered very similar amenities including better-than-average continental breakfast and free Wi-Fi access.

The feeling we had at this year's stop was much different, though--it felt like the people cared and made the extra effort to make things pleasant. We also noticed that the cleaning staff, including the nice lady folding sheets who was surprised to find two very short four-legged volunteers in her midst, were all special-needs adults. In fact, the hotel had a small award framed and hung on the wall of the breakfast room which noted their kindness in intentionally seeking these folks out and offering employment.

Suffice it to say that we felt like we were only in the way last year; nothing but an inconvenience.

You can guess that, should we decide on that spot as our mid-trip break in the future, we will drive the extra 7 miles off the highway to reach our new favorite budget hotel.

Here is a photographic panorama of the view from the hotel parking lot. This is looking north from Atlantic.

This is Julia with two seemingly reformed dogs, now determined to behave themselves every last mile of the remaining portion of the trip.

You can tell that I must be traveling at close to the sound barrier in this shot, given the fact that my hair is flying back even though all the windows are closed in the vehicle. That's fast!

We rolled into Ludington shortly before 10 pm, both of us quite ready for a nice soft bed and a late wake-up call. Instead, we visited with Julia's sister and her husband, and with Bob (her father). The cottage is roughly a quarter of a mile from the parking lot, so every cottage has a big cart or wagon or some conveyance to make getting the luggage from car to cottage less of a chore.

I did the deed to get what we had to have for the night, intending to get the rest in the morning, and we finally called it a night close to midnight.

In the days since, we have bid adieu to Julia's dad and brother-in-law, and we have recovered from the road trip.

We have both had moments when we have marveled at how well the trip went this year, even though we are debating turning it into a three-day one next year. We're apparently getting older, at least that's the popular theory, and don't stand up to 10-hour days on the road as well as we did ten years ago.

That's a discussion we will have when we get close to the time to decide. For now, we are simply as grateful as we can be to know that the cottage is ours for the remainder of our vacation, the weather is supposed to turn magical beginning tomorrow (lots of gray so far, and nothing wrong with that--though the balancing sunshine will be welcome).

For those of you who travel or wish others well on their way, I can assure you that "Safe travels!" is a phrase and state of mind we fully embrace. Keep us in mind a week from Tuesday when we turn the mighty Odyssey around and head west for the two-day trip home.


Anonymous said...

Rick, so glad your trip was safe and the dachshunds didn't get too far.

Rick Hamrick said...

Thanks, Kelly.

Hope to read about your Algonquin Park vacation soon over at your place!

Julie said...

I wonder how much you have to pay for those ocean view rooms. Probably ALOT.

Rick Hamrick said...

Julie--if I were more ambitious this morning, I would calculate exactly how high above the earth's surface over Atlantic, Iowa one would have to be in order to have a line-of-sight view of the ocean, having compensated for the curvature of the planet between Iowa and the coast. Just guessing, I'd say about Space Shuttle-in-orbit high, but that's just a guess.

So, you are quite correct that it would be expensive! Like, the entire domestic product of a small country expensive.

And the sad part is, if the weather didn't cooperate, you still might not see the ocean! [grinning]

Olivia said...

Yes, I will keep you four in mind as you are traveling back. Safe, safe travels :) xoxo, O

Rick Hamrick said...

Thanks, Olivia!