Anyone who’s followed this blog for a calendar year will know that at this point in the calendar, Wing’s World morphs into a travel blog for 6-8 weeks. Since our kids left the nest, since I left teaching, since the Mate retired and we moved to Lopez Island, we have been leaving in mid-February to drive across the country to North Carolina, returning at the end of March in order for me to start a new season at Holly B’s Bakery.
[Why North Carolina in March? Read a quick primer here.]
This time last year, we were packing up Red Rover for Road Trip X. In any normal year, we’d be doing the same right now for RTXI. But you don’t need me to announce that this isn’t any normal year.
The Mate’s waiting for his second COVID shot. I’m waiting for my first. The country is waiting, period. And we’re not going anywhere. [Well, maybe a teensy, contact-free staycation. But our kind of Road Trip? Forget it.]
So I thought I’d take these next few blog posts to celebrate the joy of the past 10 years of road tripping–my way of keeping hope alive for the time when we can do this again. All of us–whatever our version of Road Trips may be.
Road Trip I: 2011
I hadn’t started blogging then, so this trip’s not recorded. Had it been, your reaction may have been, “Really? You’re trying to cram all THAT into one road trip?”
THAT = visiting out-of-the-way parks we’d never taken the time to explore, like Sunol, near the Bay Area…
…but also famous national parks we already knew and loved, like Joshua Tree
THAT also = visiting family, like my grandmother in Santa Barbara–she turned 103 two months after this photo, and lived for another half a year
Of course THAT includes daily doses of recreation, hiking or biking together. (In those days I was still running too, but The Mate had had to give up his beloved sport some years earlier). We quickly became aficionados of desert hiking, despite the need for frequent photography stops.
Some of the special new corners of our country that we “discovered” became dear favorites, to which we’ve returned repeatedly, like the Chiricahua National Monument.
THAT also meant, of course, visiting our “far and dear,” folks who went and moved to places like Arizona & Texas. But, I reasoned, would they welcome us coming to stay with them in the middle of a work week? Shouldn’t we give ourselves some work while we visited, to keep us out of their hair?
And so, in two different cities, San Antonio and Dallas, I signed us up for 3-day stints with Habitat for Humanity.
Our far & dear thought we were silly. “Next time, skip the volunteer work and spend more time with us!”
Turns out, for us, the idea of combining socializing with volunteering was cooler in concept than reality. Since then, we’ve kept the two separate.
We learned on Road Trip I to enjoy the incredible contrasts our big country has to offer–desert one week, swamps the next.
We also folded some history into those off-the-beaten-track stops, like Birmingham.
In the Blue Ridge of North Carolina, more old friends. (You’ll notice I don’t include these photos because I don’t want to violate their privacy, but this one, at a distance, gives the idea.)
And when we finally got to Durham–my hometown, and Chapel Hill, where The Mate and I met–we celebrated what we had come for: family and Tarheel basketball. And Tarheel basketball family.
I should clarify that. My parents are NOT Tarheel fans. They are nuts about other things, like animals and recreation, but NOT the Heels.
Here’s the basketball family–which I have come to think of as the Tribe.
The one place both basketball and non-basketball family meet is the annual Wildflower Walk, a tradition The Mate started back when he used to fly back for the ACCs.
After the tournament (The Mate surely remembers how the Heels did that year, but I don’t) Road Trip I took us north–way north: through DC, then up to Rhode Island. Why not? We’re not due home till end of March!
Then, Maine, where we spent half a sabbatical year in 2003.
Finally, we made what I’ve come to think of as The Big Left Turn. Crossing the country at this latitude in March is no joke, so we traveled fast, sticking to interstates to beat the winter storms. This photo of a groundhog in upstate NY is the only one showing any kind of scenery; the rest was just “let’s try not to die when that semi going 85 hits that ice patch.”
So, to recap: Road Trip I established a bunch of patterns–new discoveries of small parks; pilgrimages to big ones; brief and longer reunions with family & friends; homage to history; bike paths & hiking trails as tools of exploration; deep infusion of family & basketball in NC; daring winter on our way home.
Patterns that never took: volunteer work. That had to find another place in our lives. (Don’t worry–it has.)
Next post: So this is how you Road Trip?