Road Trip VII, Days 17-21, Durham, NC to Shaftsbury, VT: Marching Madly Back Into Winter

What kind of idiots drive north into a named winter storm…when they don’t have to?

Allow us to introduce ourselves: Wing & Mate.

We did make a few prudent choices. We delayed leaving NC for a day to let the worst of Stella pass. And we stayed as far east as possible, away from the storm’s edge, even though that meant sticking with ugly ol’ I-95 instead of taking the prettier inland route. We may be idiots, but we’re not STUPID.

We also opted to take it slow, leaving late in the morning and spending the night halfway to Vermont, in a motel in Wilmington…where we got a good lesson in reality.

Reality can thin out a bit on road trips. In our little car-bubble, whatever we’re used to becomes whatever IS. So I got heartily sticker-shocked at that motel. But since it was the last room available I swallowed hard and paid–I’m embarrassed to say how much–to avoid the losing proposition of racing around the internet just before rush hour trying to find a better deal.

The motel was full of families. In summertime or over Christmas this is expected, but we could tell these weren’t folks on Spring Break. Sure enough, we learned that a major power outage had forced them from their homes. And here we are, on a purely discretionary trip! Talk about perspective. I chatted with a couple of ladies over breakfast, and when they wished me “safe travels,” I wished there were a way to say, “safe stay-at-home!”

The New Jersey Turnpike took all my attention as navigator, as other freeways snaked in and out, trying to lure us into NYC. Nothing looked attractive, even under snow, which tells you something. (Sorry, NJ…maybe someday I’ll discover the “Garden” part of your statehood.) But once safely in the Hudson Valley, headed for Albany, we both relaxed, enjoying real mountains for the first time since Asheville. 

Snowy mountains. You gotta love any scenery that calls to mind words like “serene” or “majestic.” 

Majestic, shmajestic–I wanna make footprints!

“Whose woods these are I think I know…” (snowshoeing along a section of the Appalachian Trail)

Snow angel! (We coastal Northwesterners can’t get enough of this.)

OK, snow is cool. But the REAL draw of this adventure? Cute little cousins.

…and cheese-eating dinosaurs

And their adorable sheep-herding donkey Ben:

March is a terrible time for lambing in VT. Cousin Jesse had to bring the flock into the barn.

Ben being modest. He has work to do.

So: March Madness in basketball, yes. And in the lives of good ol’ Wilmingtonites just trying to make it through winter. But the northeastern roadways? Piece o’ cake. Shame on us for doubting the Yankee ability to deal with snow.

In Defense of Road Trips: Got None; Going Anyway; Not Sorry.

First of all, let me answer two questions. Yes, we are driving from Washington to Vermont in late November. And no, we don’t know what route we’re taking. (Mother Nature will let us know that.)

Oh, and a third question: Yes, Really.

Wing Son Two announced this fall that he intends to stay indefinitely in Vermont, where he’s been working since graduating from college in June. The Mate & I instantly thought about joining him for Thanksgiving, since Son Two is living on a beautiful farm which belongs to some of The Mate’s cousins, a huge, delightful clan of whom we are very fond.

This created a dilemma, however: Wing Son One is still in California, where we’ve been spending all our Thanksgivings since both sons gravitated there after high school. Which son to spend the holiday with?

Then The Mate added another twist: “If we go to Vermont, I want to drive.” (He’s not scared of flying, he just loathes it. I’m sure none of you can relate to this, right?)

I vacillated. Who road trips across the northern latitudes on the cusp of winter? We’re already committed to our annual cross-country pilgrimage to North Carolina in Feb-March; can I handle THAT much trippage? On the other hand…we have time. Road trips are always a bonding experience for us, a huge part of our relationship. But what about Son One?

Red Rover LOVES road trips!

Red Rover LOVES road trips!

Son One, in fact, settled the matter. When I hesitantly invited him to join us, he surprised me by accepting. His job is ending now, his new one doesn’t start till January, and he apparently likes his parents enough to spend two weeks with them in a fairly small car.

Did I mention that Son One is 24? And not real good with the whole staying-in-touch-via-email-and-phone thing? I’d happily spend two weeks idling at a traffic light with him, catching up.

I haven’t done the math on the carbon emissions, but I’m pretty sure that driving three people in one car still uses less than flying three people in a plane. Monetarily, though, we may actually be coming out behind. Yes, plane tickets are expensive, but this trip will entail a good two weeks on the road. Usually when The Mate & I go, we camp and stay with friends more than half the time, but this trip will be different: faster, darker, colder, and much less predictable. We can’t really make dates with friends; cold-weather camping holds no appeal. We’ll be seeing the interior of a number of Days Inns, I expect, paying for three people each time. It’ll add up.

(and that was in Arizona, yet!)

(and that was in Arizona, yet!)

7,000 miles. Three people doing 600-700 miles a day in a Subaru. Icy roads. Darkness at 4:30. Am I daunted?

Nah. I’ll be with my boys. I don’t care what happens. It just feels like Christmas came early this year.

Anyone else traveling this holiday season? How far, where to? Any mixed feelings there?