Regardless of the fact that Wisconsin did not clean up its act while we were away, we returned home last week. We were greeted with hurricane winds and snow still in the air. The winter coats had to be brought back out and I fear our tans are already fading, and after all that work to start them. Normally, I would be complaining but as anyone who has traveled for any length of time knows, the trip comes to an end and you return home, happy to be back to the place you chose to spend your life. The travel is great but the return home is part of the journey.
If you followed our journey through my blog, it’s only fair to sum it up. Being the former math teacher, a few statistics seemed in order. We tallied 3203.1 miles and spent a total of 59 hours and 38 minutes of the trip behind the wheel. Considering we were traveling for 23 days (552 hours), that is still just 10.8% of the total time we were gone. We visited 10 states, crossed six state rivers, traveled through or around 17 major cities and viewed the campuses of 7 universities. Our stops allowed us to take in 26 attractions in 9 cities, not counting 6 hotels, a beach condo and three home stays with three very gracious sets of friends.
If the story ended here, it would be impressive but not impactful. With that in mind, I wanted to share at least some of the observations from our trip. The first of those observations was that no matter what state you are driving in, the locals all seem to be crazy drivers and you are observed as that out of state driver that has no clue. This phenomena I credit to the fact that the locals know, for the most part, where they are going and will always seem over confident. Mean while, we as the interlopers, may not know where we are going and at the very least do not know how far to the next exit nor what the traffic lane will look like when we get there. There is a lot to say for anticipation versus anxiety. Before you tell me “but what about a navigation system”, it is still just a computer doing its best to pronounce the road names and spending a lot of its time saying “recalculating.”
My next observation, love them or hate them, concerns hotels. The most important thing to understand about hotels is that everyone there is going somewhere. Some are moving from where they lived to where they will live next. Some are heading out on a vacation while some are returning home from one. Still others are visiting families and unfortunately for some,it may be due to a life that is coming to an end. The one thing they all have in common is that almost every person wants to have a conversation and has a story to tell. I for one can’t resist encouraging their story and yes, sharing my own. I wrote about it earlier, but this is a chance to test the six degrees of separation theory. I contend, that if your questions are open ended enough, it will not take too many to find that connection.
My next observation is that no matter where you travel, no matter who you encounter, we are all the same and we are all different. We are all citizens of the world and we share a desire for life to be simple yet interesting. We all deep down want peace and harmony and we just want the freedom to be who we are. This is what makes us all the same. And yet, we all have different hobbies and passions. We work at different jobs and eat culturally different foods. We play different games or maybe just variations of the same game. The beauty of these differences is that they are what makes travel so interesting while the similarities are what makes it so comfortable.
My last observation is really more of an answer to the question that everyone asks you when you travel. “What was your favorite thing?” My answer is that I can’t just name one thing. I can tell you that I thought the prettiest city was Savannah. My favorite beach was on Hilton Head Island. Favorite attraction, Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum, but the most impressive was the Chattanooga Aquarium while the most moving was Chickamauga Battlefield. My favorite activity was golfing with alligators while the best biking was in Palm Coast, though I need a shout out for riding bikes on the sand beaches of Hilton Head Island. I guess my answer to what did I like best, is all of it and that’s exactly why I was willing to put all those miles and hours driving from city to city, and state to state.
One final fact. We met so many interesting people but best of all we reconnected with three sets of friends who were brave enough to make the statement “if you are ever in the area…” and sincere enough to make us feel so welcome when we did.