Archive for Thursday, September 11, 2008

Leisures of road trip wane on way home

September 11, 2008

— Editor's note: John Beal is continuing his column while on vacation.

Vacations have a life of their own. I mean, you can be going along, having the time of your life, enjoying the mountains or the seashore or the canyons of Broadway, in whichever is your holiday spot of choice, only to realize that the vacation is over. Where you really want to be is home.

Several years ago, the wife and I spent a few enjoyable days in Sedona, Ariz. We started home about 8 a.m., intending to take two or three days poking along through Arizona and New Mexico, see some of the things we hadn't taken time to see on our way there.

We'd no more than started when we crossed the threshold and were not vacationers any longer, just two people a long way from home. As I recall, we drove straight through, stopping only for fuel, food or necessary breaks, and pulled into our driveway about 1 or 2 a.m.

We've not yet reached that tipping point on our current trip, but the threshold is near. I can feel it. Today, driving across Oregon, we killed a couple of hours gathering the makings and then eating a nice roadside lunch: fresh fruits, plus some fresh bread and some meats and cheeses from a grocery store deli. A few hours later, we stopped off at the Pendleton Woolen Mills in Pendleton, Ore., shopping for gifts for family members.

Those are typical of leisurely travel. They are completely foreign to the mindset that takes over when you transition from vacationer to homing pigeon. No more poking through the shops or looking around for good little restaurants. When the driving force becomes getting home, the focus narrows. With no wasted motions, every input of energy goes toward the new priority.

It's not much fun, but I know it's coming.

* * *

A few other observations from the road:

The folks at the Oregon Department of Transportation have taken Hemingway to heart. They exercise great economy in their choice of words.

Here's an example: Signs elsewhere in the West advise motorists to watch out for rocks that can fall off the mountainside into the roadway or, worse on your car. They say things like: "Beware of falling rocks."

Not so in Oregon. The sign just west of Pendleton on Interstate 84 says simply: "Rocks." A few miles later there's a sign with no words at all, just a picture of a truck going down a hill. In other states, there'd be a second sign below the picture that would say something like: "6% grade. Trucks use lower gears."

On the other hand, some of the advice seems pretty self-evident. Here's one: "Do not pass snow plows on the right."

* * *

On our recent cruise we didn't seem to have much occasion to develop "sea legs," as most of the seven days were spent in protected waters, like the Inside Passage that connects Seattle with Alaska. I noticed the motion a few times, like when I'd begin to take a step only to find myself walking in another direction.

Other people obviously were not so lucky. Quite a few of our fellow passengers were sporting patches behind their ear, and a few in our party were out of sorts for a couple of days.

Still, the effects seemed to me to be minimal that is, until I was in our hotel room in Seattle and, with no warning, the room seemed to move. Obviously, I hadn't gotten back my "land legs" yet.


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