My brother has long called me Clark, as in Clark W. Griswold, the well-meaning father from the National Lampoon Vacation movies played so perfectly by Chevy Chase. I earned the nickname for planning trips and events, all while wearing pants and shorts from my plaid and patterned trousers collection. I also have a penchant for wood-paneled station wagons and I’d like to believe that hot blond supermodels in Ferraris find me incredibly irresistible.
To start this summer, Kara, the kids and I loaded up the car for a road trip to Ohio. Sadly, misguided automakers no longer manufacture a vehicle with a woody option, so our Buick Enclave made the trek sans faux maple siding and without an Aunt Edna tied to the roof.
Kara proudly talks about Michigan as her home state, but truth be told, she was born in Columbus, Ohio and lived there for the first few years of her life. Her mom, aunts, uncles, and cousins all live in and around the capital city of the Buckeye State, and that was the purpose of our 10+ hour journey from Hartford.
I say 10 hours, but with kids and their tiny bladders and summer construction, Kara and I knew it would be longer. We aimed to get to Hershey, Pennsylvania on day one, where we stopped for a tour of Chocolate World. The worst part of that leg of the trip was getting out of Connecticut. Construction and crashes on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway made the normally brutal crossing of the George Washington Bridge a breeze. Also making the trip: DVDs of The Lion King, Cars, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and a few other movies meant to help pass the time.
After Pennsylvania and a brief drive through West Virginia, we made it to Ohio the next day, where my kids caught up with their Ohio grandmother and cousins, learned what a Buckeye is, swam in a lake, and saw chickens and pigs at a farm run by Kara’s cousin and her husband. The car stayed in the driveway for 24 hours, and we got a well deserved break from driving.
On our way home we stopped for a picnic dinner at the McKinley Memorial in Niles, Ohio, and taught the children about our 25th president, who was assassinated more than 110 years ago.
The trip back was going smoothly until a crash on I-80 in Pennsylvania had us sitting in traffic for the better part of two hours before we managed to get off and grab a hotel for the night. Always the journalist, Kara shot some video of the scene with her iPhone and called it into our CBS station in Pittsburgh. Eyewitness News really is everywhere.
The low point of the trip was driving through Pennsylvania. What is the deal with the lack of good, sensible management of the endless I-80 construction? Signs should be up miles in advance warning drivers to take an alternate route. Also, I have no sympathy for speeding drivers and those who text and drive and later crash. You are selfish, and your poor judgement delayed thousands of drivers.
As much as the traffic and the delays were a pain in the seat, I wouldn’t trade that time in confinement with my family for anything. The trip gave us plenty of time to talk, laugh, and enjoy each other. We probably will fly to Ohio next time we have to go there, but we’ll definitely do another road trip, maybe Michigan. Hopefully by then, the big three in Detroit will come out with this beauty.
Check out my story of my expected road trip from Detroit…in the snow! http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/my-detroit-to-hartford-iditarod/
Also read about our 2012 vacation http://dennishouse.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/journey-to-abruzzo-to-meet-my-italian-family/