Friday, June 20, 2008

Random thoughts on the road

Today is a travel day: 550 miles, which will take us about 10 hours. This leaves plenty of time for reflecting back and thinking ahead, as well as noting a few things about travel and the places we're traveling through.

When we pull into a roadside stop, we have to park with the other big rigs.

We began with a quick stop at a nearby Food Lion, which reminded us of something we've noted before: Food stores offer a fascinating glimpse of the places they serve. Spices, baking mixes and jams are often the most localized items. Here we took the opportunity to buy some Old Bay seasoning, which Robert told us was an essential part of the Chesapeake experience.

Maple syrup, ski slopes, pub food, alpacas...Marathon seems to have it all.

It's really strange sitting on a soft seat, zipping along at 60+ miles an hour. It's kind of like sitting on your sofa, but you can't stretch out, and you have to stay seated for an absurd amount of time. For the past week, we've done most of our sitting in kayaks, which is a very active kind of sitting. To paddle well, you have sit up pretty straight (“the dynamic seating position”) and use your core muscles as you move through the water. Car seats somehow encourage slouching, and with it back and shoulder pain. And instead of using our muscles to power our craft, we're burning gasoline. If driving weren't necessary, we certainly wouldn't do it. The notion of a “joy ride” seems alien and unnatural.

There's time on the road for reading, napping, listening to music and doing sudoku puzzles.

Before we left home, we used Google Maps to generate directions for each leg of this trip. We also brought along an atlas and a set of state road maps, but we figured we'd mainly rely on the Google route. Instead we've found ourselves frustrated by the Google directions and relying on the maps. It's kind of interesting to realize why.
First, the Google directions have tunnel vision. They may provide the most direct or quickest route, but they feel strangely out of context. Looking at them, you can't answer the question, “If we pass Main Street, have we gone too far?”
Second, the Google directions are robotic. If a road changes names as it passes through a town, Google notes it as a new leg of the journey with a mileage all its own, making it hard to see how many miles you actually should travel on that road.
Third, they contain errors. Robert told us about a sign posted somewhere he'd been that said, “Google maps is wrong!” because it was leading people down a dead-end road.
And fourth, they turn a three-dimensional journey into a linear chase, denying the traveler any sense of place along the way. We've always loved gazing at maps, choosing routes, taking detours, finding surprises along the way and rediscovering why we love to travel. It's sort of like the difference between and a print edition. When you use the online dictionary, you can find out what a word means, but when you flip through the pages of Webster's, you see how that word connects to the words around it, stumble on a word you don't know, and rediscover your love of language.

This plaque sits on the border between the US and Canada.

The border crossing into Canada was fairly efficient and not particularly unpleasant, but this was the first year we were required to show our passports. There's something kind of sad about that change. Still, our eight kayaks didn't raise eyebrows and we could honestly say that we had no firearms, alcohol or live fish bait. Tonight we'll be in Cumberland, Ontario, on the Ottawa River, staying with Larry and Bonnie Kearley.

1 comment:

Laura said...

BP Family,
Lizzie and I had the fortunate opportunity to experience your rolling class with Adventure Crafters and your presentation on the Great Lakes. Thank you so very much for sharing your infectious enthusiasm for kayaking and your nurturing and playful instruction. Mostly, it was such a pleasure to meet and experience your be-a-u-tiful family. Safe travels and paddles. Hope to see you on the water again. Laura