The Road Trip

I am supposed to be writing about my writing camp in Amherst, MA last month, and maybe I will, or at the very least upload a little photo album to give you a taste, because in some ways it’s impossible to speak about it precisely, even from the vantage point of 3 or 4 weeks away. Maybe it’s because a part of me feels like it’s kind of like one of those jokes someone tells you and starts rolling with laughter before they’ve finished telling you the story, and then, as an explanation or apology says, “Well, you had to be there.”

And it’s true. The loping fields of those four days in western Massachusetts are hard to capture in the span of paragraphs and even in photographs. I can tell you we wrote our asses off, and that definitely would be true, but we also swam luxuriously and ate well and went to the movies and made art and had cocktails and crafted collaborative stories and sat in the town graveyard for inspiration and lay on the grass and chalked up the driveway and made mandalas out of weeds and dipped into the world of gluten-free and became friends and became known to each other in perhaps ways that friends cannot be known and made devious plans to write songs and clacked on typewriters and painted with our hands and learned a thing or two or twenty from two 11-year-old girls and sweated profusely in the heat wave and made a wish tree and bought fresh raspberries at the farmer’s market and slept and didn’t sleep and talked and didn’t talk and sat together in reverence and sweetness and honesty and swatted at mosquitoes and surfed on moving cars and quietly dared ourselves to step outside the lines.

So there. That’s something. That’s a start.  

Because what I really want to write about is Day 1 of the Road Trip. We’d pieced the idea together several weeks ago, partly to squeeze the last bit of summer out with the boys before they went back to school and partly – I admit – out of a certain nostalgia I cling to about the road trips of my childhood, and in particular the big 3-week sojourn from Waynesboro, VA to San Luis Obispo, CA when I was 8 years old, after my dad got into graduate school at Cal Poly and we took everything we could into a large red van and drove with my 1-year-old brother in a crib in the far back seat and my stoic great-grandmother seated between me and my sister in the second row. I have a great fondness for that trip, not just because of the things we saw – Mt. Rushmore sticks out especially, as do the Black Hills of South Dakota, Manresa Castle (I have to Google it to remember where it was), and the fog hovering over Morro Bay – but because of the shared memory it created between us, the geography of all those states bonding and binding our adventure. The campgrounds we slept in and the motel kitchenettes we cooked in and the back roads we got lost in. I have a chicken dish I still cook that comes directly from that time – it’s called “Cross-Country Chicken” and if you invite me to your house one day, I promise to make it for you.

So last Friday, Amy & I drove to Heathsville, Virginia, where the boys had spent nearly a week with their grandparents and cousins. We stayed two days, went tubing on the Wicomoco River, ate flounder at Horn Harbor, played a tamer version of “Bullshit,” finished jigsaw puzzles and read books and watched the kids zoom around the house and the yard and the water. And today, we packed up the car again and headed out. Our destination? Johnsburg, Illinois, where we’ll visit our friend Danielle and her family for a few days. But first, a couple of days on the road, seeing a part of the country we usually don’t get to, visiting some offbeat attractions, sampling the local culture, finding random gifts and trinkets, and making memories of these miles between here and there.

Today’s highlights:

- that first big Road View, when you know you’re on an adventure and are moving further away from home and everything you know

- returning to Waynesboro to see the house I lived in when I was 7 & 8, then driving up the hill to Wenonah Elementary School, where I spent 2nd and 3rd grade

- the Charlie’s Angels lunch box find across the street from South Bath Avenue

- lunch at Feast in Charlottesville, VA

- a very off-highway visit to see a King Kong statue in Covington, VA

- the New River Gorge bridge

- Pies & Pints in Fayetteville, WV

- the sunset and the fog along Interstate 64 coming into Charleston, WV


Today’s lowlights:

- what happens when Charlie loses his iPod

- fighting in the backseat

- when Lola peed on the passenger seat while we were out of the car for 15 minutes

- turny-twisty Route 60

- a sign that said “Emergency Scene Ahead” and the downed semis on both sides of the road


We are here, now, quietly nestled at the Best Western in Charleston. Tomorrow, we head to Louisville, Kentucky.

(photos in link)

and, just to keep things current, here are photos from the writing camp: