We had been on the road together at least once, fifty years ago, lithe, limber and quick. That time we had a five month old baby in tow and we slept in a tent. Now here we were my ex-husband, Blake, my sister, Georgia and me, septuagenarians on the road again – to the wedding of that baby’s son.
Georgia insists she is not a septuagenarian and will not be until September (at which time she will no doubt celebrate her achievement). Well,okay kid, two septuagenarians and a sexagenarian, does that sound better?
First off, let me say, that we are active old codgers. Every day, Georgia swims, Blake hikes with his dog and I practise tai chi. So physically, we felt we were up to it.
Whether it was wise for the three of us to share a room was another question, but there was little room at the inn, it being graduation day in Amherst, and prices had risen accordingly. Two hundred dollars a night seemed sufficient. Two rooms at that price, a bit steep. I reasoned there would be two queen sized beds and ordered a cot, but I confess when I talked about it to non-participants, I implied there just weren’t two rooms available.
Georgia and I had, fairly recently, driven from Toronto to the Quebec/Vermont border, where we were born and that had gone well. We took turns driving her Corolla. Mostly, I remembered the way although I experienced the usual confusion getting through Montreal.
Blake and I had made many trips when we were married, to the east coast in the summer, to Myrtle Beach on spring break, through the Rockies to Vancouver and for two summers through England, France, Italy and Greece. Blake had always been a fearless driver even on the right- that is to say the wrong- side of the road. Plus he had with an unerring sense of direction.
And I had driven myself from Toronto to Los Angeles, a drive that surely qualified me for this day trip.
We made good time Friday morning, arriving at the Fort Erie border by 11 a.m. and clearing it twenty minutes later. Now we needed to stop for several reasons, some of them typically septuagenarian. Fortunately, the New York State Thruway had a service centre a few miles farther on and we piled out to stretch. It was hard for some of us to stand up when we got out of the car, but we soon shook that off. There was an Arby’s restaurant, but it was still before noon, so why not wait until the next service centre. We were back in the car twenty minutes later, armed with caffeine and rarin’ to go.
The next service centre sported a Mcdonalds. Okay, some of us were food snobs, but also starving, so I gathered my courage and ordered a grilled chicken sandwich. Later when asked how it was, I replied that chicken had not led a happy life.
This pattern repeated itself. We passed centres with Starbucks, for example, but when we needed sustenance, the nearest centre was sure to have only Mcdonalds. What changed was that, at every stop, it took longer for some of us to straighten up when we got out of the car. We spent the first few seconds more or less doubled over as if we were searching the tarmac for a lost treasure.
It was a beautiful drive, through wooded flat land beside the Erie Canal and then through low hills. Suddenly, two roads diverged. “Go right”, I said, consulting Google’s convoluted directions. Blake went left. Either I had to be quicker or he did.
That he even consulted me as navigator surprised me. What had happened to Blake the intuitive navigator? That he didn’t react to instruction faster amazed me. What was this lag time about? It hadn’t been there 35 years ago.
The directions the toll guy gave us were more confusing than Google’s but after 15 minutes and Blake repeatedly assuring us that east is east and the I-90 goes east, he proved to be right. Never trust a computer program to know a continuous route if its name changes.
By the time we arrived at Ho Jo’s at 6 p.m., I had decided that I’d rather drive than navigate and if I never sat down again, it would be too soon.
And there in the parking lot was my son whom I hadn’t seen for six months, unloading his baggage. “Legs, don’t fail me now,” I whispered and launched my bent-over body out of the car.