To say the least, A and I are exhausted. We just returned from a month-long eat-and-drive-cation from the US and jetlag is kicking our butts. Day becomes night and night becomes day, thankfully this is not our first rodeo and we know how to deal with it: do not engage with other human beings because your tiredness will result in snarky hurtful comments; do not expect your partner to understand your train of thought, because clearly your brain is superior to your partner’s which is why your partner cannot comprehend what you are saying and lastly, stay away from heavy machinery such as washing machines or dish washers as you will either forget the laundry or run the dishwasher more than once.
A note of warning, before I jump into the first part of our month long road trip: Because our trip was so extensive, eventful and wonderful at the same time, I decided to split my blog into several installments. This first part deals with the initial jetlag, the rental car and the road trip that A had carefully planned.
Having a jetlag when we first arrived in the US in the middle of December wasn’t all that bad. It just meant that we would get up extremely early (about 4 am) and go to bed even earlier (about 7ish pm). Needless to say, no party people here. But we had an agenda: driving from Newark to Philadelphia to Georgia. From there we would then drive to New Orleans, Louisiana. After a couple days there we would move on to Austin and Waco form where we would eventually drive to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. Our last leg would be form Tennessee to Pennsylvania with a few stops in Maryland and Virginia before we would conclude our trip in Philadelphia. Easy, peasy, right? Along the several stops we planned, A had carefully mapped out things to do, places to go and where to stay, to make the absolute most out of the trip. This is what the road trip map looked like:
All in all, we drove about 4.594 miles (including day trips to and from Jacksonville, Waco, Philadelphia and Virginia) but not including any smaller detours i.e. traffic, driving the wrong way and getting gas here and there (or food for that matter) or several trips to shopping malls or any other places one naturally drives to. We spent more than 70 hours in an enclosed vehicle and let me tell you, lots of time has to pass before I will agree to a road trip again, no matter how wonderfully planned ahead it is.
I guess it wouldn’t have been half bad if the car would have been any other car than the one we rented. Granted, it was cheap, but a lesson learnt is a lesson learnt: When it comes to rental cars, never go with cheap. When we picked the car up, the tires were flat, the hood has been replaced before and the check engine signal was on. What could possibly go wrong, right?
But being tired and exhausted and jetlagged, A said, in the most Greek manner (i.e. loud and dismissively), “It’s fiiiiine”. Reluctantly I stowed away our luggage into the trunk and sat down quietly next to A in the passenger’s seat, not knowing that this was only the beginning of 70 hours of fearful driving. Not having driven in the US for quite some time we drove slowly and carefully and took quite a few wrong turns before we made it onto the turnpike. From here on out it should have been smooth sailing, so to say.
After about 2 hours we made it into Philadelphia where we stayed at a nice hotel and asked for two queen size beds. After all we did just spend 7 hours on a plane together with very little legroom and then spent another 2 hours in the car. The next morning we rose early, grabbed some breakfast and headed out. The goal was to drive 12.5 hours to Georgia, so we would be in time to celebrate Christmas with A’s dad. We were in good spirits after all we just arrived in the US after having been away for nearly 4 years and we were stoked to see family again and have dinners with friends and take a few days for ourselves in numerous cities. Both A and I have been looking forward to this trip for months and would let nothing get into our way.
Well, except maybe a rainstorm. Being smart, we slowed down the car, making sure we drove at a speed that we felt comfortable with. The windshield wipers went nuts from left to right, right to left, constantly until the only thing we heard was a horrific screeching sound, like when metal scratches on glass. A looked at me in surprise and I looked at him terrified. I wouldn’t quite call it safe to drive with only one windshield wiper while the other one might be scratching the windshield. On our first detour we then stopped at Walmart (the neighborhood grocery store and got new wipers). Easy peasy. I would still cringe every time it would start raining.
After about 10 hours of driving jetlag got the better of us, and we decided that enough is enough. I barely saw anything on the road, it was dark and I felt like the headlights were just not strong enough (A thought I was just too tired to drive and not able to keep my eyes open until he sat down and surprisingly remarked “I can’t see anything on the left side of the road”). Now, we thought partly that this was due to the road and partly because of the light and partly because of the relentless rain. And we were not wrong, it was all three of those, but because we didn’t want to risk our lives, we turned into a Days Inn in North Carolina, figuring it would be much better to just start driving early the next morning.
And so we did, 4.30 on the dot we were in the car, stoked to finishing the first leg of our road trip. Rain was coming down hard but we knew we had a new windshield wiper nothing could face us. We listened to podcasts, had some coffee and cruised along the highway. Until suddenly both windshield wipers stopped working. It was about 6.30 and A stared straight ahead asking me fearfully what to do. I shrugged my shoulder and asked “pull over?”
Now, if it would have been any other day, any day where A and I would have not been jetlagged and physically tired from all the driving and what not, we would have managed just fine. But this day, was the wrong day for broken windshield wipers in a thunderstorm. A cursed up a thunderstorm of another sort while I quietly stared ahead, trying to get a decent internet connection on my phone (which of course I failed at miserably). After about 20 minutes of that, A and I discussed our options and found that the only possible solution would be calling 911. Of course, this was not an emergency, but you know you are desperate, if you are stuck on a highway in a thunderstorm, have no internet connection to research tow trucks and are about 15 miles from the next exit. THIS is not a situation I want to ever be in again.
The phone call with the 911 operator was quite… awkward I would say. The woman that responded to us, double checked twice if she heard us correctly and reluctantly agreed to sending someone out to where we were. Gratefully we hang up the phone and sat in silence, waiting for much needed good news. 45 minutes later a patrol cop showed up. She pulled up her car next to us (at this point it was still raining heavily and A and I barely spoke) and asked if we were alright. And although it took her 45 minutes to come on by, hearing her southern accent instantly made A and me happy. Southern hospitality is a thing, believe it or not.
She asked if we couldn’t get of the highway, which A said wouldn’t be save because of the wiper situation. So she looked at him long and hard and then agreed after having been asked twice to send a tow truck our way before she left us to our silence again. Another 45 minutes later the rain had stopped and no tow truck was stopping although several ones were passing by. The roads were so dry that A figured it would be save to drive, he said he would stop again if it would rain again. I protested but A and I have an agreement that the one in the driver’s seat calls the shot, when driving. Of course this is more respected when he is driving than when I am driving, but we all have our flaws.
After we had settled in and the sky cleared up nicely, we figured the worst was behind us. Of course that was spoken too soon. It always is. As we were cruising along the highway, calculating when we would arrive at the house, the truck in front of us blew one of the tires. It sounded like someone shot a gun and both A and I didn’t quite know what to make out of that. We scanned the horizon trying to see if that sound came from our car or from another car or from where ever. An instant later the cars to the left of us almost lost control of their car because of the huge tire pieces slamming into their windshield. They tried to avoid hitting the tire but realized that if they went into our lane they would ultimately hit another vehicle. This in turn almost caused us to lose control as A stepped on the breaks and nearly hit the car in front of us. At this point I saw my life flashing before my eyes. This was not how I imagined my vacation. But traffic normalized quite quickly. A yelled out in happiness, “THIS WAS THE THIRD ONE. ALL BAD THINGS COME IN THREES” and I shook my head in defeat. I didn’t care in how many things bad things come, I just didn’t want to be in this vehicle anymore…
Around 1 pm we finally made it to A’s family’s house. 2 1/2 hours later than we had hoped for but in life you cannot have everything. During our first week in the US, in Georgia we slowly got over our jetlag, sweated through 90 F weather, watched turtles, squirrels and geckos. Ate oranges from the orange trees, fished with moderate to no success and all in all just genuinely enjoyed our very first Christmas in the US. It’s true, we never celebrated Christmas in the US together! Both A nor I couldn’t have picked a better place than Georgia to finally have our first American Christmas!
Also, having this view, made it easy to forget the road trip that was behind us and the one that was yet to come…
Having arrived in Georgia, A and I could finally relax, at least so we thought, but that was before we knew, what was yet to come. And because we didn’t know, we enjoyed life to the fullest, every single moment. How could we not, when in Georgia…?