It feels like months have gone by since we packed our essentials and our chatty cat into Sean’s tiny Scion and hit the trail for Boston. But in reality, we were still very much en route a week ago. Sean drove every last mile of the road trip — all 1,776 of them — as I suspected he would. But he was a champ about it. All three of us were. Our voyage from old Texas to New England was not fraught with boredom or kitty tears (or scurvy) like I feared it might be. It was a smidge on the long side, sure, but we made it out alive, and with plenty of stories to tell.
We left Dallas on Saturday afternoon and drove to Texarkana to spend one last night with Sean’s family (and enjoy our last home-cooked meal for a while) before hitting the road for real.
We were hoping the nice weather from earlier in the weekend would stick around for a little while so we could enjoy some sights along the way. Instead, we woke up on Sunday to rain, falling temperatures, and a snow storm aimed right at our route. We weren’t in any particular hurry — Sean doesn’t start his new job until next Monday and I’m on PTO from my job until March 13 — but we’d hoped to be in Nashville by Sunday evening, so we brushed off the weather reports, fueled up with one last Whataburger, gave the cat a happy pill, and kissed Texas goodbye.
Texas to Nashville was by far the most taxing part of the trip. It rained on us the entire time. We’re talking sprinkles in Texarkana, drips in Little Rock, and Old Testament-style flooding from Little Rock to Nashville. We felt every last minute of the drive. By the time we checked into our hotel, all we wanted to do was sit back and watch the Oscars. But then, of course, the power went out. And by the time it came back on, all the movie stars had been replaced by local weathermen who assured us that Nashville would become a deepfreeze overnight.
When we turned on the local news the next morning, “deepfreeze” had gone clear out the window, and every one of the anchors was convinced that Nashville had teleported to within the Arctic Circle. Image after image was of overturned emergency vehicles and skating SUVs. We thought for a minute that we might have to spend the day cooped up in our hotel. But then we thought — WWYD? (what would Yankees do?). Yankees wouldn’t be afraid of a couple of snowflakes and patches of ice. Yankees wouldn’t offer Old Man Winter a hot toddy or a pair of slippers. Yankees would toss a couple curse words at him and then run him over with all four wheels. So that’s what we did — packed up and headed straight into the great Nash-pocalypse. And thank goodness we did, because the roads were fine. They were fine leaving Nashville, they were fine when we drove into the rolling Tennessee hills, they were fine for the entire 200 years it took us to drive through the state.
We crossed into the Eastern time zone about 20 miles outside of Virginia. I’d anticipated the switch being a much bigger endeavor than it actually was — I had Google at the ready and was prepared to call friends who’d made a similar drive before to figure out when I was. But it was a total non-event. I barely noticed the road sign announcing it, and all of a sudden our phones said 3:15 instead of 2:15 and that was that. I always have a small existential crisis whenever I change time zones. “How would my life be affected if I never make it back to Central time?” I wonder. If we end up staying on the East Coast, I will have lost an hour of my life. Poof. Gone. That’s 60 fewer minutes I’ll get to spend watching Netflix.
The reality of what we were doing didn’t really set in until we reached Virginia. Arkansas was so familiar and Tennessee was so southern that my brain didn’t really register any differences. But Virginia, that’s East Coast. (Not to mention, I’ve never really considered Virginia a southern state. Don’t tell Virginians — particularly the ones that fought in the Civil War.) As far as I was concerned, we had arrived. Mission accomplished.
We spent the majority of Tuesday driving through Virginia, which means we spent the majority of the day marveling at how gorgeous Virginia is.
We’d planned to meet Sean’s family for dinner near D.C. on Tuesday night, but we didn’t have very far to drive and had some time to kill. So when we saw a sign on the highway for the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, we immediately (and somewhat dangerously) veered off the road and popped in for a visit. (Don’t laugh — it’s another presidential library we can cross off our list.) We had no idea what town we were in or how to get back on course, but by golly, we knew Woodrow Wilson’s given first name by the end of our tour!
Eventually, we did find our way to northern Virginia. And after spending some time catching up with our darling East Coast family, we pressed on to Baltimore and cozied up for the night at our friends’ killer townhouse.
Zombiefied. That’s the only way to describe our mental states on Wednesday. The road trip had been going pretty smoothly up to that point. We’d taken our time, enjoyed the scenery and the in-car entertainment, minted some new inside jokes, and were frankly finding it really hard to believe that we’d already been on the road for 20 hours. But by day five we were running out of steam. The end was in sight and we just wanted to be stationary already.
We pulled into a rest stop in Jersey — where, as it turns out, it’s illegal to pump your own gas — and spent some time recharging at the Starbucks inside. I must’ve looked like I was ready to leap onto the highway in heavy traffic, because the barista at the counter asked me if it had been a long day, AND THEN the barista who was slinging drinks came out from his post, walked right up behind me, and asked — with significant concern — if I was ok. To be perfectly honest, I was just trying not to come across as a happy, hee-hawin’ Southerner in Yankee country. I guess it worked. (Just so you know, I gave that schtick up before we even left the parking lot. I smile sweetly at strangers on the street, mind my manners, and yuck it up with people I’ve just met. And the folks up this-a-way don’t seem to mind a-tall.)
The most surreal part of the drive happened about an hour later when we passed Manhattan. It was just like driving by any other major city — really hazy and full of tall buildings. Except this time the buildings were Empire State and One World Trade Center. I’ve been to New York City a handful of times, but I never in my life expected to whiz by it on an expressway like that. Hello, New York, goodbye, New York. Boston forever! (Them’s fightin’ words. I think I’ve chosen my side. GO SOX!)
We’re staying with family friends a few miles outside of Boston while we get our bearings and apartment hunt, and when we pulled onto their street on Wednesday night, it was like the heavens opened up and bathed their house in a bright, celestial light. We went inside, devoured our first homemade meal in days, had a glass of wine, and settled into a comfortable bedroom that we didn’t have to access with a key or scoot out of before noon. We’d made it. Boston’s right there, and it’s ours for the taking.