Deciding to drive to Detroit, Mich., instead of flying a couple of weeks ago with a breast cancer patient was not one of my more brilliant ideas. The lessons I learned on this road trip are blazingly tattooed to my memory and will not ever be forgotten.
This was my first time planning a road trip or vacation of any kind. My husband always took care of that department. The only parts he would delegate to me would be lodging, packing and being a good passenger DJ. I never worried about saving money for the trip, having available cash, rest stop locations, snacks and meals, traffic or anything major.
But I had seen it done. I could do this. In my mind, I had it all laid out. I made sure the credit cards were paid up. I had cash on hand just in case. I secured lodging, but that was a given; we would be staying at my Grandmother Ophelia’s, my second home. I packed plenty of water, snacks and chocolate. Why chocolate? My Dad advised chocolate instead of coffee because chocolate would keep me awake instead of having to make frequent stops to use the bathroom. We would rent a luxury vehicle from Hertz for a comfortable ride for my husband. Since my son was taking his car as well, there would be two vehicles on the road and four drivers.
If we got on the highway in Tampa by the end of evening rush hour, or at least by 7 o’clock, we could possibly beat the morning rush hour traffic in Atlanta, Ga. The plan was to arrive in Detroit somewhere around 3 p.m., just in time for my eldest son and his girlfriend to check in at their hotel in Southfield, Mich. Of course, after the Hertz fiasco, nothing seemed to go our way.
I shut the house down, doubling back twice to make sure I unplugged various devices and to check to see if my security system was working properly. Once we left our residence, I realized that the trash had to be emptied, another of my husband’s tasks that he had to vacate because of his battle with cancer.
So back to the house to collect all the garbage and place it in the dumpster. Who wants to come home after a vacation to a house smelling like week-old garbage? Of course, I double checked the luggage and my husband’s medications to make sure we had everything.
Time is just ticking away. Then my husband decided that there was a certain brand of cheese that he wanted to snack on that only Publix has. On to Publix. We purchased two fruit bowls and some cheese.
Finally, we are on the highway – at 8:30. That proved to be a blessing in disguise because no one was on the highway. Rush-hour traffic had cleared and there were very few cars and semi-trucks on the road. The vehicle we took on the road instead of the rental was my husband’s new Santa Cruz, a hybrid type of car, an SUV that looks like a truck. The Santa Cruz is not built for road trips, with seats not designed for extended periods of driving. My husband, youngest daughter, and I made this discovery three hours later as we crossed the Florida border into Valdosta, Ga. – our first of at least six different rest stop and gas station appearances.
I must say this: Florida’s Interstate 275 was a smooth ride. The highway was a beauty to travel upon. No holes, bumps, and minimum construction made for a great ride, especially at night. There could be more lights, yet that would be my only complaint, as we made our way through Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky at night.
We traveled through Georgia for another two hours before it became painfully obvious that after another gas stop – not to fuel, but for my sons to purchase energy drinks, my husband’s bathroom needs, and my daughter and me desperately desiring to stretch our cramped legs – it was time to rest. Despite the additional stops we had to make, we were outside of Atlanta at 3 a.m. My sons and I decided to sleep for a couple of hours in a semi-secluded spot, a gas station in Perry, Ga., right outside of Macon.
Then we got back on the road at 5 a.m. to make it to Atlanta before rush hour, because previous experience had taught us that being caught there during mornings was like being a sitting duck in a pond full of muck. I made my husband as comfortable as possible, ate a bit of fruit, and dozed off with one eye half-opened. Our projected Detroit arrival time had changed, from 3 p.m. to five-thirty p.m. I guessed we were still making good time. My two sons had taken over the driving duties and at a little past 5, we were back on the road.
What was interesting to me is that the highway into Atlanta was beginning to get busy at that hour. I supposed that figures because of how congested Atlanta’s highway system is by 7 o’clock. But we made it into downtown Atlanta before dawn. To see all the history flash quickly as we sped through never ceases to amaze me. Spelman. Morehouse. The King Center. We only saw the signage for these historically signiﬁcant places, yet we all vowed that one day soon we would pause and visit Atlanta for an extended stay.
We stayed on the road and drove into Tennessee and Kentucky. I must say that those majestic mountains were breathtaking to view. It just marvels the mind to think that we were traveling along a highway that more than likely was a mountain blasted through by tons and tons of dynamite. One can only imagine the manpower needed to dig through all that rock.
I think about the unsung labor of Chinese migrants who worked on those highways, blasting through rock and rubble to construct highways and railroads, working alongside African Americans, facing discrimination, and poor working and living conditions. My greatgreat-grandfather was a Chinese immigrant. I often wonder if his hands helped to break boulders and carry rocks to carve out the highway through the mountains of Tennessee and Kentucky.
Finally, the Cincinnati bridge is in sight. We are almost home to Detroit.