Sunday, July 12, 2009

126 Miles to Terre Haute

The journey along I-70 is a lonely one. And a boring one. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Geez, Matt, what do you want, enemy planes swooping down on you as you outrun terrorist forces? Scantily-clad vixens welcoming you at rest stops?" Uh, no. I can live without the enemy planes. But the route that traverses our country's mid-section won't win any "Scenic Drive" awards. Heck, I'd settle for the occasional dilapidated barn with "Mail Pouch. Treat Yourself to the Best" painted on the side.

We've made this drive twice in less than a month. Last week we did it for a second time in order to have the memorial service for Donna's mother. It turned out to be a fitting tribute to her, and one she would have wanted, which is something depicting the opposite of your traditional funeral. Her sisters and relatives came over from Pennsylvania. My family came up from Canton. And we all gathered at Waterworks Park in Lakemore, Ohio to remember her, let the kids set off balloons into the air in honor of her, and to sit around, talk, and eat.

We also stayed at her house. I think we did that for a multitude of reasons. Sure, it eliminated the cost of a hotel room, but since we've decided to buy her house from the estate we wanted to...get a feel for it to see how comfortable we would be. It's difficult to do that, I suppose, when all you have is a couple of chairs, a radio, a small refrigerator for the beer, and an air-mattress. However, all in all, we both came to the conclusion that we would continue the journey towards moving our life back to the edifice at 2254 Scotland Drive.

Both on the drive out and back, I had a good deal of time to ponder, reflect, worry, and, in a sense, basque in the loneliness that is I-70 between Columbus, Ohio and Collinsville, Illinois. Donna claims to be a good traveling companion in the car, and she is....if you enjoy a passenger who is semi-comatose and continually interrupts your Mozart compilation CD with symphonic snoring even before you're south of Mansfield. But once the clarity of 610 WTVN crumbles into static hesitancy outside of Dayton, the drive, aside from brief civilized contact in Indianapolis, becomes a blur of forgotten soybean fields and mammoth fireworks-for-sale billboards.

Moving back to Akron presents an astonishing array of possibilities. I know the thought of "moving back to Akron" for some would be akin to....well, to driving on I-70 between Columbus, Ohio and Collinsville, Illinois. But as the miles ticked by and the rest stops piled up, I really tried to wrap my head around a return home. What were once thoughts comprised of watching Vanderbilt play on a Saturday afternoon and time spent thinking of what I'd say to Martina McBride if I spotted her in a restaurant were now replaced with thoughts of nephews' football games and casually wandering over to my twin brother's house for a cold one on a Sunday afternoon. I thought of the prospects of a lower house payment. I thought of not having to buy the MLB Package to watch the Indians. I thought of being able to run down to Canton on my scooter and take my mother to lunch. (whether or not she'd get on the scooter is another story.) I pondered getting involved with a parish again. I planned brewery stops. And I smiled at the thought of being able to visit a couple of my favorite haunts in nearby Pittsburgh again.

So as my companion nodded off into semi-unconsciousness and I turned up the volume on my CD, I tried to think about the positive aspects of moving back home. The whole process of "what's good" versus "what's not-so-good"...and surprisingly, the "good" had some unique advantages. And that felt good. As Donna arrived from her slumbers, only to return after mumbling, "Where are we at now?", I also made a mental note to perhaps give this solitary drive on I-70 another chance. I vowed to drive past Wright-Patterson Air Force base outside of Dayton. I pledged to stop again and visit our client-station in Richmond, Indiana. I planned to check out the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, the Candle Outlet store, and the J & J Winery. I told myself that Terre Haute HAD to offer more than just a Marathon gas station or a Starbucks drive-thru and I vowed to see what the downtown actually looked like. And I made a promise to myself that I would stop to take a photograph of the huge crucifix that sits at the I-57 turn-off in Effingham. After all, sometimes the things that go past in a blur are sometimes the things that need closer inspection.

Now if I can just remember to record my next conversation with Donna....so I can be able to play it back in the car on our next journey on that long black ribbon known as I-70. It gets lonely out here.

-30-

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