See the USA in Your Chevrolet….

I love highway rest stops. There. I said it. Rest stops, truck stops, I love them all. Those commercialized hubs on the major highways and over state lines gets my heart beating a little faster every time we go on the road. With the warmer weather around the corner, I have vacation/road trip on the brain, and with that comes memories of past road trips and so naturally, between needing gas and restroom breaks, there are the rest stops.

There is a sense of adventure in the anonymity of rest stops and an unspoken instant camaraderie with other road travelers. No matter where you go, they’re all the same–people striding purposefully toward the bathroom while others leisurely eyeball the cold case for something to munch. Then you have the tchotchke shoppers checking the token key chains, shot glasses, hats, and t-shirts emblazoned with the state bird or motto of wherever they are. Newspapers, magazines, local and state maps, and miscellaneous car paraphernalia round out the window shopping before heading over to the cashier to pay for the coffee or whatever it is that will get these travelers through to the next leg of their trip.

Where are all these people going? Coming from? Who are they visiting? Meeting? Leaving? Rest stops are like a pause in the journey. It lets you take a time out and assess how far you’ve come and how far you’ve yet to go.

Every vacation has a story and every road trip just begs for one. Some of my favorite memories have come from rest stop situations that enhanced our vacations like nothing else could have, from “lost keys” that ended up being on the air filter of the car engine while stopped in Memphis to a rest stop in Pennsylvania where I gave a woman back her wallet she thought she lost but simply left behind in the bathroom.

My favorite rest stop memory though happened just outside of Las Vegas where I found a coupon for 10 percent off a wedding service at a Vegas chapel. The initial reason for our Nevada trip was a whole other story, but we held on to the coupon and in the end, simply couldn’t resist. We got married on the way back to the airport on our last day in Vegas and then boarded the plane to come home. (Yes, we used the coupon.)

That particular rest stop has led me to the best road trip of all as this year marks 20 years with my husband—definitely the trip of a lifetime! So if you’re planning on any sort of road trip for your next vacation, be sure to enjoy the rest stops along the way. You’ll never know what you’ll find or where they may lead you, but at the very least it could be one of the best parts of the trip!

 

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Windowpanes

When we first moved to our home, I didn’t so much mind my one-hour commute.  I would tell people that if I was going to commute and if I was going to be stuck in traffic, this would be the ideal, with much of my travel consisting of driving through woods and over causeways above the lakes.

In the spring and summer, the greenness and abundance of the trees and the sunlight reflecting off the water and can be pure joy, reminiscent of childhood summer days. In the fall, there are days it seems I am driving through a tunnel of fire when all the leaves are at their height of color and fall upon my path with a reckless kamikaze abandonment. In the winter, the sun peeks through the snow-laden tree branches making the tree line look like a giant piece of lace if I used soft vision, and the water becomes a frozen oasis with people finally getting a bit of Jesus in them and walking out onto the solid water for ice fishing, skating, or just because they can. Being surrounded by such beauty did slow me down for awhile and when I got stuck in traffic, I enjoyed just staring off into the trees as I waited for God knows what up ahead to be cleared and finally being able to drive faster than I could walk.

It’s been over 10 years since we bought the house and though it’s still very beautiful where I live, there are days when the shine has rubbed off. The stress of commuting and the complications that just seems to happen as we get older and life goes on has made the extraordinary became ordinary. Mundane. Being stuck on a curvy road behind a slow driver or a delivery truck for 25 miles or having one-lane closed for construction has become pure torture more days than not.

I hate to say it but I’ve become blinded to the beauty around me when I drive and these once wondrous sites have turned into obstacles I feel I must overcome. I don’t notice the trees so much anymore, focusing instead on craning my neck to see who is at the head of the line creating a parade during prime commuting time and how much longer it will take me to get to my destination. Everything has suddenly become far.

I’ve been a die-hard commuter for as long as I can remember driving and working. A Jersey commuter who mastered the art of driving a stick shift on the Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike during rush hour while drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette, perfectly balancing them as I rolled down the window to throw in my token at the tollbooths. It was an art and I was queen.

These days, I rarely travel the Parkway and Turnpike anymore, I quit smoking, and I now drive an automatic (though I still drink coffee in the car), but the commuter queen in me has never really gone away. Yes, I know I could /should take these delays as signs to slow down, but it’s not always so easy. And honestly, sometimes I just don’t want to.  I want to get where I’m going!

There is still one thing that takes my breath away and makes me slow down and appreciate where I live that no construction, no Sunday driver, no weather system can ever take away and that is view of the sunrise from my kitchen window.

There are three windows at the back of our house that overlook the backyard and face East. In the morning, as I get ready for the day ahead, I always look out hoping to maybe get a peek of a passing animal or just to see the level of daylight that helps me gauge my degree of lateness! Typically, it’s dark when I get up. A while goes by and I look out the back window and it’s still dark. Then it gets lighter. Shadows. Grey sky. Shadows sharpen into forms. Lighter Grey. And then it happens—the sun climbs over the horizon between the trees and the most awesome pinks and yellows and whites burst open the day. Sunrise. It’s like a lamp gets turned on in the morning that starts the day.

There have been mornings when the sudden beauty of the bursting sunrise has pulled from me an audible gasp but then awed me into silence at the gorgeousness of it all. You want to know if there’s a God or something bigger than us out there? Just watch a sunrise and let’s talk about it afterward. This is when I think, “yeah, this is why I live here” and remember that there is a bigger journey I am on than just the commute from my home to my office.

Sometimes, I’ll lean my forehead against the glass and wonder what windows will I be looking out at 10 years from now and what will I see? 5 years? Next year? What will my scenery be? I have no clue but wherever my windowpane will be and what it will look out onto, I’ll never forget the sunrises.