Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Long Drive Home

It's been more than two months since we arrived back on Freeman Road.

It was a bittersweet ending to a most incredible journey, a journey which took us to 44 of the 50 states, and 5 Canadian provinces, racking up 51000 miles on Gigantor's odometer, about 40000 of which were under tow.

It was bitter because of the finality of selling our rig and leaving it behind, and because after we left our relationship with the buyer deteriorated (long story). It was sweet because it was nevertheless a perfect ending to arrive back at home without the burden of needing to sell truck and trailer in New England at the end of the camping season.

The drive home was long: 2800 miles in six days; around 7 hours driving per day. The first drive might have been the best...
...we had great scenery as we drove past, and through, the mountains of central Utah, and we had an excellent lunch stop (at a campground, of all places) near Fremont Indian State Park in the Fishlake National Forest.
Coming down out of the mountains and into the desert we were treated to a broad desert panorama seething with thunderstorms. It took a while, but I caught a lighning strike "on film":
Day 2 took us over the Rocky Mountains, past Glenwood Springs, Vail and over Loveland Pass. We lunched on the shores of a lake where a bighorn sheep observation structure had been build. The sheep were not to be seen (probably hiding behind rocks, sniggering and butting each other), but it was a great place for a break, and gave Toby the opportunity for a hike and a swim before settling in for another haul, across the rest of Colorado and into Nebraska.

The third day the driving began to get old.
Most of the day was spent cruising past field after field of endless waves of grain. We crossed the border into Iowa and guess what - looks just like Nebraska!
On the fourth day things began to green up a bit. We crossed the mighty Mississippi River, and ended the day in South Bend, Indiana, not far from the Notre Dame campus, and an area familiar to me because I travel there to visit my employer in nearby Elkhart. This familiarity was like catching a whiff of home, and with only two more drives it was like the end was now in sight.

In the morning we went out for breakfast, and it was a good thing we did, because on the way back to the hotel (a drive of maybe 1/2 of a mile) our moving truck engine overheated! All of the engine coolant had leaked out overnight. We called Penske, thankful that they had a facility in town, but fearful that we would have to re-pack in a replacement truck. Instead they sent out a repair technician who found and fixed the problem in roughly 43 seconds. He then spent a while coaxing the thermostat open so that he could refil the coolant system, but once that was done we were back in business. All told it was less than two hours lost. We tore down the highway as fast as the speed-governor on the truck would allow, crossing most of Indiana, all of Ohio, and into Pennsylvania. Here we stayed at a marginally better hotel and treated ourselves to a room service dinner.

The last drive: back into the northeast proper; back into New England. It warmed us to be getting so close to the end, but aggrevated us to be back in the land of competitive driving. A construction project in New York state brought us to a standstill. Once we finally crept over the border into our home state of Connecticut we were welcomed by our fellow nutmeggers passing on the right, weaving through traffic, neglecting to use the turn signals on their european sports sedans...

And then there we were, driving slowly down our tree-lined street, past the golden hilltop meadow, along our own Firefly Field sloping down to our frog pond, the split-rail fence lining the lawn and driveway. The smell of oaks, cut grass and fresh water wafted in through the open windows. The buzzing of Cicadas and chirping of songbirds filled the late-summer air. We had arrived, back to stay... home.

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