I Hope That Something Better Comes Along*

But you know, sometimes it doesn’t.road map‘Tis the season for road trips.  I enjoy traveling to new and interesting places or well-loved homes away from home.  But I really hate flying these days; it’s unpleasant in a multitude of ways.  And, I’m not great sitting in cars for long stretches, but I’m working on that.

Being there is much better than getting there.travel troubleBut, for me, being there makes my body anxious and cranky.  Unfamiliar water makes my skin break out.  It’s almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep.  And, after a few days, my body starts to rebel if I’m not eating right.

A lot of times traveling means eating on the fly—sometimes literally.  But one should keep some semblance of healthfulness.  Being logy and having an upset tummy will take the fun right out of a vacation.touronsMy goal is to have a balance of carbs for energy, protein to keep me feeling full longer, and healthy fats, with fruits, veggies, and whole grains to keep my engine from seizing up.  I want as flavorful and nutritious bang for my caloric buck as possible.

Of course, the best way to do this is to prepare your own food.  I’m a huge fan of dried fruit/toasted nut mixes—just watch the portion sizes; it’s very easy to inhale a whole fruit bowl that when dried appears to be only a handful or two.  140 healthy calories can turn into a ruinous 2000 if you’re not mindful.travel snacksThose pre-packed snack boxes have the right idea, but usually are full of sugars, sodium, unnecessary fats, and chemicals.  When it’s packed at home, it can be tailored to your own tastes.  Mix something like semi-hard cheese, whole grain crackers, a hard-cooked egg, some grape tomatoes, and dried blueberries.

Sadly, packing your own is not always an option.  Sometimes the only way you’re going to eat is to get some version of fast food.  Luckily, these days it’s not impossible to find healthier choices.macoatmealAt Mickey D’s, breakfast is now served all day.  The oatmeal is around 300 calories if you get it made without dairy; which is often just a container of their coffee creamer dumped in.  There are whole grains, fresh apples, and dried fruit.  The yogurt parfait is also a not horrible bite.  It’s only 210 calories and has fresh berries and low-fat granola.

If you order one of their salads, get one without fried meat.  The Southwest grilled chicken salad is 350 calories and has fresh fruit and veg.  The grilled chicken ranch is 320 calories.sheetzSheetz, with their War and Peace-sized, fully customizable menu can also be an option.  Their breads include whole-grain options, the meat can be grilled, and they have crispy greens to dress them.  I made a tasty loaded rice and bean bowl with vegetables and guacamole for only 300 calories. You can build a salad for yourself—just ask for the dressing on the side.panera spinachPanera’s showing up along many highways, and they have a commitment to providing clean healthy food.  Their green passion smoothie is 200 calories and full of fresh fruit and greens.  They’ve introduced a new spinach salad full of good stuff that is very similar to their old spinach salad which I loved and have sorely missed.

But hey, you’re on vacation, so don’t deprive yourself totally.  Splurge occasionally.  Stop at that ice cream stand and have a cone.  And maybe at Sheetz, buy an order of their decadent, delicious tater tots, but share them with your companions.muppet*The title is a song from that classic road trip film, The Muppet Movie.

Thanks for your time.

The Scarf

You really, really don’t want me riding shotgun on a road trip with you.  Heck, after a few hours in a car with me, you’d be looking for that shotgun to take me out of your misery.

I try, I really do, but I have a real hard time sitting still for long periods of time.  With a severely defective attention span, I need something to keep me occupied.  Reading is the easy answer.  But when I read, I completely disengage, which rude to fellow travelers. But in the late fall of 2010, I knew I had to figure out an ants-in-the pants remedy.  We were taking The Kid up to start college.

In Vermont.

By car.

map nc to vt

It’s 800 miles from our front door to the front door of the New England Culinary Institute.  With gas, restroom, grub breaks and traffic (DC and New York traffic is a crazy-making punishment), it translates to approximately 17 hours trapped in an automobile.

Options:

Plan A- Zone out and read for the entire drive.  But I’d be giving my only baby away to higher learning in a few days, and I wanted to cherish every second we had left.

Plan B- Do nothing, allow the trip to drive me crazy, and bring the rest of the family along for the ride.Plan C- Figure out a plan C.

One day, I was in Michael’s and walked past the yarn department.  And they had some really soft, pretty yarn.  The wheels started creaking.

I like love adore cozy winter scarves.  I knew how to crochet.  It would keep my hands occupied, but I’d still be able to interact.

So, I bought crochet hooks, a bespoke bag, and about 37 skeins of this crazy-soft yarn in shades from light aqua to deep periwinkle.yarnI took a glance at an online tutorial, and started work on it a few days before we left, in case I ran into any glitches.  I made the initial chain which was the width of my scarf.  I chose a whopping 24 inches.

The directions informed me that I should do extra chain stitches when I came to the end of each row.  But I wanted this to be my own creation, without the oversight and fish eye of some online schoolmarm.    As I was working on the third or fourth row, I realized why I was advised to do the extra chain stitches.  Without them the edges curled up like a piece of fried bologna.

Whoops.I unraveled and started over with the corrected technique.

On the road to Vermont, I got to work in earnest.  Tension is how hard the yarn is pulled and tightened while being crocheted.  To create a work that is consistent in size, the tension must be consistent.

Whoops.

I unraveled and started over with the corrected tension.I dropped stitches before I learned how to gauge where the row ended.

Whoops.

I think you may see where this is all heading.  Lots of whoops-es and much unraveling.  In the end, it took two and a half years to produce a finished scarf.

Which I’ve never used, because it’s about thirty-eight feet long and weighs 14 pounds.  It’s long enough to warm the necks of the starting line-up of Duke’s men’s basketball team, with enough left over for the entire coaching staff.

scarf

The actual, aforementioned scarf.

About the same time The Kid graduated college, I finished a second scarf.  And the next year I whipped up a crocheted blanket for my little scholar for Christmas.  A year later I whipped up infinity scarves for my three nieces and another afghan for some very special newlyweds.

But I still can’t be stuck in a car for more than an hour without losing my mind.Thanks for your time.

The Ballad of Crump Swamp

I firmly believe that to test the viability of a relationship, nothing compares to a road trip.Petey and I, although as different as chocolate and rubber cement, are pretty compatible.  Each time we pull out of the driveway, it’s an adventure (luckily I have an extremely loose definition of the word ‘adventure’, and Petey is endearingly agreeable).

And adventure is precisely the word for the homeward stretch of the road trip we took on our first wedding anniversary.

We’d spent a couple weeks visiting my relatives up north, and it was time to head home.

Since it was summertime, we decided to travel at night.  This way there would be less traffic, and it would be a cooler drive in our non-air conditioned jalopy.It was sometime after midnight on a very lonely stretch of 64 in Virginia.  We left the highway at an exit marked Crump Swamp for a pit stop.  The only sign of life was a convenience store with no gas pumps.  We pulled in.

The parking lot was devoid of any other cars and the store empty save a solitary employee.  We hopped out to get a cold drink and ask if there was a nearby gas station.

As we approached the door, Petey and I slowed down, and then stood stock still.  What we saw inside the both confused and frightened us.

The lights inside were so bright they could’ve acted as an x-ray machine.  And the shelves were almost completely bare.  But it was the cashier that commanded our full attention and left us immobile.It was a woman of indeterminate age.  Her body was the approximate size and shape of a grizzly bear.  Her features and countenance reminded one of the maniacal, inbred cannibals from the film, The Hills Have Eyes.

The terrifying cherry on this appalling sundae were the actions of this individual.  She was running up and down the empty aisles clutching a can of Raid.  With demented glee she was chasing and spraying one of the most rare and beautiful creatures on the planet–a Luna moth.Without a word between us, we turned around and got back in the car.

The goal was to get back onto 64.  Only there was no access.  There was also no sound and no light.  It was like driving inside a heavy black bag.

Through the trees we could occasionally glimpse the headlights of cars traveling on the highway, but couldn’t discern a means to join them.  The whole time Petey and I got quieter and more uneasy.

At one point Petey could no longer ignore a call of nature and pulled off to the edge of the heavy woods that surrounded us.  Sitting in the car, I was so spooked I began entertaining the notion that my husband had been abducted while outside and replaced with a shape shifter.After almost an hour, we finally found a route leading us to 64 and the road home.  The lights and fellow travelers dispelled my fears, and I was 98% sure the man beside me was my Petey.

We still talk about that phantasmical sojourn.  Years later, out of morbid curiosity, I researched Crump Swamp.  I came up with nothing.  I searched for hours and found not one mention of the place.  It was as if it didn’t exist.

But I know it happened.  Maybe though, that place wasn’t in Virginia.  Maybe that night we were both abducted and Crump Swamp is a creepy little town in…Mars.aliensThanks for your time.