Rethinking the Road part of the Road Trip

For the third time in four days I am at a dealership getting my tires serviced. Actually fourth if I count the closed dealership the tow truck driver took me to on Saturday. Not 30 minutes out from Matteson, Illinois, the darn “check your tire pressure soon” light starts flashing. I just spent $1,000 getting new tires and now this.
With the help of the GPS on my phone, I locate the nearest dealership. It’s 20 miles back but I slowly make my way there. The service guy is very helpful. The tires don’t look flat because they are something called run flat which means they never look flat. That’s why the stupid computer warning cannot be disengaged;it’s the only way of knowing if a tire is flat. A few minutes later, he tells me he has fixed the problem (back tires were not inflated to proper pressure and the computer wasn’t reset). So back on the road I head.
Most of the way is on Interstate 57, which runs 500 miles from Chicago to Memphis . That’s the same distance as Saskatoon to Winnipeg and the drive is just as boring. No hills, few curves, lots of farms on either side of the freeway and shoulders littered with road kill (deer, rabbits, a fox,) and tons of rubber tires.
To break the monotony, I stop at Mount Vernon, looking forward to a tour of George Washington’s plantation. Unfortunately, that Mount Vernon is in Virginia and I am in Illinois.
11 hours of driving later (including the hour backtracking to the dealership), I am sitting outside a Comfort Inn near Little Rock, basking in the warmth of a humid Arkansas evening. Dinner was a rotisserie chicken and a surprisingly good tetra pack of Pinot Griogo, both from Walmart. I am just praying the computer in my car doesn’t light up with “check your tire pressure soon” tomorrow.

The Adventure Begins… sort of:

After much hemming and hawing, I finally decided that what I refer to as the first day of the rest of my life would begin with my road trip on Saturday, June 9th. I would enjoy a leisurely drive to Cleveland, spend Sunday at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and maybe the Botanical Garden before departing for Indianapolis. On Monday, I would tour the famed Indy speedway and the Motor Museum/Hall of Fame. I had even drafted the first entry for this blog in my mind…When I think of all the exotic, distant and exciting places I could begin my travels, Cleveland does not come to mind…..
I packed up my car, cleaned my condo, drove my son downtown, gave him a big hug good-bye and drove off……Exactly two blocks, when one of my tires hit a curb, followed by an loud whooshing sound that could mean nothing good. I looked back, but didn’t see anything untoward and the car was driving okay. Until I got on the Gardiner expressway when the annoying computer that is my nemesis went “ding” and a message started flashing “check tire pressure soon.”
I crept gingerly to a tire store some miles away. The manager came out, looked at my tire, saw the very ugly two inch gash in the rear passenger tire and rather gratuitously said “that does not look good.” I agreed. “No problem” he said, “we can change it in half an hour. But best that you get both back tires replaced. For balance,” he explained. That sounded sensible to me so I didn’t even question the $1,000 price tag.
Except 20 minutes later he came back and said that he needed the special, unique-to –my-car factory key to unlock the tires and mine was missing. Did I know where it was? I had no idea what he was talking about, except I knew this was not going to be a quick, but expensive fix.
3 hours later, my car had been towed to the only Toronto dealership open on Saturday that did service, just to be told they didn’t have the right size tire in stock. They were able to use a master factory key to unlock my tire and put on the spare, but only after I promised not to drive over 80 kilometers an hour. My eminently reasonable suggestion that they let me borrow the master key, go back to the tire store, have the tire store change the tires and return the key, was flatly rejected. Making it to Cleveland on Saturday was not to be.
So I spent the first two days of my trip back at my condo, waiting for another dealership to open on Monday. Cleveland was scratched from the itinerary, as was Indianapolis. I am due in Texas on Wednesday for a scrapbooking convention and it is a 22 hour drive. No time for dillydallying or sightseeing on route.
Monday morning came, I went to the dealership. Turns out I needed 3 new tires; another one had a gash in it from some unknown incident and there was a bulge in a third tire. The only good news was that it was only going to cost $1,000 for all 3 new tires.
By 11:30 I was on the road. No hiccups. At 8:00PM, I turned off the interstate and found a room in a Comfort Inn. The room has air conditioning, a TV and the bathroom has been recently tiled. There’s a large church outside, lots of shopping malls and tons of firework stores around. Other than that, everything is very non-descript I had to use Google Maps to figure out where I was. Matteson, Illinois, just on the other side of the Indiana border, about 30 miles from Chicago. I grabbed some KFC, opened a bottle of wine and thus ended the first day of my trip. When I think of all the exotic, distant and exciting places I could begin my travels, Matteson, does not come to mind…..

Why Travel?

After 33 years with the same employer, I retired. This was not an easy decision- my job was interesting, well paid and I worked with great people. I enjoyed being at the office most days. The six mile commute each way not so fun. Toronto’s horrid public transit system meant spending two hours every day on overcrowded streetcars, squished between passengers screeching on their cell phones and slurping coffee or listening to the beat, beat, beat of music blaring through earphones that failed to smother the music. I t was not my job which drove the decision to retire but the horrors of getting there.

 

Once I decided to call it quits, the next question was what I would do with the next part of my life. Sitting around my condo watching TV for the next few decades solved my traffic woes, but seemed like a recipe for atrophy. Finding another job was not financially necessary and seemed too much like, well, work. Volunteering would be worthwhile and sociable, but would still leave me spending long months in cold Canadian winters. After much indecision, I decided to indulge in my greatest passion – travel – for as long as I could physically be able to do it and enjoy it. No more shivering wrapped in parkas and mitts and scarfs waiting for the long overdue streetcar on cold, dark January mornings.

 

That goal of avoiding winters also created the next dilemma: where to settle. Somewhere hot and tropical was an easy choice. Dreams of a condo nestled on an endless beach, with vistas of endless turquoise waters and waves lapping at the sand danced through my head, but the question became where. Nowhere in Canada is warm enough. The Costa del Sol in Spain was an early contender, but horror stories of shoddy construction, high prices and development run rampant erased that as a destination. Florida is a perennial favorite with Canadians, but a trip to the grocery store where everyone looked to be over 80 convinced me I was too young for there. Panama, with its enticing programs for retirees had the requisite beaches, young population and good transportation systems, but every time I visited, I suspected I would feel too isolated from Europe and North America. Reluctantly, I concluded that Panama was a little too far for me.

 

After years of torturing myself with this question of where I would retire, it dawned on me that I did not need to pick a single place. Websites like Airbnb would allow me to try a place for a week or a month or however long I felt like it. Flights and trains could be booked on the internet on a whim. I travel light, so the idea of living out of a tiny suitcase didn’t phase me. Slowly, the idea of not settling in to a particular place seemed to be the perfect solution. I didn’t have to find my new home. I would try different places. Stay if I like; leave if I don’t. Just go and experience whatever interests me and avoid what doesn’t. My new mantra became travel without commitments.

 

Thus, I committed to traveling until I don’t want to anymore. Welcome to my journey.