Drive times

Google maps said our trip to Alabama would take six hours even.

It took 9.5.

In all fairness, there were some mitigating circumstances that the good folks *1* up in Mountain View couldn’t anticipate. Like children. And Atlanta. And children.

The distance was only 380 miles. When Donnette and I dated long distance for a year, the distance from my apartment to hers was 454 miles. Even with construction on I-95, I routinely made it in less than 6.5 hours. Of course, back then I thought that speed limits weren’t so much laws as dares, and since my Jeep could only go 400 miles on a tank of gas I stopped just before the Florida-Georgia border to fill up, engine running so as to not waste time. Even still, Rock Hill to Birmingham is 65 miles less than Charlotte to Gainesville, so I thought 7-8 hours was a reasonable expectation for the trip.

We probably shouldn’t have stopped for lunch in Greenville.

Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I knew that getting to Atlanta any time after 2pm would be a mistake, this being a Friday and Atlanta being the worst place on earth to drive, but I didn’t speak up when Donnette suggested the Pita House, *2* or when we needed to stop to feed Oliver ten minutes later, or when Avonlea needed to pee 15 minutes after that. *3* We were only minutes past Athens when the traffic started to back up, and it didn’t really relent until we were on the other side of I-75. I don’t know how people who live in Atlanta do it, but I do know that if you’re planning on moving to the area and want to open your own business, those stress balls people squeeze would probably do well there.

Our trip back wasn’t as bad, though it still somehow took us 8 hours even without all the traffic. We stopped on the Charlotte side of Atlanta for lunch, and as we were getting back on the interstate I noticed a gigantic store called “Hong Kong Super Market.” I took a picture of it and texted it to my friend, with the caption, “the places I would stop if I didn’t have children.” It looked like the kind of place that smelled funky in all the right ways, but we were making good time and there didn’t seem to be any reason to tempt fate.

We want to take a trip out west this fall, and so as we drove home Donnette began to plan the logistics of how we could make this work. Do we fly, do we drive, do we fly then drive…these were the sorts of things she was trying to work out, and as she did, I was reminded that America is nothing if not a big, big place. If you wanted to drive from Paris to Marseille, it would take you a full eight hours, start to finish, and that is pretty much going from the top of the country to the bottom. In America, that’s roughly the amount of time it takes to cross Texas.

And that’s assuming you cut across the top half.

We’re trying to see as much as we can on this trip, which means we need to have a good idea as to how long it will take us to get from one place to the next. Donnette said when she was making plans that she was adding an additional hour to whatever Google was estimating, but I wonder if that might be a bit naive. I suspect that children add an exponential amount of drive time, meaning that to reach the Grand Canyon by Oct. 25th we needed to leave yesterday.

It doesn’t help that we can’t really travel light. The last time our friends visited us from Maryland, they brought two suitcases and a pack n’ play. For the five of them. Donnette and I can pack that much for an afternoon at the pool. It’d be nice to blame our heavy handedness on our children, but the truth is, we’ve never been able to pack lightly, even before our numbers grew. Of course, we used to bring along unnecessary bonus items, whereas now we bring along food for Oliver, but still, it’s embarrassing to bring in 7 bags for a three day weekend. *4*

We are aware that we’re moving to a country where people are small, cars are even smaller, and any kind of space is worth a very high premium, and all I can say to that is, we’ll deal with it once we get there. When I think about what it’s going to be like to live in France, this is one of the things that makes me wonder just how we’ll make do. Not really in a doubting sort of way; if I can say goodbye to my friends and family I can learn to pack less khaki’s, but more out of curiosity, like, if it can happen there, why can’t it happen here? If memory serves me correctly I do think Donnette and I managed to pack lightly for one trip not too long ago, but I’m guessing we didn’t do any swimming and it wasn’t too cold outside. Like I said, I’m sure we’ll make it work, I’m just curious as to how, but maybe that’s a question that will just have to wait until we get there. We’ll probably be flying at least part of the way this fall, so hopefully we won’t take a minivan’s worth of stuff with us, but maybe we will. I guess it’ll depend on the baggage fees.

At any rate, those are some quick observations from the weekend. Thank you for your prayers.

*1* Some would argue it inappropriate to call “Google” good, but as they will soon be our overlords, I’m looking to get on their good side.

*2* You wouldn’t complain either, the Pita House is amazing. Just bring cash; they don’t take Visa or American Express.

*3* In all fairness, it’s usually me these days who needs to pee. A big part of my diet was to drink tons of water, like 1.5 to 2 gallons a day, and while this has made me feel infinitely better and helped me to not gain a pound back in over a year, it does mean I need to use the restroom, like, all the time. I try to tone it back when we travel, but I can only back off so much. It’s normal when your 3 year old says she needs to pee every 25 miles. When it’s a 34 year old man, it’s just sort of pathetic.

*4* Donnette and I have been watching a popular cable show about the aftermath of a Zombie apocalypse, and it has confirmed something we’ve known for a long time. When the end comes, the Brock’s aren’t even going to try to run, our suitcases would weigh us down long before we made it to safe haven. We’ve decided that should that happen, we’re just going to sit on our porch swing and try to enjoy the ride.

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