This is a diary of my trip across the US with my daughter to start her freshman year at college in New York — and my return trip, too. Read all the entries here.
I’ve been looking forward to this ride all summer, because we haven’t taken a long car trip together since we moved from DC to St. Louis when she was four — the biggest difference this time is that she can share the driving. It’s just the two of us, and we’ve spread it out so we don’t have to be in the car more than six or seven hours a day.
After spending the weekend packing enough stuff to get her through the next 17 weeks in the big city on her own, we pull out of the driveway at 8:40am with her behind the wheel. The plan is to avoid rush hour and downtown areas as much as possible, but we can’t help but get caught up in the Poplar Street Bridge construction backup for a few minutes as we pass over the Mississippi River into Illinois.
Having taken this route before, I know that the first few hours of our voyage will be the most boring. There’s nothing but farmland on both sides of the road for a very long time. The middle of Illinois is so flat you can look in any direction and see all the way to the horizon — I tell my daughter to keep an eye out for Europe in the distance.
One of the things I’m trying to do on this trip is add to my daughter’s rock and roll knowledge with the large amount of music I keep on my iPhone. From the passenger seat, I’m going to play deejay and tell some stories. She’s already a huge fan of the Beatles, Springsteen, and others, so today I decide to introduce her to The Who’s second rock opera, “Quadrophenia.” I try to explain the plot to her, but realize quickly that I don’t actually know the whole story. Turns out it doesn’t matter nearly as much as just listening to the band play classics like “The Real Me,” “Doctor Jimmy,” and the masterpiece finale, “Love Reign O’er Me.” She knows the latter, so I tell her to listen past Daltrey’s powerful vocals, Townshend’s guitar, and Entwhistle’s bass and instead concentrate on what Keith Moon’s doing with the drums. It’s one of the great performances ever captured on vinyl and I play it at the appropriate volume: all the way up.
After 3 hours, we get off I-70 to have lunch in Terre Haute, Indiana, with Christine, a friend who my daughter has known for 13 years, since Christine was in high school and baby-sat for her. Now my kid is about to be a college freshman while Christine is a professor of music theory at Indiana State University, and I’m thrilled that they still stay in touch.
We meet Christine at the Crossroads Cafe near campus. Over hummus-and-vegetable sandwiches (they’re both vegetarians), they catch up with each other — although in a world where social media makes it easy to know what’s going on with friends, there isn’t a whole lot of “new” to share. After an hour, Christine has to get back to a class, and we have to get back on the road.
I take over behind the wheel and put Ray Charles on shuffle. We sing “Hit The Road Jack” as loud as we can as we pull back onto I-70. A half-hour later, she’s asleep and I’m listening to a podcast of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.”
We take the I-465 loop to avoid Indianapolis and get on I-74 towards Cincinnati, where we’re going to spend the night at my cousin’s house. I awaken my daughter as we get off the interstate and head for the suburban town of Wyoming, Ohio, just outside Cincy, where we arrive about 5pm. My cousin, Joel, is out of town at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (where he’s been named a Fellow), but his wife Ann — one of my favorite people — greets us warmly. We spend the evening sharing stories, and Ann feeds us some wonderful ziti, green beans, salad, bread, and Graeder’s black cherry-chocolate chunk ice cream.
After dinner, although it’s only 8:30pm, we’re pretty exhausted, so we head upstairs to get ready for bed. I take out my laptop to check e-mail and see what’s happening online, sure my daughter’s doing the same in her room. We’re planning to start the second leg of our trip early in the morning, so we each call it a night by 10:30pm.
Mileage thus far: 360.