On Monday, I thoroughly enjoyed an experience most people would appreciate just about as much as a root canal without anaesthetic. I drove 800 miles across the Canadian prairies in 12 hours, stopping at hours 5 and 10 to fill the car’s tank and empty mine. I’ve been making that trip pretty frequently lately, but I’m still not tired of it.
There are many things I love about driving across the prairies alone. Not the least of these is the opportunity to sing along with my music at the top of my lungs without losing friends and/or straining my husband’s tolerance to its limits.
Auditory abuse aside, a drive across the prairies in good weather is about as close to heaven as I expect to come. I love the places where there’s nothing to see but a long, straight ribbon of highway that vanishes into the big blue sky with no visible human habitation in any direction. And I love the variety in the rest of the drive: sloughs and open fields and occasional clumps of trees; isolated farmsteads and little towns; foxes and coyotes and deer and antelope and (once in a blue moon) a moose; hawks and waterfowl and songbirds and all kinds of other critters.
There’s room to breathe out there. When I get out of the city and into the open prairie, my joints loosen and my muscles relax and my soul heaves a sigh of relief and soars up to meet that blue, blue sky.
Mind you, I’m a freak.
Most people consider a drive across the prairies about as stimulating as watching paint dry. Beige paint. They’re delighted when they finally arrive at civilization.
I consider civilization an annoying but necessary hiatus in the pleasure of my drive. To wit:
At the first gas station, I waited approximately forever outside the women’s washroom, only to find that the kid who was using it was taking so long because she was industriously clogging the toilet with paper towels and who knows what else.
If I’d known, I could’ve gone straight to the men’s in the first place. And don’t get me started about men’s washrooms.
At the second gas station/sub shop, I arrived exactly in time to:
- Have a guy slip in front of me to pay for his gas, only to engage the clerk in a lengthy conversation about “Where’s the best place to eat in Virden?” Not satisfied with the clerk’s initial answer, he diverged into, “But what if I want Chinese food? But what if I want ribs? But what if I want…” You want to live, buddy? Get outta my way.
This delayed me enough to…
- Have a woman slip in front of me and slam the door to the women’s washroom in my face. Repeat the above waiting experience, this time with trepidation. Fortunately, the toilet was still functional by the time I took my turn.
However, this set up perfect timing to:
- Have two women slip in front of me at the sub counter, only to order multiple subs. Each. With great indecision about toppings.
I’m not sure whether the drive helped or hindered my retention of equanimity. On one hand, I was happy and relaxed when I went in, so theoretically it should take longer for me to reach maximum annoyance. On the other hand, the normal vagaries of humanity seemed extra irritating after ten hours of solitary bliss.
What do you think?
Any other prairie lovers or long-distance drivers out there?
24 thoughts on “Cruisin’”
Love it. I actually got really lucky on this trip. It seemed every restroom was clean and now that I think about it I don’t think I ever encounter a line… wow! Beautifully written descriptions of the prairies. I strive for your finesse. 🙂
Thanks, Wendy – you’re too kind! 🙂
I would like to be stretched out in the back seat. You could wake me when something really neat is to be seen. I love sleeping in the back seat of a car. I have since I was a kid. Unfortunately, as an adult male (no offense) I am usually doing the driving. I sleep then, too, but not as deeply since I have to keep my eyes open to fool the passengers. All joy in long trips where someone is softly snoring in the back seat. HF
Ha! You reminded me of the old joke: “I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming in terror like the passengers in his car.”
I don’t mind soft snoring from the back seat, but it might worry me on this trip, since I’m travelling alone… 🙂
I’ve never been anywhere near the prairies, but I can relate to that feeling of solitary bliss. I eventually find myself missing human contact — but it disappears as soon as I’m with people again. Great post, Diane.
LOL! Thanks, Charles! That’s a great line for a T-shirt: “I miss human contact… until I’m around people.”
Its all about the stereo… Ever since i had children and had to remove the subwoofers from my vehicle, (apparently its hard on their ears) road trips are much less fun.
Well, that sucks… Maybe if you strapped the kids to the roof? 🙂
The sound qualityin my car could be politely described as “sub-par” – factory speakers in a cheap car. But it’s all about the tunes.
I love your blog. No one else I know uses the words retention of equanimity with such aplomb. Brilliant.
I hate to disappoint (actually statistics show I don’t hate to disappoint, but I’m trying to make a point here) but I don’t like driving long distances. I love driving, just not for hours and hours, I get so tired. I have to say that things have got better now I have my new glasses that point both eyes in the same direction, but a four hour journey across the UK recently was enough for me. On the plus side I didn’t have to wait for kids to block the toilet, they were pre-blocked. I also discovered the joys of paying $9 per gallon for fuel. Oh joy.
I can sympathize with the idea of open spaces; I love Texas for that reason. But sometimes I long for the hustle and bustle of a genuine city – one with people and sidewalks and traffic lights and rain. I love seeing people all around. Maybe you think that strange. LOL, maybe you think there’s a touch of serial killer in me. Ha!
Now, where did I put that axe?
Thanks, Nigel! 🙂
“Aplomb” – another lovely word that’s infrequently used. Our brains must be in synch – by bizarre coincidence, I used it just a couple of weeks ago in my Book 5 manuscript – the only time I’ve used it in the entire series of over half a million words.
But $9 per gallon – ouch!
P.S. You left the axe under the sofa, next to the garotte…
Oh blimey, I forgot. I haven’t used the garrote for a while. Maybe the next one ….
I used to love long drives, but I cramp up after about three hours now. But the prairies! I think I feel the same way about them as most people do about the ocean, only with less chance of drowning.
You made me laugh! True, there’s much less chance of drowning, unless you’re unfortunate enough to drive into a slough. But the prairie offers lots of other amusing diversions like blizzard whiteouts, tornadoes, hail, and “normal” winds strong enough to tip over semi-trailers. On one of my drives, it was raining so hard and the wind was so strong that the rain was rushing horizontally through the ditch and up across the surface of the highway, just like ground-drift with snow. I’ve never seen that before or since (and I don’t mind if I never see it again).
Hence my specification of “a drive across the prairies in *good* weather”…
I love long drives singing to the radio, too! As long as I am in a dependable car, and I am headed somewhere pleasant.
Right on! The destination is a critical component.
I’m not entirely sure I have 800 miles to drive in, Diane, I’ll have to check on that; although once in very high winds it took almost five hours to drive just around the corner (with the traffic congestion due to closed bridges etc.)! But I agree that the ‘normal vagaries of humanity’ would be extremely amplified after so much alone time. The good thing, though, is there’s always the escape that is the return journey.
I must be a freak too… reading your description of being out in the prairies relaxed me! Thank you! 😀
I’m glad you enjoyed the description of the prairies, Tom. There’s something soothing about knowing I can drive for 800 miles and still only cross one and a half provinces. Makes me feel as though there’s room for everybody.
And five hours in traffic is about four and three-quarters hours too long for me. 🙂
I agree – sometimes human contact is an intrusion.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that. 🙂
I consider myself a freak too, and enjoy wide open spaces of what non-freaks would consider “nothingness.” Lucky for me, my husband enjoys driving to these wide open spaces every summer, with me as “navigator.” Also lucky for me is navigating to these wide open spaces is so easy for me that I can do it with my eyes closed. I’m a pro. 🙂
I love it when navigation consists of “just keep driving for 12 hours without turning”. It’s good for the self-esteem of the navigator.
Ahhhh – no! I hate long drives in general and remember when used to live in Iowa, where driving meant endless monotonous cornfields. Glad you enjoyed the drive, but it’s not for me!
I knew it. I’m a freak… 🙂
Ain’t nothin’ wrong with being a freak ; )