Travel journal: Overpacking


I just finished packing for the annual family summer road trip. I’m looking at the bloated suitcases and tote bags lined up in the hallway and thinking, wow, I really overpacked.

“Just throw a few T-shirts, a toothbrush, and a few changes of underwear in a small bag and be on your way,” says my wash-and-wear friend, the one with the athletic build, perfect skin, and tousled beach blonde hair. Sure, it’s easy for her. She makes a shopping bag with armhole cutouts look like high fashion.  She traveled Europe for a month with a carry-on backpack.

“Just buy what you forget at the local Target.”

I told her I don’t think there are any Target stores where we are going.

“Well, Wal-Mart then.”

Um, no. The Evil Empire gets not a dime of my money. (Actually, I’ve read some bad things about Target as well. My sexy boyfriend with the bull’s-eye tattoo has some dirty secrets. Looks like I’m going to have to reevaluate that relationship.)

“You are being difficult,” she says.

Sigh. Yes, I am.

I harbor a great resistance to packing. I procrastinate. Then I panic and overpack. This wasn’t always the case. I don’t know what’s gotten into me. Actually, I do.

This is an act of rebellion. When I use an airplane to get where I’m going, I am so restricted not only in weight and dimension but also suitcase contents.  It makes me feel violated and oppressed. When I travel by car, I can take my entire wardrobe, my shoe collection, a stack of hardcover books, three types of shampoo in the full-size bottles.  I can fill a suitcase full of liquids and sharp objects. I can keep my shoes and belt on when I cross a state line.

Of course, I am not going to get the last laugh this time. My husband called; he wrenched his back. No heavy lifting for several days. You know what that means, don’t you?

Later, I’ll post pictures of myself carrying the kitchen sink up the side of a mountain.

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Lessons from the road

At least one butterfly died in the making of this post.

One thousand, three hundred and something or other miles later, past so many cornfields I no longer wonder why America has an obesity epidemic (the stalks whisper high fructose corn syrup) we have arrived.

I do wonder why GPS doesn’t offer the Old Spice Guy’s voice as an option.

I do think the rolling fields of wind turbines in Iowa are hypnotically beautiful. But has anyone thought about what would happen if those blades flew off?

Creative pit stops: It took us longer than usual to make the drive because when you strap a four-year-old into a seat and expect her to sit still for thousands of miles, you are in for a battle. (I refuse to mount one of those DVD players in my car.) So, we made the most of rest stops. We fed her well. He ran her for 15-20 minutes around buildings, along sidewalks, and through parks. It worked. She climbed back into her car seat sweaty and exhausted, content to study her sticker books and puzzles for another 300 miles.

Indiana: What’s with the fireworks and strip clubs? Loved the sign advertising the Polecat Strip Club. Do they not know that a polecat is a skunk?
Illinois: If not for Chicago, then what?
Iowa: You are boring but comforting. Just one question, why, in the land of waving grain, did we find an Astroturf lawn in front of a restaurant?
Nebraska: Meh.
Colorado: Thanks for the amazing rain storm and double rainbow. Sorry my camera battery died just as you showed us your wares.

Giant pinwheels

Sunset at Iowa/Nebraska border