Ever since I came to college, holidays between semesters have had an extra charm added to them. I have fond memories of the road trips I have taken when traveling between Dallas and Houston on my time off. Combined with the lack of schoolwork on one’s head, the prospect of saying a temporary goodbye to the friends you live with, and the fact that you will get to see your family again, such trips are just as memorable as the time spent at college.
I can still remember my very first trip home Freshman year. I did not have a car at the time so my neighbor (who eventually went on to become my current room mate) was to drive me down, since they lived in Houston as well. On the way down, we had to make a detour to Brenham, Texas to drop off another friend. This added on an hour to my and Charlie’s trips, but we did get to stop at Jack-in-the-Box where I distinctly remember ordering a very tasty mango shake. (For those that do not know, Brenham is where the Blue Bell ice cream factory is located). By the time we were in the Houston area, we were both positively tired.
A few times back then, I even took Greyhound buses for the long ride home. These trips sort of got the adventurer in me riled up because they were kind of exciting! I would board the bus in a terminal and sit next to complete strangers for hours at a time. The bus driver would give us a lunch break about halfway through the trip in which we would stop at a random town (when you are traveling down the freeway, there are always small clusters of fast food places that show up every so often) and everyone would get off the bus to eat. The bus itself was quite comfy as well, because they expect long trips. Apparently, some carriers even offer on-board WiFi, which I have no idea how that works.
While the above experiences were magical in the way that all the new college experiences were for me, it was only when I began driving back and forth alone when I began to feel a more powerful force in these trips. I guess it may seem a little romanticized to someone who has not had such an away-from-home experience, but the drive between home and the university serves as a transition for me. Someone one asked me how I can manage such a long trip. My answer? Copious amounts of cruise control. On a more serious note, cruise control does play a big part in the drive– mental cruise control that is. The mind gets to meditate and wander freely for five hours. As I physically leave my apartment or home, mentally I am still tying up the loose ends.
As I drive, my head is replaying my recent goodbyes, reflecting upon the tasks I had to get done before leaving, and reminiscing at significant memories leading up to my time off. It is remarkable how quickly one’s problems and concerns begin to fade away as they physically leave the location in which they were present. The sleepless nights studying with friends for final exams begin to feel as if they took place weeks ago. Eventually, one’s thoughts begin to turn towards where they are driving to, but the desire for a break soon imposes a stop for lunch.
Obviously I do not stop by the side of the road, pull out a picnic cloth, and get to eating. Depending on how far along the route I am, I either stop at a Rest Area or a small town off to the side of the interstate, usually consisting of a chain of fast food places. Because places between big cities like Houston and Dallas in Texas are the type of small-town country areas one would expect, there is a little bit of a thrill in walking into a Dairy Queen or McDonalds-coupled-with-a-gas-station, even if it is just to feel the atmosphere. I actually prefer rest areas because they often have little tidbits about the town you are currently in. There is a really nice rest area in Huntsville, TX when I head down towards Houston that has a nice mini-museum surrounded by woods and a lake. It’s kind of neat to see people getting out of their cars and stretching too.
Once back on the road, one begins to anticipate their destination and perhaps even think about what they will do once they get there. When I am on my way home, I think of my family and plan out how dramatically I will greet them. When I am on my way to the university, I think about the friends I will see again and what we can do later that day to catch up on each others lives. Either way, by the time I am arriving at my destination, I am excited to be there.
Life goes on from there. That’s how it is, huh? You leave your friends and families for long periods of time only to see them again on your time off. I guess in a broader sense, the trip reminds me how lucky I am to have both.
Time to go back to school then! I’ll be departing this Sunday and will add any new pictures to the slide show so check back a few days after the 15th!