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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Interstate 71

A friend emailed me today from what I presume was a mobile device on her way from Tampa to Miami. She said the five-hour drive was too long, and while maybe that was for her, it got me to thinking a little bit.

Certainly I live in the greatest city in the world. For more than 13 months now. And among the many reasons why Manhattan is so great is convenient public transportation. I don't need a car, though my $368 payment is still due each month on a 2003 Honda Accord that's been at my parents' Cleveland crib since last summer.

Riding the bus and train each day is indeed quite convenient, but those four- and five-hour trips up and down Interstate 71 are surprisingly among the many things I miss about my Midwest.

Be it summer or winter, the drive has always been a nostalgic event for me, and one that I've made probably 50 times round-trip. I began making those drives in 1988, when I was a full-haired freshman at the University of Cincinnati. My first drive home was in the car of a fellow freshman named Rich Koroly. He had some junker of a station wagon, but was kind enough to give me a lift home for Thanksgiving that year.

As we approached Columbus, I asked Rich, "Do you smell something burning?"

The next thing I knew, he was looking at the floorboard beneath my legs, where orange flames were shooting up toward my pegged jeans. Remember, this was 1988.

What Rich had warned me about was that the floorboard was rusted out, so before our journey, he slid into place a half-inch square of wood so I wouldn't have such a clear look at Interstate 71 underneath me. I don't know how he affixed the plank, but he covered it with a rubber floor mat, and I threw a couple of newspapers on top. The combination of things just seemed to be too much, and we found ourselves on the side of the highway moments later. All that seemed to be missing was Chris Farley and a movie crew.

We did end up making it home safely, but I'll never forget that particular trip. And there have been dozens of other memorable drives along that stretch. Making friends across Ohio gave me reason to stop here or there over the years. Listening to Jim Rome on the radio often made the trips pass by much more quickly, as did becoming an owner of a cell phone. The arrival of outlet malls didn't hurt either. And I hear there's an adult store at the Washington Court House exit. Cough cough.

The scenery was never all that great, but knowing I was heading home more than made up for that. No matter what time of year, I always seemed to make my return from Cleveland in a much fuller car than I was in when I'd left Louisville or Cincinnati. If it was an accumulation of gifts in December or the acquisition of a piece of hand-me-down furniture in July, seeing Mom and Mike always feels like Christmas.

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At 9:11 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh huh.... this is your lovely friend (I added the lovely part) who was driving from Tampa to Miami, and emailing you via my mobile device. The reason my voyage was so incredibly long was because of the company... but you are correct. Sometimes those drives can be beneficial.

Wish you were here, oh Wise one!

At 10:39 PM EDT, Anonymous Ace said...

Did you ever receive freshman scholarship money?

At 10:40 PM EDT, Anonymous Ace said...

Ohio is mideast, not midwest. look at the map.


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