It’s about 650 miles from State College, Pennsylvania to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. 11 hours by car. That 11 hours stretches into the infinite when you factor semi-trucks, two little boys, and gusting polar winds.
I’m becoming something of an expert when it comes to this drive. Usually, our travels take us between Minneapolis and State College. But Katie’s Aunt Helen lives in Lake Geneva. In a converted barn. On the prairie. Sublimely pastoral. Cows and birds and grass. And great gusts of winds. Sometimes there’s snowstorms.
We often stop at Aunt Helen’s. A way station between old home and new home. Respite from the road. Gaze at the cows. Enjoy their beautiful home. Enjoy being with family.
This November, we decided to make the trip to Lake Geneva for its own sake. Celebrate European colonialism with some family. Happy Thanksgiving.
Since our move to Central Pennsylvania, I’ve spent Thanksgivings with my wife and two boys making small feasts at home. We gorge together. Watch football. That sort of thing. Aunt Helen invited us out this fall and, that drive be damned, we took her up on the offer. Spend some time with a little extended family.
So we hit the road on Tuesday after Solomon got off the bus. Made it to Elyria, Ohio by 9:00 that night. You’d like some information about Elyria, Ohio? Certainly, kind reader. I’ll explain it as a recipe. You take a pinch of meth, two spoonfuls of the KKK, and one cup of economic decline. Voila. Gobble, gobble.
We stayed at the most expensive hotel we can find in Elyria, if only to keep the drug dealers at bay. Woke up at 5:00 in the morning, and got back on the turnpike. We were in Lake Geneva by 1:00 CST. What a drive.
I had some Grateful Dead downloaded on my phone for the trip. Thanks, Spotify.
Truckin’? No, we were CRVn’. The trip was, all things considered, pretty smooth.
Was a few days with Aunt Helen and Uncle Bob worth 22 hours on the road? I’m no economist, so don’t ask me to run a cost benefit analysis. Still, a few days with family is probably always worth the effort.
The boys did puzzles with Aunt Helen. I played records in their new vinyl room. Listened to Animals by Pink Floyd as I sipped a Spotted Cow. Listened to the wind move across the prairie. I played a game of chess with Solomon. Sat and talked with loved ones. We don’t get much of that in State College. We’re about 650 miles from family in Pennsylvania.
Aunt Helen and Uncle Bob took us to a fancy brunch buffet on Thanksgiving. At a resort on the lake. The spread was something to behold. I put down too much food. The apple sage stuffing did me in. The bread pudding too. I’m enormous, now. Send weights. Or diet pills. (I can probably get my hands on some in Elyria, Ohio.)
Samson ate a waffle with sprinkles and chocolate chips. Solomon ate about seventeen things dipped in fond du. Brownies. Rice Krispie Treats. Strawberries. That sort of thing. It was decadence at its finest.
Next, we took the boys to the Grand Geneva Resort. There’s a display of gingerbread houses. Christmas lights. Santa Claus. Trees. That sort of thing. The boys loved it. Did you know that the Grand Geneva was previously a Playboy resort? It was opened in 1968. Hugh Hefner. Bunny ears. Rampant sexuality. That sort of thing. The current version of this resort is more wholesome, I suppose. They boys got a kick out of it.
We came back to the barn on the prairie. Watched football. Dozed. The boys were wild. Out of their element. Fell asleep by 9:00.
Thanksgiving on the prairie. I’m no fan of settler colonialism, but I enjoy an excuse to be with family. We work with the traditions we are given.
We woke up at 2:00 in the morning on Saturday. Hit the road. We tried to stay ahead of the ran and snow. It’s a treacherous drive east. I know it like the back of my hand.
The traffic of Chicago. The blight of Indiana. The endless turnpike of Ohio. Once you reach Cleveland, the countryside starts to change. The rolling hills turn into gentle mountains. The semi-trucks become more annoying. They pass each other and match speeds. Yuck. Civilization fades. And then you hit mile marker 160. Take the Bellefonte exit. Beaver stadium looms in the distance. Penn State University, State College, Pennsylvania, home for the time being.
Take a deep breathe. Brace for the end of a busy semester.
Yes, 22 hours in the new CRV sucks. But it’s also an excuse to be with Katie and the boys. And I can’t check my phone. Or open my computer and work. So, in a small way, traveling allows me to be a little more present. That’s important, I’m sure. More and more.