My Road-trip Daydreams

Here’s yet another Travel list, but this one’s definitely more pleasure than business.

About this time last year I wrote a Blog post about how I struggled with balancing hope and disappointment when it came to thinking about wishing my sight could be restored. I’ve realized that, in the same vein, I tend to not think too much about how new technology could change my level of independence for the better because I’ve been Disappointedd by the promise of new tech so frequently.

But taking the lesson of hope and applying it to daydreams and technology, I’ve decided to share a little wish-list with you. Here are three solo road trips that I’d like to take if autonomous vehicles ever make it possible.

1. A Short Trip

It’s always wise to start out new skills and adventures and challenges with moderation. Assuming I’ve had a self-driving car long enough to get used to running errands around town, do my regular commute to work, and try a day-trip to a favorite hiking or kayaking spot, my first road trip will most likely be a modest one.

A long weekend just a couple hundred miles from home seems pretty reasonable to me, and just within that range is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That sounds like a great place to do some hiking and writing, which are two of my favorite things to do when traveling.

I can picture myself loading up the car, Greta hopping up into the back seat, and me setting up an audio book and a crocheting project to pass the time.  I’d stop in Chattanooga to break up the driving, maybe greta and I would take a picnic lunch and visit the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum before getting underway again.

I can already savor the sense of freedom and peace when we pull up to a quaint rustic cabin, knowing I had 72 hours ahead of uninterrupted independence. To be able to choose when and how long I have solitude is a privilege any introvert craves. Maybe I’d be so overcome with the freedom that I wouldn’t actually get much focused work done on the trip, but successfully planning, executing, and navigating a vacation entirely on my own would prove to myself its possibilities, and the next one…well, the whole point is the new possibilities, isn’t it?

2. A Medium-Range Trip

Now to spread my wings and fly a little. Does it sound like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, planning practice trips? Does it sound like most of the reasons for these practice trips are based in fear of the unknown? Call it instead respect for the unknown. After all, the first astronauts merely orbited earth, and the first few Apollo missions only flew by the moon.

It took 11 Apollo flights to test all the necessary procedures and practice to everyone’s satisfaction the astronauts’ and ground crews’ ability to respond to unknown situations. And believe me, I’m working my way up to my own moon shot!

But for now, a leisurely, lengthy gander northward will be my lunar fly-by. I recently discovered that Maine has the highest concentration of maritime and naval museums out of all 50 states, so naturally my eye has wandered that direction in my imagination many times.

It’s about a thousand miles from where I live, so this trip will be at least a week long. July and August are great months NOT to be in Alabama, and the weather in Maine that time of year is ideal for exploring ship museums and historic districts full of antique stores and unique coffee shops.

Dreaming big, I wouldn’t mind arranging a couple of book-signing events along the way, or finding conferences or lectures in the counseling field to earn some continuing education and networking experience while I made my way up north. It’s generally not healthy to drive more than a few hours without a movement break, and I should like to use those breaks for more than just a couple laps around a truck stop parking lot.

3. The Long Haul

Every couple of years I fly about 2,000 miles across the United States to visit family, friends, and my eye specialists. This year I’m lucky enough to make that trip twice! In fact, this post is going up while I’m enjoying a family trip along the southern Oregon coast. Greta and I are enjoying beach walks and some of the most magnificent trees on the planet.

Between layovers and travel time to and from airports, these flights end up taking up about 12 hours each way. That’s not bad when you think about the distance covered, but flying with a service dog is uncomfortable for both dog and handler. Greta has very little space to curl up in on the plane. She does so in my foot space, which means I don’t have any to speak of.

I also have to reduce her food and water intake leading up to and during the flight to prevent accidents. Many air ports now have service dog relief areas inside security, but Greta has historically been fussy about “public restrooms,” and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

So what if I could just drive myself across the country? Making regular stops to hike and explore attractions like museums and boutique yarn stores along the way would drag out the trip, but since much of my work only requires a steady internet connection and a tablet I can easily avoid the limitations of PTO. So why not indulge?

I’ve flown over rivers and mountains and entire states I’ve never set foot in, places where formative moments in my country’s history happened. That history, often painful and full of as many sins as triumphs, is something I would like to soak up through my fingertips.

So, Greta and I embark on our imaginary road trip to Oregon! I would travel a little north, then west through TEnnessee to Missouri, perhaps visit the Crown Thorn Chapel again because of the immense impression its silence made on me, and then go north again. The lakes of Minnesota, the mountains of Montana, and the Snake River Gorge in Idaho all have seeped into my imagination from the pages of histories and historical fiction.

Driving about 400 miles a day, which is what I would ideally average to account for scheduled movement and exploration breaks, it would take me about 6 days to reach Salem along my planned route. That’s a far cry from the mere 12 hours travel time by plane. If I stayed for a week, and then took a similar route at a similar pace back, that’s almost an entire month of travel. The practical adult part of me frowns and mutters about that being a lot of time and money. But how much life would happen in that time?

Two whole weeks spent traveling with just a German shepherd for company. Two whole weeks without having to plan my own needs around those who can drive or inefficient mass transit systems. Would the novelty have worn off by the time I could afford such an extravagant voyage?

Would I be so used to being able to pop down to the store for groceries, or meet a colleague for lunch without arranging the trip two days in advance, or take my dog to the vet without worrying how much of someone else’s time the appointments will take up that leaving a hotel room as early as I’d like wouldn’t sound as liberating as it does right now?

How long does it take to get used to freedom?

I have big dreams. These trips form a drop in the bucket of all the things I want to do in my lifetime. It seems every other week I hear about a new system being tested for autonomous vehicles, or a new sensor being added to normal cars that takes just a little more of the driving out of the driver’s hands. What was science fiction in my childhood looks like a real possibility in my middle age.

Will i be making this road trip in my 50’s? Clearly Greta won’t be my companion by then, but she’s who I have now so she fits most comfortably into these big dreams of mine.

Where is it written that all our dreams must be small?

Babylon 5 S5E1, “No Compromises”

Today your favorite blindfluencer asks you to reflect on the dreams of your childhood. Did you ever simply get used to the thing you daydreamed of doing as a child?

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