the road to peace twists and turns, rises and falls

(I wrote this last week as my husband, two dogs and I made our way down the freeway from Detroit to my uncle’s place in eastern Kentucky. Reception is iffy at my uncle’s so I didn’t bother trying to post anything while I was there.)

Ahhh…. Wide open roads. Blue skies with wispy puffs of cotton-candy clouds. Heat and humidity reaching face-melting temperatures. And, of course, the ever-present orange cones of progress and travel delay.

photo of traffic cones with ropes during dawn
Photo by Min An on

It’s that time of year when we head to eastern Kentucky to camp out at my uncle’s place for the family reunion.

My little car is so loaded down with camping gear I fear that the tires will explode under all the pressure or that the undercarriage will scrape the asphalt if we hit a bump. Right now, I picture having to stop at the side of the road to collect my muffler.

There are many things I look forward to. Seeing family I normally only see once every year and listening to their humor and tall tales. Great down-home cooking complete with all my favorites: biscuits and gravy, chicken and dumplings, fried apples, soup beans, and vegetables picked fresh from the garden. Family jamming on the stage my uncle built that folds out from the front of the barn.

They mostly play classic rock and bluegrass but occasionally some gospel. Of course, there are hikes in the mountains, sleeping in a tent with the sounds of nature all around, and not worrying about the mundane day-to-day tasks that normally occupy so much of the day.

This road takes me to all these things I love. I can almost feel myself growing more relaxed and happier the closer we get.

As I write this, we’re driving through the flatlands of Ohio, past mile after mile of corn and soybean fields. The corn is probably over 5 feet tall at this point. Higher than normal for this time of year. The scenery is bucolic despite the freeway that carves through it with its never-ending stream of cars and semi-trucks moving in a line like overgrown ants. We’re only one of the many ants traveling in tandem.

reststop view
View from an Ohio rest stop on US 75

My mind, being what it is, inevitably turns to the things I don’t look forward to. Namely politics. I’m liberal and they’re conservative so we agree to disagree. There’s nothing more to say about it.

There are less volatile things I don’t look forward to. Like having only one modern toilet and shower for the whole lot of us congregating there for the weekend. My uncle is a bachelor and not interested in keeping up with the Joneses. Actually, it’s one of the many things I appreciate about him.

Sure, there are two outhouses on each end of the property but I’m not interested in using either of them. Mainly because of an incident that happened a few years ago. One of my cousins was in the outhouse behind the barn taking care of business when a black snake slithered up between his legs.

bathroom bulb comfort room doors
Photo by James Frid on

I was never keen on using those facilities to begin with. Now it’s an absolute no-go. Pun intended.

I’ll take my chances on the least unpleasant option which is finding the nearest bush or tree and squatting behind it. I mean, sure, I’m exposing those extra sensitive areas on my body to the high grasses that harbor mosquitos, gnats and the like. And there’s always the risk of someone literally catching me with my pants down. There’s also the risk of ticks and chiggers latching onto my ass. And I do still have to watch out for snakes but at least I’m not in a locked, confined space during a moment of panic. I’d rather have a handful of tick hangers-on than repeat my cousin’s toileting adventure in an outhouse.

I think about all these things as we continue to travel down the road. It will take almost eight hours to get there. Eight hours with these thoughts.

A field of corn stretches out in front of foothills

At least half of that drive is along what must be the most boring stretch of road in this part of the country. Straight, flat, highways with largely unvaried features. The sameness of it all, the bland featurelessness always puts me at risk of falling asleep at the wheel.

Thankfully, my spouse drives the flat mind-numbing stretch while I get to drive the hilly, winding roads that take shape when we reach the southern part of Ohio. There’s almost an instant switch from flat to foothills and my heart sings every time we get to those first large hills. Once we hit Kentucky, the wall of tree-covered mountains towers over us and embraces us like an old, protective friend as we drive over the US Grant bridge that crosses the Ohio River from Portsmouth.

grant bridge
US Grant bridge as seen from Portsmouth, Ohio

I’ve stopped worrying about the car falling apart or dozing off at the wheel. We’ll see very few straight, flat stretches of road from here on out. I breathe a sigh of relief and drop my dark thoughts into the Ohio River.

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