The fastest route from San Francsico to Augusta, Maine, according to Google Maps, takes forty-eight hours and traverses 3,256 miles. If you take that path and bend and contort it to fit around the greater Great Lakes area, you’ll have an good approximation of the distance and shape of our trip. Except ours took nine times as long.
Our final route, more or less
We left for home Monday morning at a leisurely pace, driving southwest on US-12 from Ypsilanti to New Buffalo, on the Lake Michigan coast. With a stop for lunch at Rosalie’s in Jonesville and a final mini-golf and go-cart contest, we eventually made it to the eastern lakeshore by 4pm. We were just an hour or so from home, but we needed the break. One, I needed to dip my feet in Lake Michigan in order to officially complete my mission of interfacing with all the Great Lakes. More importantly, we needed a capper to the trip. Unlike flight-reliant vacations, which have a discrete barrier between there and here, road trips don’t offer a final act of closure. We made up our own, parking at the New Buffalo beach and sitting the rocks for an hour, reminiscing about our epic eighteen-day adventure.
True to the spirit of the trip, we stayed off the expressway for the final leg and took 12 from New Buffalo, through Michigan City, the Dunes and Gary, and up into Calumet City before hooking a right onto US-41 and driving into our beautiful hometown as its meant to be done, on Lake Shore Drive. I’ve driven through that corner of Indiana dozens of times and never even knew you could do it without the interstate. It’s so much more pleasant on 12, even including the section through the polluted mess of Gary. The Dunes Highway alone is worth the extra half-hour it takes.
Then, eighteen days, thirty-two hundred miles, eight hotels, two B&Bs, seven campfires, twenty-six hundred photographs, one speeding ticket, one parking ticket, two games of mini-golf, one audiobook and zero flat tires later, we were at home. Where our clothing options exceed single digits. Where we have two kitties to keep us company. Where we have a kitchen, where we can cook. Where a mattress that fits our forms exactly waits for us every night. Where the Internet always works. Where it’s familiar.
It’s as scary as it is comforting to see the ease which which we can slip back into the normal routine of things. I relish the dissonance between the foreign and the familiar that travel can illuminate. Sometimes I worry that that dissonance is diminishing as we travel more. Fortunately the answer is easy: keep searching for stranger places to visit and more unfamiliar people to meet. The car engine’s still warm and and we’re already thinking about where we should head next. The wandering, it’s in our blood.