A Grand Excursion

It’s true, what Dorothy says as she clicks her heels in The Wizard of Oz:

“There’s no place like home.”

Her mantra could be construed any number of ways, for she doesn’t really qualify “home” as it compares to Oz. Is home better? Is it worse? Or is it merely a place where the surroundings and routines and people are familiar? Such qualities would seem favorable to the strange hullabaloo of Oz, but we don’t know for certain. We just believe that there’s no place like home.

After six weeks on the road, I could certainly relate to Dorothy. I was ready to go home.

I left central Pennsylvania in the predawn darkness on Saturday, October 19, and was treated to a beautiful sunrise as I drove along US 322 between Lewistown and Harrisburg. Throughout the day the Mustang and I rolled through parts of five states—Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina—the most of the entire trip. The 500-mile run ended with a complimentary stay at a Hilton Garden Inn north of Charlotte, one of six free nights I acquired by using a Hilton Honors Visa almost exclusively during the journey.

My cross-country odyssey was ending, but this pretty sunrise in central Pennsylvania reminded me that much more is yet to come. The low cloud is a fog bank over the Juniata River.

The final drive of the journey was slightly longer: 550 miles from Mooresville, North Carolina to my home in Lynn Haven, FL. The trip was uneventful, but I had a serious case of “road buzz” by the time I pulled into my driveway and backed carefully into the garage. With that accomplished, I moved the console shifter into “Park” and shut off the engine.

After nine-and-a-half hours of wind noise and engine thrum, the sudden silence seemed odd. My ears rang slightly. I didn’t get out right away, but instead just sat there. I wasn’t ready for the trip to be over. Yes, I was happy to have completed the journey; and I was equally glad to be home; yet I needed to sit there for a few minutes and contemplate the enormity of the whole thing.

I could feel a tremendous glow of satisfaction begin to swell, and was conscious of a huge grin on my face. I had taken a dream, planned it carefully, and then made it a reality. And a glorious reality it was, too. I had witnessed the enormity and spectacular beauty that characterize these great United States, visiting 32 of them over a span of 45 days. I glanced at the GPS, where the digital proof still glowed:

I had estimated a total of about 9,000 miles before starting the trip. Obviously I meandered a bit over the 45-day excursion. Yes, the fuel cost is accurate: I spent 22 cents per mile on gas.

Forgive the maudlin gesture, but I reached my hand out to the vinyl dash and gave it a few pats of appreciation.

“Way to go, old girl.”

I finally got up the initiative to haul my wheelchair out of the backseat and put it together. It felt great to wheel into the house and return to familiar surroundings. There were several obligations waiting: a huge stack of mail had accumulated on my desk (thankfully I’d arranged to pay bills electronically throughout the trip) and I knew that the deadline for my next narrative nonfiction book was approaching in April, 2013. So for the next six months I’d be a virtual hermit.

But after that?

Well, if you must know, I’m already planning a tour of New England and the Maritime Provinces for the summer of 2013.

See you on the road!