I have a need of wilder, crueler waves;
They sicken of the calm those who knew the storm…

Traveling through the night on a Massachusetts highway, I had a need of a better road, a hotel, and a decent cup of coffee. The way things were looking though, I was ready to settle for any motel and a hot, coffee like substance.

I’m not sure why, but everybody has it in their heads that the journey that I am planning has something to do with campsites, living off the land, and dying at the hooves of a caribou. No. My SUV is outfitted to serve as a camper with an air mattress, sleeping bag, sheets, pillows and even a battery powered fan. I’ll now be adding to that a tent and portable portapotty. The last thing I am expecting to do, however, is use them.

I’m a snob. I like hotels. I like nice hotels with turndown service. I like hot showers and fluffy towels to pat my bottom. For me, “roughing it” means making do with the in-room coffee maker instead of my own.

My normal MO for traveling is to check into a hotel and then find the nearest Wal-Mart and buy a coffee maker, sugar and my Carnation non dairy liquid creamer—original flavor. If the room doesn’t have a fridge, that’s what the ice bucket is for. I bring my own coffee and grinder. At the end of my stay, I leave a note on the coffee maker, “please find a good home for this. It was only used during my stay.”

My journey is about exploration, America and myself: not mosquitoes. But who knows what is going to happen?

I did eventually find a cup of coffee somewhere along the Massachusetts Expressway. The coffee sucked and I did consider just making use of the camping gear, but then I finally found a motel that would take me in—about an hour away and about three minutes away from my cousin’s house. I think my cousins kind of like me, but I doubt that they would have appreciated me showing up at midnight.

My cousin, Doug, handed me a plate of breakfast as soon as I walked in—I guess he does like me? And I had a nice morning of family time in Westfield. Chatting, coffee, teaming up with my younger cousin Jacob for a comeback cornhole win and then I was off for my final “destination” on this trip: Newport, Rhode Island.

South and then east through Hartford and skirting Providence. Going through these “main” cities is always anticlimactic for me. If you blink your eyes too fast, they are behind you. On a map, Philadelphia looks like any other dot. Driving it, though, takes a good 45 minutes. That’s what I’m used to. The massiveness of Washington DC, the long stretch of puzzle pieces that make up Miami or even the spread out super sprawl of Dallas.

It was a nice drive on a gorgeous day, off the main highways and onto the access roads and bridges to take me to a boat building town in the smallest of states. And traffic. I had completely forgotten it was Memorial Day weekend. What the hell had happened to the stay at home order? I mean, I was ignoring it but I’m special—those on a quest are always afforded special status. What were all these cars doing on my road?

I drove into Newport and immediately thought to myself: virus spike. I don’t know if the lock down or the gorgeous day had gotten the better of people, but the place was packed. Taking five changes to get through one light took me to the center of town and I just wanted to turn around and leave. Run like hell?

The restaurants and bars were still only serving take out, but the outside seating was packed. The wall along the cobblestone street had no more room for another butt. The parks were jammed as well. I made my way down to the wharf, a safe harbor, far less crowded. A very nice security guard let me in and I wandered around.

It was closed to traffic, much more quiet, and I could walk out on the piers. Yachts were lined up in the water and I watched a guy and a woman take a self propelled surfboard out for rides. It was getting a good few feet out of the water at the highest speed.

In the boatyard was something I had never seen before, only read about. A boat, easily three to four times the size of my house, was in a cradle on a transport. The transport’s tires were 10 feet tall. I had always said if I could just pick up my house and move it a mile northeast, it would be perfect. Here I saw a way to do it. Can I get a loaner?

But it was time to head home. Part one, the trial run, was over. What awaited me was the worst part of the entire trip. Massachusetts roads might suck, but they were nothing compared to crossing the George Washington Memorial Bridge in New York. Up through the Bronx like a speedway and then choosing to go over or under the bridge. I went under. Wrong choice? Water pouring down on my car, no lanes, weird turns and construction. Never again. I want a shirt that says, “I survived the GW Bridge.” It is really an accomplishment in and of itself.

One interesting thing is the uniqueness of the comparison: GW Bridge to New Jersey. From driving hell to driving heaven: six lanes of traffic, all well paved, straight as an arrow with gentle hills diverting me back towards Philadelphia. Back to the known, back to a safe harbor and home. Back to the calm. Back to fair weather, knowing it would chafe at me soon enough.

Some kind of wrap? 2,000 miles taught me a lot. 1) I suck at packing and organizing. 2) 6-8 hours a day driving each day and take my time, 4-5 hours if I just want to stop and see something. It’s not like I’ll be in any rush. 3) Smaller coffee maker and higher watt power converter. 4) Wilder and crueler waves is the calm.


Fair Weather
by Dorothy Parker

This level reach of blue is not my sea;
Here are sweet waters, pretty in the sun,
Whose quiet ripples meet obediently
A marked and measured line, one after one.
This is no sea of mine, that humbly laves
Untroubled sands, spread glittering and warm.
I have a need of wilder, crueler waves;
They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

So let a love beat over me again,
Loosing its million desperate breakers wide;
Sudden and terrible to rise and wane;
Roaring the heavens apart; a reckless tide
That casts upon the heart, as it recedes,
Splinters and spars and dripping, salty weeds.