Across Five States: Into Virginia

It seemed that the moment we crossed into Virginia, we hit real life. For real. We were stuck in a monstrous traffic jam of people leaving Washington D.C. for the day. So many people commute there, not to mention the fact that tourist season had begun, and so we felt that we were slammed back into reality, along with all the inconveniences it brings. As we sat on the sixty-six highway, we inched forward and began to cruise the local radio stations. We found some good easy listening, and settled in to wait.

The highway was bordered by high walls, and the directions were separated by hedges. We rounded a bend, and suddenly there it was. The Washington Monument. We could see its peak all the way from the highway, jutting into the sky like a beacon, heralding that we’d reached our destination. It was an exciting moment for all of us.

Soon enough we were taking the badly marked exit – Virginia seems to have a dark sense of humor and enjoys luring newcomers into a false sense of security by marking the exit well before it comes and then putting a tiny sign at the actual exit so you undoubtedly miss it – and driving into Arlington County, which was to be my brother’s new home. After some more muddling around with befuddling directions, we reached his apartment and discovered yet another thing about Virginia – the lack of parking, and the importance of tow trucks, which will tow any car that’s not marked by the right stickers placed in the right ways in the right corners of the right window.

This forced our hand. My brother and I unloaded the U-Haul at superhero speed, while my mother guarded it, just to make sure no policeman or tow truck would catch us unawares. Loading the truck had taken the better part of five hours. Unloading it took an hour, and we were drenched with sweat by the time we were done. By this time, night had fallen and we were all ravenous. We piled back in the U-Haul and found a dingy place to eat at, and afterwards found the only U-Haul drop-off spot in the area. It was a relief, seeing that truck for the last time, but we all felt a bit of a pang. It had safely conveyed us across five whole states, and as ungainly as it was, we had become proud of it – especially as we had the coolest U-Haul in the lost because ours had a picture of snakes on it instead of a U-Haul advertisement.

We took a taxi back to my brother’s apartment and, just like that, our move was done. We still had unpacking to do, we still had furniture to buy, we still had a whole county to get to know, but we were done. We’d moved my brother from Chicago to Virginia in two days. We accomplished what we’d set out to do. It was marvelous.

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Across Five States: Into Maryland

We entered Maryland in the early afternoon. We drove on a main highway, and the biggest change I noticed was the lack of trucks and the return of cars. Regular cars, small, light, compact and sane – unlike the monsters we’d been driving with for the past day. Suddenly, we were the biggest on the road, including the SUVs, and there was a feeling of fear as we wove through the growing traffic that we would crush one of these tiny aluminum vehicles. It felt also like a return to civilization – we were suddenly around pleasure cruisers, commuters and road-trippers, instead of being around people who were doing a job as they drove.

All this, of course, was only because we were again on a smaller freeway, but commingled with the knowledge that we were so very near our destination, it caused a bit of a shock. It felt like we were almost done with this magical trip, so short but yet so full of experiences. When we stopped in Maryland at a Waffle House for coffee and sustenance, we came very close to deciding to stop at a motel again for the night and drive into Virginia the next day. None of us admitted it, but I felt that none of us really wanted this road magic to end – the feeling of being severed from any one time and any one place, belonging instead to constant movement.

In the end, though, we decided to push on despite everything. We still had unpacking to “look forward to” and we wanted to get it over with as soon as we could. We payed for our coffees, climbed back into the truck, and after some frustration over the rats’ water bottle leaking we set off again, knowing we’d be seeing another state in just a few more minutes.

Back, With a List

In the whirlwind of movement between family members, boxes and different US states, I never managed to write like I’d planned. Despite that, I would like to remember some of the interesting, hilarious, eye-opening and strange things I encountered on this trip. I shall now compile a list of the memorable things, more or less in order, and I hope to elaborate on some of them in the coming days. Ah, it feels good being back in my own home with my fingers on my own keyboard and my tired eyes looking at my own computer screen. And so I present The List of Things I Thought About and Did on My Trip [also known from here on out simply as The List]:

1. Chicago. Chicago is amazing. Simply being in that city was incredible.

2. Tiny dogs are ridiculous, and I hated them with a passion until meeting the three belonging to my cousin. I still think small dogs are ridiculous and more like wind-up toys than animals, but I no longer hate their sweet little hearts for it.

3. Second City e.t.c, the Chicago-based comedy group, are incredible. Their current show, titled Brother, Can You Spare Some Change? had me giggling for days. In fact, my mother and I constantly refer to puppies raining from the sky and how Obama will somehow make smoking good for you and burst into fresh waves of titters.

4. Helping one’s brother move all his things from one apartment to another via U-Haul is an interesting experience that results in soar arms, immense self-pride, and, in our case, travelling across five states in the space of twelve hours, thus making me that much closer to understanding just how large the USA is.

5. You know those haunted houses that are always set up at fairs or in amusement parks? The good ones make you feel like you’re never getting out of them, and even though you know the whole thing is kind of silly you still have a sense of fear and impending doom tugging at your rational thinking. Ikea is just like that.

6. I learned never to buy flat-pack furniture when it’s on sale. Doing so results in frustration and an understanding that you have been duped into buying something that is never going to be put together right because it was built faulty from the beginning – thus allowing such a sale of the damaged products to ensue.

7. Southern Hospitality isn’t just a myth. It’s real. It’s also sure as hell a lot more sincere than the friendliness of the West Coast. Seriously, people in Virginia are SO NICE.

8. Despite the people being nice in Virginia, it seems the tow-trucks are evil beasts with wills of their own. The biggest hazard in a certain county there is that your car will be towed for certain unless you have all the right stickers, badges and other nick-knacks hung in the correct places around the car.

9. The Vietnam Memorial and The Lincoln Memrial in Washington D.C. both moved me much more than I ever expected they would.

10. I saved item ten for the realization that has struck me once again now that I’m back home. No matter how well suited I thought I was to write in my current state of extreme grogginess and jet-lag, I have been proved wrong.

On that note, I hope I will be forgiven for the oddness and inconsistency of my haphazard list that doesn’t seem to much of a list at all. I bid you all a good night, and I will promptly fall into my own bed and attempt to read, even though I know quite well I will be asleep with the book on my face within minutes.