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“I’m thinking it will be romantic,” said my husband of 33 years. He was proposing a road trip across the country. After a stressful year of moving and resettling, starting a business and planning a wedding, a road trip was not the salvo I desired. And it didn’t sound romantic.
We have taken road trips before; some of them we’ve taken together. He’s probably thinking of our trip across Ireland a few years before we got married. We started in Shannon in a rental car and spent our first night in a B&B where the hostess lit a fire for us and provided a dram of sherry to ward off the chill. When we said we were on our way to Doolin on the Dingle peninsula, she drew back in horror.
“Doolin!” she exclaimed. “Don’t youse go anywhere near Doolin!” She proceeded to tell us the story of a newly-married couple who had gone to Doolin on their honeymoon. They were walking on the strand when a freak wave rose up and carried them both out to sea. We promised not to go anywhere near Doolin—we didn’t keep our promise. Doolin was our favorite little town on the trip, filled with nights at the town pubs and sessions with local musicians. In Ireland, almost everyone is a musician, storyteller, or poet. And everyone has a fine sense of humor. It’s easy to feel romantic surrounded by such natural beauty and people of good cheer.
Ireland is a small country compared to the U.S., but we still managed to put over 1,000 miles on the rental car. One night, we were driving through a particularly desolate area known as the Burren. It is a limestone desert surrounded by the lushest green fields. As I managed shifting gears up and down the steep hills and sharp curves of a country road (on the left side, no less) I was suddenly compelled to turn on the radio. A familiar voice sang “The Rocks of Bawn,” a beautiful mournful tune about that very place. The voice belonged to Joe Heaney, the most famous acapella traditional singer of a generation, and a friend of my family. It felt as though he was guiding us through that dark night in a strange landscape.
Then there was the trip to Hana, Hawaii. Our son was not yet two-years old when I turned in my corporate miles for a first-class trip to Hawaii. Ever the adventurers, we took the bait to drive the most beautiful one lane highway on Maui to one of the most isolated communities in the state. The Hana Highway is 52 miles along a steep coastline with recurring hairpin turns. We stayed in Hana for a few nights to screw up the courage for the return trip.
As our family grew, road trips got shorter and less dangerous. Cape May, New Jersey was a favorite for the February school break. An ocean view with off-season prices appealed to us. A heated indoor pool kept the children active during the day. We didn’t have dogs in those days. Now we travel with two mini-Schnauzers.
An incentive of the recently proposed trip was the ability to take the dogs. With horror stories of airline mishaps on our minds, we agreed they would be happier and safer in their cozy crate in the station wagon with us.
Are you thinking it sounds romantic yet? Neither was I. But my husband’s enthusiasm was undimmed. And after a relatively relaxed summer at home, I began to get the road trip bug again. The trip will take us to Seattle via I-90, stopping at Yellowstone National Park. It will be the first time for both of us. Now, that sounds romantic.