The Drive 6/11/22

Memories with Richard Bleil

Shortly after completing my doctoral defense (finished my studies, but the degree is not officially conferred until the following graduation), I had planned a trip back to Ohio to see my parents.  I mentioned this to her (I cannot even recall her name) and she more or less invited herself along.  The plan was to drop off the car that my parents had loaned to me since I had a temporary job in New York City and I really didn’t want a car in the city. 

The car was a very small sub-compact.  If I pushed it to the speed limit, it shook like it was about to fly apart, so usually I had to drive just a little under the speed limit.  We piled my belongings and her luggage into the car, and off we went.

It was a very odd and stressful trip.  I didn’t really know her well.  I would chat with her periodically but didn’t really see her often as she worked in the office, so I only saw her when I was near there.  It honestly surprised me when she said she wanted to go. 

What really surprised me, though, was that as soon as she got in the car, she pulled out her pepper spray.  It was in her hand for the entire trip.  At one point, on the highway, I pointed out to her that if she sprayed me at the speed we were driving, we would both die.  All she said was, “I know.”

She convinced me to stop by Niagara Falls on the way there.  That was a quick trip worth taking, although as things are going today, I kind of wish I had stayed in Canada.  That was probably the best part of the trip.

In Ohio, mom was a gracious host and gave her a room (separate from mine, as I knew she would, and frankly that was fine since we were never lovers although it would have been nice if my mom asked).  She spent about a week there, and we visited some things around my parents’ home.  A week later, as promised, she booked a flight and flew back to Boston. 

My mom never forgot this visit.  Every few years, she would remind me about it, and make it a point to tell me that she never did receive a “thank you” note from her.  And, of course, she never would.  The entire trip was just odd and stressful, and I never knew why she wanted to go until a week or two later I was talking with her on the phone.  I forget the purpose of the call, but during it she revealed to me that when we went, she was not getting along with her boyfriend.  She didn’t tell him she was going with me and invited herself along for the express purpose of making him worry when she just disappeared for a week without talking with him because they weren’t getting along at the time.  I should mention that this was the early ‘90’s, so we did have cell phones, but no social media.  During the trip, she never called him, and he never called her.  As we talked, I asked her how that went.  She told me that he never even noticed that she was gone.  And, yes, they were back together, which I think is a good thing.  They clearly deserved each other.

I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life.  I’ve lived in Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, Indiana, South Dakota, Minnesota, and now Nebraska.  I have friends near and far and do periodically travel (as I will be in July to Sioux Falls for a photo shoot).  It’s rare that I’ve ever actually had a travel partner, so I guess I’m not really complaining that I traveled with her, but I imagine there must be better people with whom to travel. 

For those of my readers who have excellent travel partners, I want you to know that I’m a little bit jealous.  Traveling is such fun, but the experience is so much richer when you’re with the right person.  A friend of mine traveled all the way to Ecuador (where he will be for an extended period of time, if not permanently) and when he posts photos of him and his wife, I can’t help but think how happy I am for the both of them.  I don’t travel nearly as much as I would like to, and I can’t help but wonder how I would be far more motivated, and how much more I would travel, with somebody to tell me that she wants to travel, and with whom I could help plan trips.  Without her, I’m far too much of a homebody, and trust me when I say I feel it.  Show your travel partner how lucky you are to be with that person.  Keep them wanting to be by your side.


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