Somewhere along the 2,684-mile, mid August drive from central Illinois to Washington, D.C., Newport, Boston and back, I crossed an unseen line into old age.
Not 93-and-ailing old age; more like 53-and-getting-cranky old age.
The trip to the elderly began early Aug. 12, the day of the market-moving USDA crop report. Sliding up and down the foothills of eastern Ohio that morning, I spent an hour sliding up and down the AM and FM radio dial in search of USDA’s crucial numbers.
I did, however, encounter an endless parade of bloviating sermonizers threatening to suck the brain out of my skull with a vacuum of empty prattle they claimed was “talk radio.”
In one way, it was; nothing stopped them from talking. Neither facts nor truth nor decency hindered their jaw-flapping demagogy. (It’s also a big reason why few radio stations carry farm reports anymore. Few listeners and ever fewer advertisers can endure these ravings to get to two or three minutes of farm news two or three times per day. Root canal is less painful.)
I got the crop report numbers — just the facts, not the mouth foam — off the Internet that afternoon in blissful silence at daughter Gracie’s Washington, D.C. office.
An evening later, or just about the time I had settled back into my calm Midwestern ways, Gracie tuned into the Olympics.
At least that’s what the no-longer-young Bob Costas claimed it was. Beach volleyball is an Olympic sport? Sure, I see the sport in it but I also see… Well, I saw what you saw and why we saw every bikinied-second of every beach volleyball match had little to do with sport.
No, I cannot play the game at their level. But I do own have handkerchiefs that are twice their age and cover twice as much.
The drive from Washington, D.C. to Newport, R.I., via the six-lane racetrack better known as Connecticut only added gray to my whiskers.
I mean, is there one road or bridge between Maine and Miami that doesn’t charge a toll, isn’t packed with traffic screaming at least 15 mph over the speed limit and isn’t lined with either tall trees or tall buildings?
We — Gracie, the lovely Catherine and I — drove the length of the New Jersey Turnpike and saw nothing. Not a house, not a field, not even a fabled New Jersey swamp.
Nothing to see
So, too, the drive from Newport to Boston with son Paul, a newly minted U.S. Navy ensign (his commissioning was the centerpiece of the trip) on board.
Nothing but toll booths and trees. Little wonder Easterners often are accused of holding narrow views; everywhere we looked we couldn’t see anywhere.
The food, however, was worth the view; no place in America possesses a wider, better mix of culture and food. From the sweet potato fries and steak in Washington to the crab cakes and lobster rolls in Boston, the East is a fresh food paradise.
Later, after we put the prince and princess on a Boston-to-DC train, Catherine and I found both gorgeous scenery and great food in a meandering couple days in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Local wine, local cheese, local fish.
The older I get, the more local I want to be. Another sign of senescence, I suppose.
The final stop of our 2008 pilgrimage, Champaign for a late lunch, coincided almost exactly with the date and hour my parents delivered me to that city’s University of Illinois 35 years earlier.
Thirty-five years. Wow. Maybe I crossed that cranky, old age line a while back and simply didn’t see it.