Traffic, Bacon, and Soviet War Machines: 12 Hours in a Honda Odyssey

This guy just wants to use the bathroom

by Jack Archambault

Opinions Editor

It’s May 11, 2018. This weekend my sister, Kate, is graduating from college … in Virginia! 😦 Since my two other sisters, Molly and Sophie, get to fly down, that means I get an 11-ish hour car ride, from Pomfret, CT to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, with my mom, dad, and grandma. What follows is a live diary of the day.

5:19 AM- We leave the house, 19 minutes behind schedule. I feel bad because yesterday my dad and I were talking about how we were going to leave at 5 AM sharp, unless the ladies slowed us down. Hahahahaha. We’re guys, we joke. But it ended up being my fault we’re leaving late. My dad now thinks that means we have to make up 19 minutes of lost time. He’s going about 60 in a 35 zone right now. If I die, well, I’ll write about it.

5:22 AM– My grandma just asked me what I’m writing. I can already tell this is going to be a recurring theme. Let’s keep a running tally.

5:35 AM- We’re listening to NPR, per my mom’s request. They’re playing audio from a Trump rally, in which he called Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly “Sleepin’ Joe”. I have to give it to him, he’s probably the best person in the world at coming up with nicknames that are objectively stupid, childish, and downright terrible, but just have a way of getting under your skin and becoming almost endearing and really funny. It’s weird.

5:51 AM- My mom just said that it’s going to be a beautiful day for driving. I mean, I guess so, but we’re going to be driving. The best driving weather is definitely overcast but not raining. This isn’t debatable. There’s no sun in your eyes or rain to obscure your vision, and you don’t get upset that you’re missing out on a beautiful day. Also, my grandma just informed us that she “doesn’t care for pickles at all.”

6:13 AM- I just remembered that Mother’s Day is Sunday, and I don’t have a card or gift. I can’t think of when I’ll be able to get either of those things over the next couple days, either. Oh well, it can’t be any worse than that time my mom gave me the silent treatment on Mother’s Day back in 2015.

6:15 AM- Ok, I’ll tell that story. I was working at an ice cream/burger stand, and my whole family showed up, which was really nice of them. When my mom got up to order, though, she wanted to have a conversation, sample the different flavors, just generally take her time. I was standing there, getting anxious looking at the line behind her and seeing people getting visibly antsy, so I snapped at her and told her to just order her ice cream already. When I got home she wouldn’t speak to me, which continued for about a day. So yeah, I survived a Mother’s Day silent treatment, I think I’ll live through this one.

6:40 AM- My mom and grandma both just fell asleep. I don’t know how, since we’ve been drinking these giant cups of coffee. Alas.

6:56 AM- We just passed a car with the license plate “HULLS”. I’m guessing that their last name is Hull, so it’s cool that I know that now. We would need two license plates to fit our last name, “ARCHAM” and “BAULT”. Unless we went vowel-less, in which case it would read “RCHMBLT”.

7:02 AM- Mercifully, we’ve left Connecticut and are entering New York. Next stop, FORDHAM.

7:03 AM– …aaand we’ve hit traffic. I hate New York, I hate New York, I hate New York.

7:09 AM- We’ve passed the culprits. It’s a two-car fender-bender on the side of the road. I feel really terrible for them, but I think my dad might roll down the window and start booing them for adding four minutes to our drive. Also, my grandma just woke up and asked me what I’m writing. That’s two.

7:15 AM- The station we’re listening to is asking listeners to text “Like” or “Dislike” to 80787 for every song that comes on. I’m going to do that.

7:23 AM- The first two songs have been: “My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit (Like) and that Coldplay and The Chainsmokers song that says something about Achilles (Dislike)

7:44 AM- We’re crossing the new Tappan Zee bridge, which my mom just described as “handsome”. I think I’d call it “hot”. Also, the next few songs have been “Heathens” by Twenty-One Pilots (eh, I don’t really dislike, but I gave it one), “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand (Like), and “Basket Case” by Green Day (Big Like). Also, my grandma just told the GPS, “I’m following you, lady.” (She’s following our route on a fold-out road map.)

8:01 AM- I just saw on my phone that the show Once Upon a Time is ending. About time. That show became unwatchable in 2013, in an episode in which some giant said that a group of bandits “massacred our people and stole all our beans”. Beans. Try to find the clip on YouTube. My sister Sophie and I still say that one line all the time just to make each other crack up.

8:07 AM- “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance. Biggest like of the day.

8:11 AM- I’m thinking about texting my friend Brian as we drive through his stomping grounds of Fort Lee, New Jersey. It would make his day. He loves New Jersey more than anybody should love anything, especially New Jersey.

8:14 AM- Passing NYC, I’m tempted to ask if we can stop by Mugz’s for a quick pick-me-up and to pay my boy Suits a visit. (Side note, if you don’t follow Suits on Instagram, drop everything and do that right now. It’s danielmorse10, and I promise you won’t regret it.)

8:27 AM- Grandma just off-handedly mentioned that “they had some stabbings in Poughkeepsie last night.”

8:33 AM- My dad just asked me to look up the top rest stops in New Jersey. This led me to an article titled “The Definitive Ranking of New Jersey Rest Stops”. If you think me live-blogging this car ride is stupid, well … yeah, you’re probably right.

9:14 AM- We just made our first stop, somewhere in New Jersey. Walking back to the car, Grandma told me about a lady she saw in the rest stop who was “so fat, she just waddled”. She has this way of describing people in which she says the word “so”, followed by the most insulting or politically incorrect adjective she can think of. One time after church she started talking about a man in the pew behind us who was “so, so retarded”. I’m not sure if this is something all grandmas do or not.

9:40 AM- “Cry Me a River” is playing on the radio now. That’s another like. This DJ is on fire right now.

9:47 AM- Truck drivers have a look. If I saw a truck driver out in public, I could definitely guess that they were a truck driver within the first three guesses. That’s not to say they all look alike, but there is a definite aesthetic. (As you can tell, there is a bit of a lull in activity in the car right now. It’s also a good thing I don’t have Twitter, because it would just be stuff like this.)

9:51 AM- Wow. A Macklemore song just came on the radio. I’ve never heard it before, and I don’t care enough to look it up, I’m just amazed. If you had asked me yesterday what I thought was more likely to happen on this car ride, that we’d hear a Macklemore song on the radio or that we’d run into him pumping gas on the New Jersey Turnpike, I’m really not sure which one I’d pick.

10:11 AM- Now my mom is doing that thing where she takes off her shoes and puts her bare feet up on the dashboard while she reads a book. She owns that move.

10:14 AM- We just passed a billboard for the Delaware Lottery. If you’re going to play the lottery, then that’s the one you want to play. Just based on population, I think your odds are better. Get rich quick scheme: Move to Wyoming and play the lottery every day. Wyoming’s population is a shade under 580,000, so those are probably some of the best odds in the world, and definitely in the United States. I also think every high school statistics teacher just had a stroke reading that sentence.

10:22 AM- My mom also knows all the words to Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”, which I just found out.

10:28 AM- Entering Maryland, whose slogan, according to their welcome sign, is, “We’re Open for Business.” I think there are a lot of jokes I could make here, but I can’t think of a good one, so I’ll let you fill in the blank. I’ll just say that that’s good to know.

10:46 AM- I really have to go to the bathroom, but I don’t want to be the reason we have to stop. I already delayed us by almost 20 minutes this morning, and being the reason we have to pull over now would only seal my title as Least Valuable Player on this car ride. I’m already not going to win MVP, that’s my dad for sure, and Grandma second, but I think I can at least finish third if I can hold it and wait for my mom to ask to stop.

11:06 AM- Screw it, I have to go too bad. I am the dreaded Laramie.

11:18 AM- Our ETA is currently 3:05 PM. Four hours to go. I need to slow down.

11:36 AM- GOOD MORNING, BALTIMORE! Also, snooze no. 2 for Grandma.

12:28 PM- We stopped at Five Guys for lunch, and Grandma got, I kid you not, a bacon sandwich (without pickles, obviously). That’s how we do things in this car. Power moves only. Fortunately, Grandma’s unadulterated savagery makes up for Mom’s lack thereof, as she opted for a burger on a bed of lettuce.

1:00 PM- There’s a bit of a lull as we enter the home stretch, so here’s a conversation we had earlier: Red Sox pitcher David Price was recently diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, which people around him attribute to his video game habit. Price denies that this is the reason, but he said he’s going to stop playing video games anyways. Okay, guy. This made my mom think of Fortnite, which kids in her class (she teaches 7th grade) were talking about. They asked her if she played, and she said no, but at their insistence told them she would try. If this surprises you, you should know that there is precedent for my mom being a gamer. Circa 2003, she played the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets computer game. Like, a lot. My sisters and I would just gather around the computer and watch. For some reason, that was fun for us. I guess what I’m trying to say is, this Fortnite thing is a slippery slope. Last time she tried playing video games, my sisters and I had to learn how to cook for ourselves.

1:23 PM- I think we’re in Virginia now, but who knows. Also, I stopped counting, but Grandma just asked me what I’m writing again. I should also mention that I haven’t actually told the truth yet. Why, you ask? Two reasons: One, I’m afraid Mom and Dad will start trying to be funny or something, when really what they’re doing right now is fine. Two, if I tell the truth, it means I’ll also have to explain the paper to Grandma, and I think it’s best if that conversation just never happens.

2:11 PM- I’m convinced that northern Virginia is actually hell. Every time I’ve driven through it the traffic is suffocating, every street looks like Privet Drive, and it’s already filled with greasy politicians *dabs furiously*. I can’t take it anymore. I’ve just been watching our ETA creep higher and higher on Waze. It’s at 4:18 right now.

2:26 PM- I really have to hand it to my dad, he is an absolute machine. I truly believe that driving long distances is one thing that he is better at than anyone else in the world. Think about this: Yesterday he drove 7 hours round-trip to pick me up from school. Today he woke up at 4:30 AM and is in the middle of an 11-hour drive, a drive he’s going to do again on Monday. The craziest part about it is that he doesn’t even look like he’s getting tired. In fact, I think he’s getting stronger the longer this drive goes, like he’s harvesting the energy of the other drivers in this traffic jam. I’ve never seen my dad’s birth certificate, but I think there’s at least a 10% chance he was manufactured in some Soviet lab to be an indestructible military-grade weapon but escaped from the facility and ended up in Connecticut. I’ll let you know what I find out.

2:52 PM- Grandma just remarked on the fact that despite all the traffic, we haven’t seen any accidents. I think she just bought us all a four-person cemetery plot. I also learned that my mom has an Instagram, which is news to me. She doesn’t want too many people to follow her, but I’ve hidden her username in code throughout this update.

3:23 PM- We’re at the point now where we’re watching the ETA fluctuate on Waze and cheering every time it goes down. It’s at 4:44 right now, so we’re approaching 12-hour territory, and I want to die.

3:50 PM- Did any of you guys see Megamind? That is a seriously underrated movie.

4:07 PM- I hate to nitpick, because Dad has been throwing a perfect game so far, but he just slowed down at a yellow light instead of flooring it, and given the fact that we’re working on our 12th hour in this car, I’m not sure that was the best move.

4:26 PM- We just stopped for (maybe?) the last time at a 7-Eleven, where we used a truly foul bathroom (think the worst toilet in Scotland from Trainspotting). Our ETA has climbed to 5:18 PM, just a minute shy of 12 full hours in the car. We’re making worse time than Harold and Kumar trying to get to White Castle.

4:39 PM- Who’s got it better than us?!?!? NOOOBODY!!!!!

4:59 PM- 20 minutes away, and you can feel the excitement building in this car right now. It’s like we’re counting down the outs until we win the World Series. I just hope nobody gives in to the hyperbole that comes from the thrill of victory and starts saying things like, “Y’know, that was a long ride, but it really didn’t feel that long.” Stop it. It was, and it absolutely did. Still does.

5:07 PM- Williamsburg: 5 miles. I can almost taste it!!!!

5:17 PM- We are approaching! And we almost hit a bus, but we’re almost there! At this point if we crash we can just get out and walk.

5:24 PM- We’ve made it!!! A full 12 hours and 5 minutes after we left, we’re finally here at the College of William and Mary. I want to thank Mom, Dad, and Grandma for taking this trip with me, and of course, all of you who were here in spirit. Now let’s get ready to do it all again on Monday.

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