What I Learned While on the Road — 877 Miles* Later

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Well, the BP Motor Club Trip Planner I requested noted that our itinerary would total 877 miles. But side journeys, and getting “lost” a few times added to the total.

Here’s what I’m referring to: For spring break 2019, Susan and I took a road trip — Chicago through Indiana, to Louisville, Kentucky; west from Louisville, back through Indiana, to Carbondale, Illinois; then back to Chicago.

Why? I’ve never been to Louisville, and I’ve been been to the far southern part of my home state of Illinois. So, what happened?

Here are some recollections in words and a few images.

A stroll through Old Louisville offered an uninterrupted presentation of (mostly) well-preserved or restored stone homes.

Awesome Old Louisville. Quick: Name what this Kentucky city on the Ohio River is most noted for. Most people would cite bourbon, baseball bats, KFC and that famous horse race. Let’s add the Old Louisville historic district — a 45-block, 1,000 home treasure of Victorian architecture — to the list. Our three-night stay in a VRBO apartment on Brook Street gave us a first hand perspective of this neighborhood comprised of former mansions and other stately edifices located between downtown and the University of Louisville. I would start my day with a stroll and was always rewarded with seeing something new, something intriguing.

Yes, there are big lakes in Southern Illinois, like Crab Orchard just outside Carbondale.

Outstanding Cuisine in a College Town Setting. Tremendous Thai food and sophisticated entrees in small town Carbondale, home to Southern Illinois University? True. We were advised by a friend to dine at Thai Taste, a popular restaurant a three-minute walk from our hotel. He was right: Exceptional Asian cuisine that was not at all modified to fit American palates. I still have fond memories of the egg drop soup and pad kee mao. Another evening we preferred to go a bit more upscale and had dinner at Newell House, a bistro with entrees that would rival the new eateries that have gained a foothold in restaurant-laden Logan Square. Our meals were served by concerned and engaging staff and were far less expensive than comparable places in Chicago.

This silver sedan was our land ship across prairies, over rivers and through small towns.

The Catharsis of the Road. My average drive most weeks consists of a four-mile round trip to the grocery on Saturday morning. My “hot rod” 23-year-old Toyota Camry serves well for that kind of short trip, but we were on the road for six days and splurged on a rental car — a new Ford Fusion Hybrid. Getting behind the wheel of this modern machine was inspiring, whether we were cruising down an interstate freeway at 70 miles per hour, driving through a sleepy town or navigating the seemingly endless series of switchbacks on our way to Little Grand Canyon in the Shawnee National Forest. Having Serius Radio with options like Little Steven’s Underground Garage, jazz and country made the miles along the often flat, barren landscape enjoyable.

These days it’s hard to totally detach and disconnect, even while supposedly on vacation.

On our trip, I viewed Facebook posts from friends enjoying spring break in places as far reaching as Italy and Morocco, and closer to home like Miami and Phoenix. Our six-day jaunt across three states was not what one would consider exotic. It was a simple road trip through the American heartland at the end of a long winter.

Yes, we drank bourbon in Louisville, toured Churchill Downs, walked trails and visited the SIU campus. But this trip demonstrated to me that a modest adventure can be rewarded and enriched when the travels are closer to home … if you can find the extraordinary in what some would consider ordinary.

*When I dropped the Fusion off at the nearby Avis rental site, we had driven 1,087 miles. What we did on those extra 201 miles off the prescribed route might be been the best part of the journey.

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