The Grandest of Road Trips by Jess K. '10
Reflections on a cross-country road trip, on an international plane flight, on a full bladder.
I’m on a 13-hour flight from San Francisco to Tokyo, connecting through Seoul, and I’m holding it. This is not because of lack of access – I’m sitting in the emergency exit row directly behind a bathroom – but rather to decrease the suspicion of the two other people in the emergency exit row with me, who have not gone to the restroom once yet in the first three hours of the trip. What’s wrong with her? I imagine they’d think, their judging eyes trying to count just how many times so far. I imagine at this point they’re starting to believe I’m smuggling mass quantities of hallucinogens out of the US, or that I have a small plant in my pocket that needs water every fifteen minutes. Or worse, I have some sort of bladder infection that makes them wonder about switching seats. I want to comfort them and tell them I’m just a normal kid who chugged two waterbottles before passing security, but I’m afraid I might burst in the process. (Talk about your emergency exits, am I right??)
My small bladder has always been a troubling affliction, particularly on long international plane trips and also on cross-country road trips. I spent the last week driving from Boston to San Francisco with my boyfriend CV, who just graduated and has a much greater stamina for holding it than yours truly, so you’d think I’d have picked up a little more endurance. Instead of that, I’ve picked up a few interesting observations about this country:
-It is a very long drive from Boston to San Francisco.
-At night, they light up the Niagara Fall with all the colors of the rainbow. This is so they can remind you that even though you are experiencing one of the most fantastic natural wonders of this world, things are still better in the technicolor world of Oz.
-The hottest part of our trip was, surprisingly, in upstate New York, on our first day of driving. The day that our air conditioner also broke down the most was, not surprisingly, in upstate New York, on our first day of driving.
-There’s a place in Ashland, Ohio, called Grandpa’s Cheesebarn. (One word.) It sells a variety of cheeses, meats, pickled garnishes, and a wide collection of John Deere memorabilia. Stop by if you’re ever around, and say hi to the Amish kids selling baskets on the lawn for me.
-Eating at a Steak ‘n Shake in Indiana as a minority is a lonely endeavor, save for the one Filipino guy working the grill. (He gave me a high five on the way out. In my head.)
-CV has a built-in coffee maker at his house. Right in between the microwave and the food warmer. I plan to propose this for the next renovations of Burton-Conner’s kitchens.
-“The Grand Canyon may not be the longest or deepest or widest canyon in the world, but many people would agree it is the grandest.”: A direct quote from a plaque at the Grand Canyon museum. Which leaves one wondering: who is many people? How did they get to be on this grand decision-making committee? What kinds of requirements are there for becoming a canyon with the “grand” denomination? Also, why is CV driving the car away from me?
-The boundaries for where sweet tea is acquirable: somewhere in Ohio to approximately New Mexico. Someone fact check this. It is probably about as accurate as stating “Out of all the canyons, the Grand Canyon is the grandest.”
-Things that we only have in California: toilet seat covers, carpool lanes, special carpool lane privileges for hybrid cars, special parking spaces for hybrid cars, guaranteed acceptance to MIT if you drive a hybrid car. Just kidding on the last one. You also get a full scholarship.
I’ll be spending my summer in Japan, so it was a good chance to fully immerse myself in American culture, eat as much diner food as possible, and see the great midwest. The MISTI program (MIT Science and Technology Initiative) is paying for my flights, housing, and general life in Tokyo, as well as lined up a sweet job for me working as a research technician at RIKEN Brain Science Institute, so I’m pretty excited to declog my arteries and eat a meal that doesn’t come with fries. I’m also pretty excited to get totally and completely lost on the Japanese Railway, discover my four semesters of Japanese have not nearly prepared me for surviving a foreign country, and celebrate my 21st birthday in a country where the drinking age is 20. Summer 2K9, guys; it’s gonna be a blast. AND I PROMISE TO BLOG IT! For realsies!
In the meanwhile, I’d love to answer any of your questions about junior year (most of which I did not blog), MISTI, where to stay for cheap if you’re stopping through Kingman, Arizona, or who I am. Since I haven’t blogged since approximately before the time most of you were born, I might need to reintroduce myself: I’m Jess, and I need to go to the bathroom. I’ll see you from the other side of the international date line!