I know. Long time, no see. I’ve been touring, which led me to think about hotels and motels, which I dearly love, short term. With age comes snobbery, or at least a taste for creature comfort, so I do like Fluffy Bathrobe Hotels when I’m lucky enough to stay in them.
But in my youth, I was no Eloise. My family stayed at Quality Inns and Holiday Inns and Travelers Inns, the one with the sleepwalking bear, a once intriguing and terrifying logo. I watched an eclipse of the moon from the second-floor walkway of a Travelers somewhere between Baltimore and Atlanta.
Motels were a luxury. My family often made the 700-plus mile trip between Baltimore and Atlanta in one day, which took about 12 hours. Total. We stopped for gas about three times. (The car was a Ford station wagon, bright red, with a seat in the back, but it was almost always folded down for trips.) Food was eaten on the go, unless one was prone to car sickness, as I was, in which case food was seldom eaten. Yes, my father was obsessed with Making Good Time.
The summer I was 11, we headed north, to Portland, Maine, where my father would put the finishing touches on a book he was writing with a co-author, Donald Hansen. (It was about Edmund Muskie.) We had a dog and two cats at the time, Peppermint and Gali. The cats were placed in cardboard carriers with breathing holes. The second we left the neighborhood, Peppermint began to mewl mournfully and steadily. I think we took her out on I-95, and she shuddered in my sister’s arms. Gali, my cat, was angrier and stealthier. With her teeth and claws, she worked at the space between two of the breathing holes, creating a slightly larger one. We were on the New Jersey Turnpike when her head burst forth. It was like something out a horror film, this angry tortoiseshell cat’s head emerging from the box and the terrible shrieks that followed, as she had accomplished nothing but getting herself stuck. We tore at the cardboard and freed her, and she paced the car for the next seven hours or so.
My father promised a bottle of Moxie to the person who came closest to guessing our arrival time in Maine. I won. My apology to any Moxie fans here, but it wasn’t much of a prize. And, as I recall, it wasn’t even manufactured in New England.
Do people still make Good Time? I know I’m still inclined to try and, in my heart of hearts, I don’t have much respect for anyone over 6 who can’t go four hours without a bathroom break.