Maria Holland

Great American Traditions: Road Trip!!

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I take a certain delight in successfully predicting the way my mind will work a year in advance.  (I’ve had no success predicting my life that far out, but I do okay with my own thought processes.)  I experienced this simple pleasure several times during the unpacking and repacking process of the last few weeks.  A lot of my stuff had been packed in April and May 2009 when I moved out of my apartment at TU, and sat in boxes in my parents’ house until I returned.  I tried to be organized about it all, but what organizational system lasts through such a life-changing year? 

Turns out, mine fares pretty well.  Right on the top of all the boxes, I found the bag filled with my student ID, keychain wallet, and car paraphernalia.  A quick search of my email inbox yielded the product number and online order form for the planner I’ve used the last two years.  Everything was just where I looked for it.

But a lot of stuff, I didn’t even think to look for.  I spent a few days going through my things, each day like Christmas as I found something “new”.  I packed most of it back up to take down to school, but my year in China did make me reevaluate the wisdom of hauling some things down there for just one year.  I see now why my parents never had to deal with accumulating stuff until they settled down in Minnesota for going on 15 years; moving gives you both opportunity and incentive to reevaluate your possessions.  I gave a few bags of stuff to Goodwill and left some things in my room where they can wait until I make a more permanent move. 

I was really organized as I began packing the car, but once Irealized that there was not room in the car for all those boxes.  I cut down and combined things, my system going out the window.  I’ll put all my textbooks in this box, other books in this one, and computer stuff in this tub . . . well, computer stuff and bracelets.  Yeah.  Those go together: computer stuff and bracelets. 


My brother and I set out this morning on our road trip.  Since my family moved up to Minnesota 15 years ago, road trips have been a nearly annual tradition.  They’re the only practical way to visit our relatives, spread out as they are across every major city in Texas and various parts of Oklahoma (and occasionally Kansas).  More than any one city or even state, I-35 sometimes feels like my home. 

This one’s a bit different, though.  Instead of heading down through Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas, we’re heading west after Iowa through Nebraska to Colorado.  We’ll spend a few days there then go straight south to the border, my grandparents’ house in El Paso.  Then we cut across Texas to Austin and take the scenic tour of Oklahoma from the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge to Ft. Sill to OKC to Tulsa. 

Road Trip Route

The route is 3,000 miles, which should require around 50 hours of driving spread out over the 12-day trip.  A little circuitous, but we have free lodging at every stop along the way and will get to see all of my mother’s family and a good half of my dad’s.  I swear we have reasons for every stop on the journey . . . even though it kind of looks like an elaborate route construed just to avoid the state of Kansas.


The trip started as all Holland trips do.  They begin in the wee hours of the morning – although generally a half hour less wee than originally planned.  Mom makes breakfast burritos and we take a picture by the car before setting off. 

Matt - 6910

My dad joined us for the first leg of the trip down to Ames, IA, which I endured wedged into a back seat chewing on my knees.  Near Ames, we got off the highway and, using several GPS-enabled devices, tracked the moving target that we were trying to link up with.  Mike Erhedt, a veteran and runner, is doing Project America Run – running across the country from Oregon to Maine, planting a flag every mile marked with the name, rank, age, and hometown of one of our soldiers killed in Iraq.  He happened to be passing through Ames when we were, and Dad planned to ride along with him for a while before turning north and biking the few hundred miles home. 

Matt - 6976

I was really glad that we were able to meet up with him.  This is the second time that it has worked out perfectly for us to meet people who are running across the country in honor of the service members lost in Iraq, and both have been really great experiences.  The first time was in July 2008, shortly after I had returned from my summer in China.  A group was doing a Run for the Fallen from east to west, and were planting my uncle’s flag in Camdenton, MO, just a little ways off our original route home.  A few of my relatives met us there and we all ran together the four miles for my uncle, Daniel Holland, and the three men who died with him (Nick Cournoyer, Robert Seidel, and Lonnie Allen). Yes, even I ran – and, in a fitting memorial to Uncle Daniel, hated it the entire time. 

This time we weren’t able to be there for the planting of Daniel’s flag, but we did join Mike in remembering the soldier honored that mile – Steven P. Gill. 

Matt - 6955

[We were, however, able to visit the site of my uncle’s flag, which Mike had planted ?????? before in Colorado.  We got off the main highway near Boulder and, through the use of about four GPS-enabled devices, found Daniel’s flag planted on the side of the road in the shadow of the Rockies.  I know that he’s not buried there, but if we live on in others’ memories then it makes sense that I think of him there.  He would like the location – great view.]

Matt - 6999


I had more room after we got rid of Dad, so I spread out a little and started to tackle my Chinese flashcards.  They were among the many things that got left behind in the chaos of my return home; actually they started suffering around the time of my trip to Hangzhou, so by now it had been 42 days since my last review!  The even scarier number is 3,877 – the number of flashcards that are due . . .

It’s slightly tempting to let the whole thing go, but I know that they make a difference, and at this point I’m grasping at anything that can help me maintain my Chinese.  When I was in Xiamen I would occasionally have Chinese people asking me how to write certain characters – because they don’t make it a point to write by hand and I did.  Typing is just too dang easy; writing them out by hand seems like the only way to truly maintain knowledge of characters.  After a month and a half without explicitly practicing characters and a few weeks with almost no character input from my surroundings, I could feel myself slipping into my old ways from when I only knew oral Chinese.  All the homonyms started blurring together and I couldn’t remember if the ‘liang’ in ‘liangkuai’ was the same as in ‘piaoliang’.  (It’s not; the former is 凉快 and the latter is 漂亮.)  This is not a mistake I would have made 43 days ago.  

We made it to Omaha in time for a late lunch with friends of ours then I took over driving.  Matt hated the very idea of driving through Nebraska; he seemed to take its flatness as a personal offence, so it fell to me.  I didn’t mind.  It may be flat, but there’s a special beauty in that as well.  America the Beautiful, indeed – for purple mountains majesty, of course, but also for amber fields of grain.  Anyway, there were lots of interesting things to watch – a few wind farms, two car fires, and a gorgeous lightning show after we crossed into Colorado.  It kept me awake, which is all I can really ask for! 

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