Tag Archives: traveling

Going Home

I get to go home tomorrow.


Assuming the weather cooperates.

I’ve been on the road for five days. If all goes well I’ll get home late tomorrow evening.

Five days is probably peanuts to a lot of the “road warriors” out there that travel for their jobs, but I’m ready to go home. I drove to tonight’s stop for 2.5 hours through a mixture of blinding, white-out snow fall and slick dangerous roads, to short periods of sunny skies and clear roads. It would switch from one to the other about every couple miles, typical of Michigan or probably any other place in North America in the winter these days.

I’m in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan for the night. My knuckles are still white from the two hour grip on the steering wheel as I tried to avoid sliding off icy roads. For dinner I ate a McDonald’s Southwest Salad and I’m drinking a cheap bottle of wine scored at the local Wal-Mart a ½ mile away. ( I suddenly wonder how often the word “wine” appears in my posts?!?)

‘Cause remember, work travel is a romantic and sophisticated thing!

The blood is slowly flowing back into my knuckles.

Not to get back on the local motel thing, but I’m in the most adorable little local motel I’ve ever stayed in. I may have to get on Trip Advisor and leave a five star review. Outside there is an epic snowstorm, crazy, blinding, accumulating snow… at least the last time I looked. In the back of my mind I’m thinking if there were anywhere to be stranded for an extra day this would be a fine place.

But I’m ready to go home.

I’m seriously ready to go home.

I want to sleep in my bed. I want to hug my wife. I want to see my kids. I want to see my goats.

In a few days I’ll have forgotten anything about this trip like so many before. The next one will be on the horizon to prepare for. This was a successful trip and the next one will be too.

That’s what I do.

The hardest part for me is the leaving, the walking out the door.

Sometimes I have to talk myself up, like Stuart Smalley.

“You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and doggone it people like you.”

Once I’m on the road though, literally five minute later, driving down the road, the salesman shows his big handsome face and I’m like “YEAH BUDDY LET’S GET THIS SHIT DONE!”

So I get it done.

Can you say “Jeckyl and Hyde?!?”

A loud dose of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” through the car stereo helps. There isn’t a set of car speakers out there capable of playing this song at an adequate volume.

When I’m gone, I don’t think it’s easy at home. My wife definitely notices, suddenly a single parent for several days. My kids? With their crazy teenage lifestyles, sometimes I seriously wonder if they know I’m gone.

I hope they do. I really do.

But when the time comes I’m always ready to come home.

To sleep in my bed. To hug my wife. To see my kids. To see my goats.

I get to go home tomorrow.



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Remember that time I was Freshly Pressed?

I’m sitting here in an old school motel in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, near the Northern shores of Lake Michigan. My eyes dart from the words on the computer screen that I slowly type on my old laptop to long periods of staring out the window of my room as ghostly apparitions of blowing snow race across the empty parking lot. My toes are cold and I can’t seem to get them to warm up even though they’re wrapped tightly in heavy wool socks. The desk where I am sitting is next to the window that faces out to the parking lot and I can see my car parked in front of the door to my room, some parking lot lights and the brightly lit motel sign. At the bottom of the sign in bright red neon, the word VACANCY calls out to the few passing cars though no one seems to heed the call.

I have the blinds wide open but I’m not worried about privacy because I think I might be the only guest here tonight. I have no concerns about someone walking by and staring in my window. What is likely a thriving little motel during the summer and fall tourist months is pretty much a ghost town on this frigid cold February night.

The old couple that owns this particular motel where I will rest my head tonight have to be in their 80’s. They live on site and the place is spotlessly clean. This is the third year in a row I have stayed here and each year I walk in and wonder if the old women who checks me in will remember me. But she doesn’t and I’m not really surprised considering the number of people she sees every year. But as always, as I signed the credit card receipts and passed them back to her she asked me:

“Do you drink coffee? I’ll have coffee made in the morning.”

“I sure do you” I replied, then added, “I know, I come up here every February on my way to Houghton and I always stay here.”

She glanced up at me with proud eyes that sparkled like the bitter cold snow outside and with the brightest smile she said “thank you.”

I added, “I really like this place, please don’t ever close it down!”

“We won’t, as long as we’re around” she offered.

I took my key and settled in to room 17.


I stay in small motels like this all the time when I travel for work. I’m self employed, no company credit cards, no expense accounts, no perks. Every dollar I spend on accommodations or meals or gas for my car comes right off the top. So I do my research and I find the places that are clean and well kept and affordable.

But there’s more than that.

Yes, these motels are unquestionably no-frills, and I’ve had a few objectionable nights over the last few years where I wished I had chosen the local chain hotel.

But the homey, small town places that I find, that I consistently come back to are all privately owned businesses that the owners take pride in and work hard to keep their guests happy. As someone who spent almost 20 years working in a family business I respect that to no end and will do what I can to support that work ethic.

Plus the people are interesting!

There’s the 80’s something couple where I stay tonight.

There’s the Vietnam era veteran with the US Marines baseball cap who always says “I’d put my rooms up against any place in town!”

There’s the lesbian couple who own a place called the “Triangle Motel.”

There’s the macho guy who is a retired police chief and who always has his little dog with him.

There’s the guy who is always drinking from a can of “Miller Lite” while checking in guests.

These places are remnants from a bygone era, like the old Route 66 motels that families stayed in while driving across the country many decades ago. Sadly, these days, for every thriving motel you find that is worth the $50 room rate, there are two or three more that are sitting abandoned along rural routes that folks no longer choose to drive along.

So… what does this have to do with being Freshly Pressed?

Two years ago in February, 2013 my post Old Barn Coat was featured on the WordPress Freshly Pressed page. It happened during this same road trip that I am on now. I started writing the post while I was at home, but I finished it while sitting in the same motel that I sit in now, while sucking down a bottle of wine, on a similar, bitter cold Saturday February night.

I posted it the following Sunday.

It was a great post and I knew it at the time. It wasn’t my usual sarcastic, silly, juvenile humor. I remember struggling to figure out where and how I was going to tie everything together, but when the last line, the culmination, finally appeared to me, I knew I had come up with something good. I don’t remember thinking about the post being “pressed” but I knew it was something special regardless of the number of likes and comments.

Freshly Pressed is the closest most of us will ever get to something we write being “published”. Sure, no one is paying you for what you wrote but it is an example of someone who you don’t know, someone who doesn’t follow your blog, someone who isn’t your friend , either face to face or “electronically”, noticing something you’ve written and deciding it’s good enough that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people should see it. That’s an honor none of us should take for granted.


The words are flowing out now like an open tap. It’s funny how that works, one minute you can’t think of anything to say, but a few struggling, forced paragraphs later, you’ve lost track of time and you have to force yourself to stop typing.

I’ve glanced up from the screen and noticed some of the parking lot lights are off and although the VACANCY light still screams out to passing cars, I know that motel office hours are only until 11:00 and there won’t be much traffic tonight. Blowing snow still dances across the parking lot and I’m glad I’m in a warm room.

Tomorrow morning I will go say hello to the old lady at the front desk. I will turn in my key and share some of the coffee she has made. We will likely talk about the weather and life and why I’m visiting the area and I trust her eyes will sparkle as much as they did tonight when I told her I was a repeat guest.

The coffee will taste better than any cup of Starbucks Coffee bought on any corner of Main Street USA.

Because it’s not about the coffee, its about the people you share it with.

Freshly Pressed or not.


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Traveling to Canada: A Guide for Dumb Americans

I recently spent some time in Ontario, Canada for a business trip. I’d been to Canada before but only for very brief visits. This time I had a whole week though so I was able to thoroughly engulf myself in the whole culture and society. I know us American’s sometimes are not the most well liked when we visit a foreign country because we seem either dumb or elitist or arrogant. So here are six general things I learned that might help you assimilate easier in case you ever need to travel to Canada. I have a lot of Canadian friends that subscribe and read this blog too, so please don’t hesitate to help out if there’s anything you’d like to add.

1. Canadians can speak a lot of languages. Even though the national language is Canadian, like a lot of foreign countries, most of the people are capable of and willing to speak English when talking to Americans. They’re pretty good at it too, except some of them are hard to understand when saying words like “out” and “about” and “trout” and “pout”. One guy said he was “out and about” and I thought he said he was “oat in a boat” and I got confused and pretended I got a phone call and had to excuse myself. In Canadian they also call the bathroom the washroom instead of the restroom which is confusing because it implies people are washing in there instead of resting and bathing and for the first several days there I didn’t know where to go to the bathroom. There’s also a lot of people in Canada that speak French which is weird because I didn’t think Canada was anywhere near France.

2. Canadians are really nice. I mean really nice! Maybe the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’d heard that about Canadians before but now I’ve confirmed it’s most definitely true. Every last one of them that I bumped into was super nice, even the one I bumped into with my car apologized for getting in my way. I bet the two Gopher’s from the Warner Brother’s cartoons were Canadian. Sure, I haven’t traveled extensively, only to Mexico and a few tropical islands and now Canada so I’m sure there are some mean Canadians out there. Probably not very many though. Even the Canadian Border Agents were really nice. They were very polite and smiley and happy to see me as opposed to the U. S. Border Agents who seemed very snarly and mean and had a lot of scary attack dogs around.

3. Canadians have money that’s very colorful and some of it has little plastic windows where you can see through the money. It’s pretty weird and you can waste a lot of time looking through the plastic part to see what the world looks like through money. They also have weird names for some of their money like Loonies and Toonies. When I first got there I went into a bank to exchange $40 and had this conversation:

Me: Hi, can you exchange out some American money for me? Just an assortment, but include some quarters please, as I need to pay parking meters.

Teller: Would you like any Loonies and Toonies?

Me: Excuse me?

Teller: Would you like any Loonies and Toonies?

Me: (panic) Uhhhh….. je ne don’t speaké…. uhhh…. Canadian… eh?

Teller: Yeah, I’ll just give you some bills.

4. Canadians use something called the Metric System. I know, I have recollections of this stuff being taught to us in the 1970’s too. On the highways Canadians are allowed to drive 100 which I really liked because it was super fast and I could get places quickly even though most of the locals didn’t seem to be driving that fast. But I got a bunch of speeding tickets while I was there too which I didn’t understand because I thought I was only going 100. Maybe the police aren’t as nice as the rest of the Canadians. The whole metric system is really weird though, apparently people there think it’s easier to measure and count everything in increments of 10’s rather than dozens and 4’s and 8’s and 16’s and the difference between 32 and 212. I don’t get it.

5. Canadian cities are very clean and safe with not a lot of vagrant types or homeless people. In one city I actually saw a female city worker climb out of a white official city work truck and pick up two or three leaves from the side of the road. I thought that maybe she was just working extra hard or that maybe she was working on a craft or something that needed some leaves. The cities also seemed very safe and a man on the radio said there were only about 500 homicides in Canada last year which I thought couldn’t be right since there were probably at least that many in Chicago alone during the same period. So I called up the radio station to ask if he had made a mistake and he said no, but then he was so nice and said I was the 12th caller and I ended up winning two tickets to a Maple Leafs game which was pretty cool.

6. It’s hard to buy wine in Canada which is weird because I’d always heard that Canadians liked to drink. In the U.S. the average grocery store has an aisle the length of two football fields full of wine. In Canada, if you can find a grocery store that actually sells wine, it’s in these little mini-stores inside the grocery store which are about as big as a bathroom and you have to actually talk to the clerk and pretend to be a sophisticated sommelier American while you are frantically scanning the shelves to find the cheapest wine they sell. They also sell some of their wine in Milk Cartons. On the other hand on every corner are these giant stores called “BEER STORE” so apparently they’d rather have you drinking beer than wine. I didn’t see a single place to buy actual liquor though. Maybe that’s why there are not very many vagrant types or homeless people.

So that’s all you need to know about traveling to Canada! Oh, and make sure your passport is up to date.

Safe travels!


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In an Airport

I’m sitting in a lonely airport.

I just gave up my seat on an overbooked flight for a generous voucher and was re-booked on a flight four hours later than my original departure time. These situations rarely work out but this time I am mostly just shifting my layover times to different airports and moving my arrival time back about two hours.  I’ll be happy  for the voucher the next time I have to book a flight.

But now, here I sit with countless time to write… yet there’s really nothing to write about.

I am in a regional airport. Unlike the large hubs which are always filled with activity, regional airports are only loud and boisterous when there are flights coming and going and there often may be several hours between these times. Right now this airport is in between flights and so it’s deathly quiet other than the occasional announcement over the intercom’s, the faint sound of a television spewing propaganda on a cable news channel and the humming sound of the vending machines that are across the aisle from me. I am one of about a dozen passengers who have made their way past the security checkpoints and now are forced to kill time reading or sitting at the lone bar here or typing words into a blog.  Periodically someone else walks by, another passenger preparing to wait it out, or the cleaning personnel pushing a trash barrel.

I put my time in at the bar, ordering a sandwich and a couple of vastly overpriced  Corona’s for lunch. I sat by myself, my eyes darting from the TV behind the bar to the blogs I was perusing on my iPad. Neither was terribly interesting and so I mostly just sat and thought about what I could write.  A few other people sat in this little restaurant and read newspapers or stared at the screens on their phones.  I wondered what they might be thinking about; writing or missing their families or the work they had to do whenever they arrived at their destination.

The man behind the bar wore a net on his head, I assume because they were selling food here as well. It looked kind of silly and I wondered how he felt about having to wear it. He appeared to be about my age and was very friendly, running from the bar to the cash register and talking with the few customer that were stopping in. Regardless of his silly hair net, he was very jovial and upbeat and confident. He checked everybody’s ID that ordered a drink at the bar and would make the comment each time “can I see your ID so that nobody gets into trouble.”

After about an hour, I left the bar, walked to the restroom, emptied out some of the beer, then walked the couple of minutes to my gate. On the way I passed a young guy sleeping in one of the massage seats, his two bags sitting in front of him. I assumed he had probably not spent the $1.00 to get the seat to vibrate for a few minutes but only sat there because it was the most comfortable seat in the house.

When I arrived at the gate, there was nobody there and so I sat in the corner and fiddled with my iPad.  I snacked on a small box of Conversation Hearts that my wife had stealthily hid inside my backpack before I left. I had discovered these while loading all my electronics, my shoes and my jacket into the gray plastic tubs at the security gates. I smiled at her thoughtfulness and because I was reminded on my recent post on the subject of Conversation Hearts. As I sat, the minimal amount of alcohol from the Corona’s seeped into my blood and I felt sleepy but I didn’t want to fall asleep. Instead I wanted to try to write.

Now I sit at a little stainless steel desk with an outlet that I can plug my laptop into.  It’s the only desk in a row of six of these desks that doesn’t have a phone in it. I wondered who could possibly be using these phones anymore with the prominence of cell phones in the world today. But I’m happy to have the desk even though it’s too small for my height and I feel hunched over as I type.

I sat for a while trying to think of something to write. I thought about writing about my recent FP’d experience, but I just wasn’t inspired to write that post. As exciting as that was, I’m ready to move onto the next post. I tried to come up with something funny to write about, but there was nothing there. I considered writing about how I miss my family when I am on the road, about how difficult it is to leave, but that once I am gone and busy it becomes easier. But in reality, it’s not really easier. I remembered something another salesperson said to me several years ago; he said “there will never be a time when you’re on the road that you wouldn’t rather be home”. He was right and so I passed on writing about that as well.

So I sat in my little stainless steel cubicle and stared at the stark silver in front of me. I could faintly see my reflection in the shiny metal and my back ached from hunching over.

Then I just started writing.

Because sometimes writing about nothing can be the most interesting thing of all.


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