Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 25, 2013

Cathie Shaffer: Longer path leads to the unexpected: 03/26/13

Cathie Shaffer
The Independent

GREENUP — In case you’re wondering, the shortest way to Toledo, Ohio, from my house in Ashland is not through Louisville. But since I had a doctor’s appointment in downtown Louisville last Friday and had to be in Toledo on Saturday, I made that great big loop.

A 875-mile loop to be exact.

For the most part, the trip was uneventful. But there was one place on the trip up and one on the trip back that delayed me both times.

I’ve been to the doctor’s office so often that I knew exactly how to get out of town and onto northbound I-65. Besides, that particular superhighway is familiar to me. Back when I lived in northwestern Ohio and my late sister lived in Florida, I’d travel that stretch of asphalt once or twice a year.

The route is really quite simple. I-65 leads to I-69 and that connects to the 30 miles or so of limited access highway that makes up the final leg. I set my cruise control right on speed limit and kept the fancy info button in my car on instant gas mileage and was pleased to be getting about  32 miles a gallon.

That changed right outside Indianapolis. I have two little turns there — onto I-465 and then onto I-69. Alas, I ran into a major slowdown before I got to that first switch over.

Turns out, when I finally passed the trouble spot 20 minutes or so later, there had been an accident. I was reminded once again how closing one of four traffic lanes can bring the flow from 70 mph to 20 mph or less.

Once I got rolling again, it was easy cruising. It used to be that getting off I-69 at Ft. Wayne meant going into the city. New road workings now lets me skip town entirely and ease onto the road home without even having to slow down. I pulled into the driveway and walked into the lit-up house with just over 500 miles on the odometer and having spent nine hours of the day behind the wheel.

After giving a reading and sitting on an author’s panel at a book lover’s event on Saturday, I reluctantly bid goodbye to the old home place and headed back south. I debated filling the tank before I left town but decided to wait until I needed gas, just in case the price was a little lower down the road.

Turns out that it wasn’t. But not stopping put me in an interesting place that late afternoon. After turning from one state route onto another, I ended up two cars behind the celebratory procession bringing a state championship basketball team home.

This is rural America where pride runs high and, in that particular town, victories are huge. So I enjoyed the ride at 40 miles an hour as the school bus accompanied by fire engines, police cars, ambulances, a tow truck and everything else with a light and siren took that victory lap.

The yards we passed held children and adults alike with homemade “Way to go” signs and pompoms, cheering as the bus went by.

Did that slow me down? Sure.

But it also took me back a few years to when I was in the yard, sign in hand, screaming as our team came home with the trophy.

CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net or (606) 473-9812.