I am back from my excursions to the north and am very happy about it. 2008 was an interesting year, and I'm quite happy that it is over. When we were driving into Chicago, it dawned on me that we had visited the third and fourth largest US cities in 2008 - Chicago and Houston. At the beginning of 2008, we weren't planning to do that, but it happened. I told the kids that maybe in 2009, we could visit the first and second largest US cities - NYC and LA. Wouldn't that be cool?
Instead, so far in 2009, I've visited my first and second most hated US cities - Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Of course, this has everything to do with football and not the cities themselves. However, Pittsburgh struck me as a dirty, old, and depressed city, like it's golden days were back in the 50s. On the contrary, I was impressed with Baltimore. It was clean and seemed alive and vibrant.
In the last week of January and the first week of February, I will be making a southern tour, heading to Nashville (yawn), Atlanta (insert expected "Hotlanta" reference here), Montgomery Alabama (where?), and Phoenix (woot. woot.).
I have always prided myself in my ability to drive calmly in bad weather. I've never really been shaken by snow or even ice. As we entered Michigan on our Big Vacation, the snow began to fall. And I slowed down. Way down. At one point, Vanessa leaned over and said, "You know that a car from Florida just passed you, right?" That was enough to make me speed up ... a little.
Speaking of driving up north, I can tell you with confidence that there is something I do not miss about - potholes. Maybe it's the weather in Arkansas or the newness of our infrastructure or some combination of the two, but we simply don't have potholes here. Chicago, Grand Rapids, Meadville, Pittsburgh ... it was like driving across moon craters. Ugh.