Travel Sharks gobble up highway miles with deadly determination

Don’t you hate high-maintenance travelers? You know the ones — they need to stop at every rest stop, visit every tourist attraction and try out every caramel roll at every truck stop?

Don’t you hate when you realize that the high-maintenance traveler is actually you? This is what occurred to me last week, while driving across Minnesota with several family members. They apparently are Travel Sharks. I am a Travel Labradoodle (or perhaps, “Traveldoodle.”)

Travel Sharks are emotionless, laser-focused and single-minded in their quest. Their job is to gobble up miles and reach their prey — their destination — with speed and accuracy. All other systems shut down to aid in their pursuit. With black, dead-eyed stares, they ignore normal human functions — hunger, thirst, boredom, curiosity — to get to their destination.

This could be the only explanation as to why they never needed to stop. Did they have bladders as big as yoga balls? Didn’t anyone need a snack? What about that place, called “The World’s Second-Coolest Toy Shop,” that we just drove by? It’s the world’s second-coolest, people. What, you’ll only stop if it’s THE world’s coolest?

Hey, what about that interesting-looking billboard? How often do you get to see a Jesse Ventura statue built out of recycled gum?

Even my brother’s pickup seemed to be in on it. It’s a giant, black, extended-cab truck, yet we never needed to stop for gas. Did it have a 400-gallon tank? Had my brother somehow managed to wean it off gas? Was it now fueled only by tenacity, determination and GPS?

For my ADHD brain, it’s not as much about the destination as it is the trip. There’s so much to see, feel and experience. It’s all I can do to not stick my head out of the window and let my tongue flap in the wind.

Do I smell hamburgers? Should I bark at that rude bull terrier who just cut us off? That sign said “Pie,” didn’t it? Look at that tree! Are we there yet? The sun feels so good on my pelt. Ohmigosh, CHIPMUNK!

Although raised by Travel Sharks — led by lead shark Pat “I Think We Can Get from Florida to Wisconsin Today” Swift — I didn’t realize until much later that I was a Traveldoodle. Once I was no longer traveling in packs, I began to see that the pace, trajectory and arrival time were completely up to me.

I was inspired by married friends, Hazel and Harley, who seemed to view drive time as part of the adventure, versus the joyless span of time wasted in your effort to get where you really wanted to be.

First off, I was amazed at how much junk food they bought for the journey. We were traveling across North Dakota by Corolla, not crossing the Sierra Nevada by mule. Car-dining had always been discouraged in the Swift family truckster, especially after the episode we now solemnly refer to as the Nutter Butter Cheesecake Incident, which involved a dessert slightly past its prime, a roving case of stomach flu and a carpet-shampoo job so ginormous that it almost burned out Mom’s Kirby.

But Hazel and Harley not only bought several family-sized bags of popcorn and chips, they stopped at every Dairy Queen, Caribou Coffee or small-town cafe in sight. They also stopped:

— At a farmers markets and bought pumpkins (which really tested the capacity of a Corolla already brimming with people, luggage and Cheetos).

— To appreciate every giant, concrete animal located along I-94 from Fargo to Beach, N.D.

— To shop at one antique store, three truck-stop gift shops and a thrift store.

Of course, our journey took eight hours and 57 minutes instead of the usual five and a half hours, and we had to leave the pumpkins by the road when Hazel bought a coffee table in Glendive, Mont.

Hey, it was either them or me.


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