Saturday, June 25, 2011

Aeroplane Blues

     My husband and I are going on a trip to North Carolina this October and it would appear that we've hit a snag in the planning process. We live in St. Louis, MO, you see, and we need to get to Charlotte, NC, which is approximately seven hundred and twenty miles away. The most obvious question that needs to be answered here is how are we going to get to the other side of the country? Most people would be looking at two choices in this scenario - flying or driving. Since we are, in many ways, "most people", we're currently debating the pros and cons of each method of travel. It's just that, like so many other things in our life, my husband's disorder is making what should be a fairly simple decision into the traveler's version of Sophie's Choice.

     I'm the one who takes care of the finances in our household, so I'm the one who's already trying to plan how much money we need to put away for our little sojourn and checking Travelocity every week to see if the price on our plane tickets has gone down since the last time I looked. Finances are a big factor in just about everything we do, so of course I'm  trying to do this ten-day trip as economically as possible. I priced two round-trip plane tickets at a couple of different airlines and the priced a rental car. Nothing fancy, just a something with four wheels and a steering wheel that will get us where we want to go while we're there.

     The prices really aren't bad and since we've been saving up for this trip, it's feasible that we could just fly out there, stop at the Enterprise counter and then be on our way. That's option number one and it's a good one, for a couple of reasons. One, it would be the quickest way to North Carolina, as the flight only takes four and a half hours, including one stop in Memphis to switch planes. It wouldn't take much actual vacay time to get to our destination, which is always great, because we want to spend as much time as possible visiting with friends and family.

     The second (more important) argument for flying out there is that it would be much easier on my husband's body, as he'd only be in the seat for a couple of hours at most. (The problem is that the muscles in his back seize up if he's in one place for too long. Twelve hours in a Mazda6 probably qualifies as too long.) I don't want him to be in pain while we're traveling and I really don't want to have to go straight to the hospital for the big-kid drugs as soon as we roll into town. It also usually takes a day or two of recovery time once he gets home from the ER to get back to his usual self, which would further cut into the time we could spend doing what we want to do.

     On the other hand, the case for driving out there isn't exactly weak. The most practical argument for it is, of course, the financial difference between a road trip and buying plane tickets and renting a car once we're there. It's a difference of about five hundred dollars and even though we've got the money for it (like I said, we've been saving for this for awhile), does that mean we have to spend it on travel accommodations? Couldn't we also use it to do more stuff while we're out there? My husband seemed to think so, when I was discussing it with him.

     There's also the small problem of me being absolutely terrified to fly. Granted, I've never flown before, (unless you count that time after a car crash in high school that I was flown via emergency helicopter to the hospital, but I was in and out of consciousness the whole flight and don't remember anything from that night anyway) but I have no desire whatsoever to do it. Seriously. I was watching an episode of Friends one time in which Rachel was flying to Paris and when the guy shut the door to the terminal behind her, I about lost it. I don't know why, but I couldn't help but think, "Oh my God, what if I don't want to do it and they won't let me off the plane?! THE MAN ALREADY SHUT THE TERMINAL DOOR!!!!!!!" Pretty sure I'm borderline-insane sometimes.

     Also? I just love driving. It's a stress-release for me, to drive around and listen to music loud enough to shake the mirrors of my car. I think it's also a nostalgic thing for me, as we always took a vacation every summer when I was growing up. We always drove to our destination, never flew, which meant Daddy was rarely included on the trips. (He drives too slow and he wants to make too many stops along the way. My mother trained my sister and I from a young age to get in the car and go.) I made most of the StL-to-Charlotte drive a few years ago, on my honeymoon with my first husband. It's an easy drive and really pretty, so I would love to travel that route with this husband.

     My husband also mentioned to me that when he lived in North Carolina, he and his friends would sometimes take road trips and drive the Blue Ridge Parkway while blasting Yes (he's got a thing for prog rock, I don't know why) and that's a really good memory for him. He actually loves road trips just as much as I do, but that's something that's been essentially taken away from his as the Marfan's has progressed. When I think of that, how such a simple pleasure has become so difficult for him, I can't help but feel angry and frustrated. It's just one more thing that I can do nothing about and instead watch impotently from the sidelines as he struggles to accept the latest disappointment.

     Gotta bring it back, though, and not dwell on the hurdles in our path. We've been talking about it and there may actually be a way to drive it. My husband will go to see his pain-management doctor on Monday, whom he hasn't seen in almost two years. Perhaps she will have some good news for us, some way that she's figured out to better manage his chronic, sometimes debilitating pain. At the very least, my husband's planning to talk to her about our trip and see if she has any suggestions that would make driving a viable option. He seems to think that with the right combination of painkillers and stops along the way so he can move around a bit, it can be done. I'm not entirely convinced of that plan and I won't allow him to be in pain just so I can avoid the flying death-trap.

      It looks like at this point, it's going to depend on what the doctor tells us on Monday. If she and my husband think it's actually going to be okay, then we'll drive it. We'll get to spend some quality us-time together, see the pretty sights along the way and save a few dollars. If the driving turns out to be an absolute "no", then I'll just have to get over my fear of the completely unnatural aluminum alloy contraption that has no business being miles above the lovely safe ground. Wish me luck with that one.

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