Rather than navigate airport traffic, wait in terminals, sit squished between obnoxious or diseased people on airplanes, haggle for a rental car, and then head back out into traffic, Ma and I drove to my uncle’s birthday party. We decided to take our time and mosey halfway across the country from the East Coast to the Midwest.

While flying would have been the much faster option, we would have missed a lot. We made the most of our trip by taking two days to drive out, after which we spent four nights at our destination. Then we took another two days to travel back. If you have the time, I highly recommend opting for the road trip.

Had we flown, we would not have discovered the many wineries along the way. While I knew we had quite a few vineyards in North Carolina and Virginia, I figured the only crop between the Midwest and us was corn. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of billboards that direct road travelers to local wineries.

After several hours on the road, a wine tasting and vineyard tour was perfect for relaxing and stretching our legs. We stopped at two wineries on our trip out to Minnesota. There were two others we tried to visit, but we arrived at one over an hour before they opened and the other was 14 miles off the interstate.

I have no problem stopping at attractions, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, and rest stops that are located within one mile of an interstate exit ramp. However, when I see an arrow followed by "14 miles," my car automatically heads right back to the highway. My car and I just don’t have it in us to go 28 miles out of the way for anything. And that includes wine.

On the way back, we stopped at a cheese chalet. It was about a quarter of a mile off the interstate and it had the most amazing selection of cheeses I’ve ever encountered. What better pairing for all the wine we’d bought on our trip out than cheese?

Ma and I stretched our legs well as we perused aisle after aisle of cheese. When we finally left Wisconsin, we had a trunkful of glorious cheeses. I also grabbed a snack-sized block of cheese and an apple for the road.

Driving hour after monotonous hour dodging trucks and people who can’t put their phones away while driving isn’t so bad when your trunk is filled with wine and cheese. In the back of my mind, I knew if we got stranded somewhere, we’d not only be fine, we’d be quite popular.

Our trip was not only adventurous and fun, it was enlightening. We discovered that you must drive slowly through parking lots above the Mason-Dixon line. The snow, ice, sleet, and wind carve holes into asphalt. Big holes. Big, giant, scary potholes. If you’re not paying attention, you could knock your car out of alignment or worse.

That reminds me, I should bring my car to our mechanic friend "Greg’s" shop for a once-over now that we’re back home.

We also learned that "New Wineskin Ministries" is not a cute name for a winery. It is, in fact, a spiritual ministry. Although, in our defense, the giant maroon and green billboard with a picture of an old-fashioned wineskin was somewhat misleading — especially to two people who had just left a beautiful vineyard.

After a few close calls with tractor-trailers, we decided there is a reason the cabs on the trucks are situated so high up. The height prevents the truck drivers from seeing inside the vehicles they just cut off.

This is a good thing, because typically the drivers of the cars are gesturing inappropriately. If the truck drivers saw such displays, they could become defensive, which could escalate the incident. We certainly don’t need escalated incidences of road rage between cars and trucks on our nation’s highways.

While passing through America’s heartland, we saw more than cows, cornfields, and grape vines. We saw lots of wind turbines. There were lots more wind fields than I remembered from the last time I’d driven through the area.

It was exciting to see so much expansion to our clean, renewable energy resources. However, driving past thousands of wind turbines can make a driver slightly dizzy. And I know it was the rotating blades all over the horizon because the wine was still corked in the trunk behind the bags of cheese when we stopped and I noticed my brain was still moving.

Had we flown, we would not have had our wine and cheese adventures. We would not have spent extra quality time with my aunt and uncle. We would not have figured out how to refreeze ice packs in a hotel room for cheese stashes. And, we would not have experienced the personalities of so many states that make up this great country.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is mickibare@gmail.com