The only road trips I remember as a kid were long and flat and filled with farmland. They involved four highways, the last of which felt like a long country road, and they took us from our house to my grandparents’ house in a rural section of Michigan.
Being an only child, I had the entire back seat of my dad’s Mazda or Buick to myself (my dad’s cars changed with my age) and I’d often stretch across the whole seat and find some time to nap or listen to En Vogue on my discman.
Because, I’d done the ride a million times, or at least it seemed. And I’d seen everything there was to see, except for the fresh roadkill that might appear along the way. The drive was old news to me.
And then I moved west. Later, as an adult. That sentence sounds funny, because looking back I was just a kid. I was only 20. I needed something new. The Dixie Chicks were asking for Wide Open Spaces and my parents were living in Arizona.
I’d only go for a couple years. That’s what I told everyone I was leaving. I’d be back, I’d say. Soon. After school.
And then I stayed. And looking at how easy it is now for me to run off to the coast, or trek north to the mountains, I have to say how grateful I am for a youthful willingness to try something new.
That willingness allowed me to set up shop in a place that is near every kind of landscape that sets my whole soul on fire, from the forest to the beach to the mountains to the desert. And it allows me now to introduce my kids to places that keep them awake during road trips.
They look for the lines in the rock formations. They seek out water and canyons and fields of windmills – the ones that indicate we’re close to the coast.
Despite those somewhat monotonous road trips as a kid, I’ll still take a road trip today over a flight. It lets us stop and explore, if we want to. And it lets us look around at what we’re driving through. It lets us be part of the adventure. It lets us be immersed. To feel it, every bit of it.
And that’s worth staying awake for.