When I was a kid we did road trips. Lots and lots of road trips.
I mostly had my nose in a book on those journeys. My dad always had music on, my mom always brought snacks, and the kids brought books.
My dad loved national parks, and if our travels took us anywhere near a park, we had to stop.
Driving anywhere can be an interesting experience if you’re paying attention.
But in those days I rarely looked up. I sat in the back seat, or even in the “way back” of the family station wagon. The view was mostly a sibling’s profile, also buried in a book. I remember my dad getting irritated with us, that we were missing the scenery he was so enchanted to see. He was hauling us all over the country, and we might as well have been at home.
Sometimes there’d be a sight to bring us to the surface, out of our respective novels, and we’d stare out the window at a passing scene, or get out of the car and troop into a national park headquarters, dutifully learning about the history or geography, or whatever made this particular spot noteworthy.
Now, a few decades later, I sit in the front. I never read. I mostly stare out at the landscape, passing by at 50, 60, or 70 miles an hour. Sometimes we pull over so I can snap a photo or two, or twenty. I’m always on the watch for a great diner, local color, a beautiful view, a charming town.
I love road trips.
Sometime between childhood and now I grew to appreciate the freedom and the variety of driving. I never get bored, and it almost doesn’t matter where we begin, or where we end. I just love the whole thing, from first to last.
I fly a lot these days, for work, and sometimes for pleasure. Sometimes the only way to get where I’m going is on a jet.
But if I have a choice? I’ll pick the road, every time. There’s nothing like it, and never will be. The great American love story is with the road, and I’m happy to be out there, wondering what’s around the next bend, where we’ll stop to eat, what new thing we’ll see.
It is an amazing country, and a gorgeous one.
Driving today, I thought about my dad. I wish I could tell him: I learned to look up. I learned to see what’s in front of me, to appreciate the beauty, the romance, the wonder of the road.
I think he’d smile, and be proud I finally got it.