The Road Trip

Like the quote in Field of Dreams, the builders of roads have tapped into something very basic and deep within Americans - build it and they will come. The adventure of the American road trip is a timeless tradition. Ever since Henry Ford rolled out that first Model T, we've had a love affair with cars. The country grew up around cars. North to south, east to west, cars have enabled us to travel this great country and feed our sense of freedom and adventure. For me, I travel because life is short and office chairs are no fun to sit in. So many places and so little time!

Whenever I leave on one of my trips, I feel regret for the people who must remain behind. Heading out, I feel the excitement of freedom, but everyone else has to live where they are.  The drive-through kid at Wendy's, the unemployment counselor looking up at the same endless line of people waiting to see her, the waitress at IHOP - all of them stuck in place while I have who knows what waiting for me around the next bend in the road or over the next hill. The prettiest and best place is always the one that lays just ahead of me.

I'm in love with movement. Not as a continuous way of life, but as a periodic tonic. I need to get out of town for a while, calm my head and see what I haven't yet seen. I think the urge to travel is an ancient human trait, a legacy  from when our ancestors roamed the earth as hunter-gatherers. In modern times, I think Americans in particular, dream of the road; adventure and freedom from routines and responsibilities, away from a state of mind, from having to live the way others expect us to live - the home with 2-car garage and a mortgage; the electric bill; the water bill; the gas bill; the car payment; the kid's braces; pulling weeds; going to work Monday morning. Who doesn't want to saddle up the horse and just ride away into the sunset? In 1530, Cabeza de Vaca said as he and his men were exploring America; "We ever held it certain that going toward the sunset we would find what we desired."

Not that long ago, geologically speaking, when "wild" Indians roamed North America, they sometimes captured white folk. If the captives were taken as children, the vast majority of them would easily assimilate into the tribe and live their lives as Indians. When Indians were captured, they invariably had no desire to join white society with its laws, punishments, taboos and permanent houses. In 1764, a captive exchange took place along the Muskingum River in Ohio. The Indian prisoners ran back to their tribe laughing with tears of joy running down their faces. The white captives had to be bound hand and foot and forcibly dragged, kicking and screaming, back to civilization. In a short period of time, most of them ran away and went back to live with the Indians.

There is a whole continent at my back door, 2,700 miles wide and 1,200 miles tall, with no border crossings or language barriers to break the flow of the trip. Total freedom to go where I want, to see what I want, to stop where I want. It's something people around the world dream about - to come to America, rent a car and drive the country. I'm so thankful I can do it anytime.

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is 
not intent on arriving."
Laozi