The Great American Road Trip - Freedom on the Road
Ella Fitzgerald Sings What's In My Heart
It's Bye Bye Blackbird Time
I love being on the road, and the longer the road trip the better. Whether I'm traveling to a new destination or a familiar one, whether I'm alone or with friends or family, I get excited about a long drive. Although the destination may be a place or event I'm looking forward to, it is the road trip that energizes and fascinates me. When dawn is on the horizon, and I lock the door to my house and unlock the door to my car, I leave all my cares and woes behind. It's "Bye Bye Blackbird" time.
Just the anticipation of a long road trip sends me into an ecstatic flurry of planning. I spend days, even weeks, making lists of things to do to get ready. In my house, I arrange for mail to be picked up and plants to be watered. At work, I leave a log of tasks that others will take care of while I’m away. In my car, I make sure tire pressure is up to snuff, oil is changed, and safety equipment is on board. And for the road trip itself, I pack the personal items I need way ahead of time. I never mind this planning effort nor the tasks involved.
Wanderlust May Be Genetic
Road trip planning and preparation are much easier now that my nest is empty, but even when it wasn't, the excitement of a road trip was always there and the work involved never seemed to be a burden. I can happily blame my mother for this. She, my father, and I were on the road between Indiana and New Jersey visiting relatives from the time I was a few months old. I don’t know what make of car my parents had at the time, but it had horsehair upholstery which sends off an aroma that enters the nose and remains as an indelible mark on the brain. I was nine months old when I flew for the first time, and only ten years old when I took my first solo railroad adventure from New Jersey to Ohio. To my mother, who journeyed by sea from Poland to the US during the Great Depression, a 12-hour or 24-hour or 5-day road trip is a piece of cake. Even today, my mother loves to pack up and go, just as I do. She trained me well, but I think this wanderlust is in my genes.
The Joy of Being on the Road - Freedom
America has had a long and abiding love relationship with the car, and even though some say the affair is all but over, I remain in love. Where long ago we'd mount a horse, becoming one with this powerful animal to get from one place to another, now we sit in a car in an ergonometric driver's seat. We find we wear the car like we wear a glove, a contact intimacy like we once had of human butt to horse's back. My driver’s seat is additionally contoured by long use and is totally comfortable, like a well-worn saddle.
I feel joy and excitement when anticipating and then embarking on a road trip. I will become one with my car. I will fly past roadway mile markers, the wind from windows and moon roof blowing through my hair, a cup of coffee or a cold bottle of water comfortably at hand. If I'm alone, I might listen to the radio, or a favorite CD, or nothing more than the hum of the car. My thoughts will wander, always to a peaceful place, never to troubles or worries. Although there is no horsehair upholstery in my car, the memory of its aroma will be with me now and again, a pleasant reminder of other road trips long ago.
My Current Horse
I've had a Mitsubishi Endeavor for six years, and of all the cars I've ever had, this is my favorite. It's roomy, goes everywhere it needs to go no matter the weather conditions, has plenty of V-6 power (225 HP If you want to know) and it's pretty darned good looking. It is a fuel hog, but it is the perfect car for road tripping with family and friends. We can pack everything we need for three people for week-long adventures on the road–blankets, pillows, safety gear, clothes, and road food–and still have plenty of room to be comfortable. For older folks who find it hard to get into an SUV, the Endeavor makes it easy. Its chassis is not too high off the road and it has convenient hand-holds for hoisting yourself up if you need to.
The Beauty of the Open Road
Future Great American Road Trips
I belong to the sandwich generation: I have responsibilities to both my daughter and my mother. Thankfully, both daughter and mother enjoy these road trips as I do. A few years ago, on a trip to visit our family in Ohio, my mother and daughter engaged in a Polish language learning session that almost caused me to crash the car by nearly peeing in my pants. My mother wanted to teach my daughter some basics of the Polish language. As the mile markers rolled by on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, my mother coached my daughter into learning the most naughty of Polish poetry. The good news is that, hours later, my daughter had learned enough Polish to guide my mother to the bathroom at a rest stop, in Polish. My daughter used her newly found Polish words to say, "Go right here, left there, and don't ask for beer."
Joyously, my mother, daughter, and I will be on the road again soon to celebrate a family reunion in Ohio that will honor my mother's and my Aunt Katie's birthdays.
I'll be making the lists, packing the car, and putting my foot on the accelerator to freedom. Maybe my daughter and mother will have a Polish language engagement that brings them both more into line with the great Polish philosophers, historians, and artists, but if they don’t, I’m perfectly happy. Piwo is good enough for me.