Recently, I was asked about memorable road trips. My first experiences were with my mom and dad and brother. My parents only had two weeks of vacation a year, and they wanted to visit as many National Parks as possible. Hence, we spent long hours in a car without air conditioning to get to the goal – wherever it happened to be. Sometimes they drove until after dark and parked the small trailer along the road side (until one night when we could hear a distant river and discovered in the morning it was hundreds of feet down a cliff face a few yards from the trailer steps). Sometimes Dad had to drive all day, day after day, to get to where he and Mom wanted to go. My brother and I were along for the ride and passed the hours of boredom squabbling in the back seat. I envied my friends who spent the summer at a family cabin in the Sierras, and swore, when I grew up, I’d never take another road trip.
Now, I love road trips. One of my favorites was with three other women from church. We drove from Northern California to Independence, Missouri and then followed the Oregon Trail to The Dalles in Oregon, traveled down through the Willamete Valley, stayed with my mom for a few days rest and rented the Anne of Green Gables movies.
Why was it so much fun? We took the blue roads and byways, even drove a section of the Oregon Trail. We stopped at small local diners, explored cemeteries, spent hours in local museums and stayed in funky hotels. We read Willa Cather’s O Pioneers! and My Antonia in the evening and visited her home in Red Cloud, Nebraska. Our husbands are all men who like to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. We meandered and didn’t care if we got lost.
This year Rick and I went on a road trip (about 200 miles) between Philadelphia and Gettysburg with friends. Instead of a trailer or funky hotel, we stayed in historic Bed and Breakfasts, one a block from Independence Hall and the other on the battlefield. We meandered through Lancaster County and dreamed up another trip (2014) when we’ll travel up the Mississippi on a paddle boat.
Even when I’m home I go on road trips. We’re fortunate enough to live in an area where we can reach the redwoods in half an hour, the Pacific Coast in forty-five minutes, the Valley of the Moon in twenty minutes. I can get to Petaluma in half an hour and wander on foot along streets that appear in movies like “American Graffiti”. Even so, sometimes I just take a road trip around town, exploring neighborhoods or country roads, or visit an urban tree farm or farmers’ market.
I can even take a road trip without leaving my arm chair. I just pull out one of the maps from my collection and plan a trip around the Pacific Northwest, or the eastern shore states, the Midwest or deep South. Sometimes all I have to do for a change of scenery is close my eyes and let my imagination take the driver’s seat.