On the road again

by | Jun 15, 2020

 My 16 year old daughter, Rachel, my 5 year old daughter Therese, our cat, and I are on the road  from Tulsa to Unity of Roanoke Valley.

            I like cross country driving. It brings back memories of the first time I read On the Road by Jack Kerouac and Travels With Charlie, by John Steinbeck. During my senior year in high school I was accepted by my ‘first choice’ college on ‘early decision’ in December. Needless to say I developed very bad case of ‘senioritis.’ My mother reminded me several times that the college said that my admission come next fall was conditional on my passing all of my classes in my senior year.

            My grade average headed south in my senior year, and it was really ‘nip-and-tuck’ in chemistry. But I was a voracious reader during my last year in high school. However, I mostly read the books that I wanted to read—such as Kerouac and Steinbeck. I found their travels around North America to be exhilarating and liberating. The irony is that at that point in my life, I lived on Long Island roughly twenty-five miles outside of New York City. I had never been further west than Bethlehem Pennsylvania.

            “Someday I will travel the country by car.  I will have experiences like Kerouac and Steinbeck,” I said to myself. But for one reason after the next that “someday” never arrived: I can’t travel because of graduate school.   I can’t travel because of my job. I can’t travel because my girlfriend wants to do something else. I can’t travel because of the children. I can’t travel because (you fill in the blank). The Kerouac/Steinbeck road trips never happened.

            And then before you know it, I was well into middle age, and my oldest son, Joshua, was serving his second tour of duty in the U.S. Army in Iraq. He was injured and flown back to Brooke Army Medical Base in San Antonio. I jumped into our car and drove from Northern Virginia to San Antonio. When I was certain that Josh was on the road to recovery, I started to head back to the Washington D.C.  area. I had some time, and I started to take that road trip. It was fun, and I saw parts of the country I had never seen before.

            The next year my wife Debbi and I decided to make it a priority to take a road trip from Northern Virginia all the way out to the Grand Canyon. On the way back we headed into the National Parks in Utah. It was incredible. Other long road trips took us from the East Coast to Glacier National Park in Montana. I will always be grateful for seeing the “bad lands’ in the Dakotas. Another trip took us to Yellowstone.

            I know Kerouac and Steinbeck didn’t have Sirius XM, audible.com, podcasts, and Apple music in their vehicles. And interstate car tips might not be your thing. But is there something you really want to do such as: take art classes, go skiing, dance the night away, etc? I remember my first Unity minister, Rev. Helice Green, and she would say, “If your dream is to go skiing, then go skiing. It doesn’t matter if you’re going down the bunny slope all weekend. Just go and do it.”

            I don’t know why it took me so long to start taking cross country car trips. I don’t know why I let so many years pass between reading Kerouac/Steinbeck and putting the pedal to the metal. There was a big slip between the cup and my lip. However, I am getting better at listening to that “still, small voice” and heeding my “Divine discontent.”

            WAIT A MINUTE: Therese has a question: “Dad, are we there yet?”