I consider my life an adventure. Those of you that know me well know how much I HATE to fly. I start to panic just thinking about standing in lines, crushed bodies waiting to get on, and after, the rush of people pulling bags down into your space. People trying to maneuver their way off the plane around a line of bodies stacked up in the all too small isle makes me cringe. The seats jammed so close together that the last time I flew I could count the lice nits in the hair of the woman in front of me as she laid the seat back. Who else’s head has lain against that seat in which I am now sitting?
As a result of this disdain, I drive. I have driven from Ohio to Colorado taking the northern route, spending time in the Badlands and at Mt. Rushmore ending in the incredible Rocky Mountains in Winter Park. Daniel actually learned how to drive on South Dakota back roads when he was 15, as his 13 and 11 year old sisters lay down in the back seat yelling, "We’re going to die!!!" We stopped off along the way at a grizzly bear breeding compound that I just happened to come across in Wyoming. The kids and I (Kirk usually flew out and met up with us due to vacation restraints and the fact that he LOVES to fly) stopped at every state park, every free venue, every historic landmark. We had McDonald's French fries for afternoon snacks and whatever crappy fast food was available for dinner. We stayed at the cheapest hotels in rooms with two double beds and a rollaway.
I treasure these memories. Some of the best times we had were when we would go off the beaten path and get lost.
Going through Georgia one year on the way to Ohio (I’d like to have a dollar for every mile I’ve driven from Florida to Ohio and back), we were going up I-75 and there was a huge wreck. A prefabricated home had slid off its trailer. Half of a house was sitting in the middle of the interstate. I see this and exit, taking the next road hoping for a route around the standstill. I headed east towards the middle of the state.
The two lane roads seemed to get smaller as I headed deeper into Georgia. We’d packed a lunch and I was looking for a park to pull over and enjoy a break from the road. I kept driving. We passed through some small towns, but none offered a place to stop. As we came out of a town and made the turn northward,(at least I thought it was north as this was before GPS and my car didn’t even have a compass like most have now) I spied a huge pecan plantation. There out by the road were four picnic tables. Whether they were for workers or had been placed by the road for travelers to enjoy I had no idea, but we stopped and had our picnic under the enormous trees. My eldest daughter kept saying we were trespassing and would probably get shot. But no one came by to shoo us away so we spent an hour eating and talking about plantations and farming. It is one of my favorite memories. I picture a young mother and her three kids on an amazingly beautiful summer day. They are just sitting and talking spending those precious moments together that are so fleeting that when you look back it seems that their childhood was just a dream.
Over the years, we’ve found off the road dives that had fantastic food at 1950’s prices. We’ve discovered antique shops and barn sales. My youngest daughter collects teapots and many were found on one of our off the beaten path excursions.
Once, I was alone as I drove down back roads from Columbus, Ohio to Parkersburg, West Virginia. The road became so narrow that you had to pull over when another car was approaching in order to let them pass. I came to an enormous horse farm surrounded by miles of white fence. Out in the field were a horse and three men standing back watching as a colt took its first steps. I pulled the car over, grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures. There, in the mist of morning, I experienced a miracle that I would never encounter dodging trucks on the interstate or from a 10 by 15 inch window at 35,000 feet.
It always reminds me of my favorite Robert Frost poem;
I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.