Friday, August 24, 2012

One Last Summer Road Trip

Road Trip (noun) 1. A journey via automobile, sometimes unplanned or impromptu's 21st Century Lexicon

Before summer ends and this sweet season’s final act brings down the curtain, I think I’ll take one last road trip.  I’ll pack the car with a large coffee and a couple of books on CD. I’ll put the windows down, fire up the GPS, fill the gas tank to “F” and look for an open road.  A road trip….

Americans will certainly hit the road this coming Labor Day weekend. The American Automobile Association estimates 33 million of us will travel fifty miles or more for this last true summer holiday, the highest number of folks to drive away since Labor Day 2007.  Though all of us vehicular wanderers claim some final destination (mine is Vermont’s Champlain Valley, right after church on Sunday), for true automobile road trippers, it’s the journey that matters most, the trek, not the arrival. 

I love auto road trips.  I’m free and get to steer my own way, not imprisoned, as so much airplane travel can feel like these days. In my beat up, bumper sticker covered 149,000 mile trusty Toyota, I get to drive. No long airport security lines that ominously snake to way, way back there!? No airplane cabin seatmates reclining way to close for comfort and giving me a bird’s eye view of their bald spot. No weather delays or hundred yard dashes to make the flight or extra charges for luggage. All I need is my car and a wide open road which unfolds before me.

Freedom. To munch snack food I’d never normally eat.  My current car cuisine indulgence is Diet Vanilla Coke Zero and Pretzel Cheddar Cheese Combos, bite sized bits of salty crackers filled with day-glow orange pseudo-cheese. YUM! Freedom to stop somewhere I’ve never been before and explore: a side street antique store, a Main Street diner, or a dusty used bookstore.  Freedom to just go and as I go I leave behind work and worries, to-do lists and busyness, a jam packed life, at least for these few precious hours on the way.

I know all road trips aren’t so heavenly. I remember childhood family journeys which inevitably devolved into backseat guerilla warfare between me and my little sister. “YOU’RE SITTING ON MY SIDE OF THE SEAT!”  I know gas isn’t cheap and to fill up these days can cost more than $100.  I know summer is high time for road construction and the disappointment of flying along and all of a sudden coming to a traffic clogged standstill.  Just try driving to the Cape.

But still—give me a road trip, just every couple of months, to air out my life and have time to wonder, as lush green mountains emerge just around the next bend, as wheels whir with the melodic sound of asphalt on rubber, as I hook my arm out the window and feel the cool breeze and the heat of sunshine. 

Writing about his summer road trips, New York Times reporter Dwight Garner says, “I like…to drive long distances alone, preferably at night with the windows down and a pile of compact discs rattling around on the passenger side floorboards. I need these trips to see myself plain. I take out my failings as a husband, as a father and as a man, and put them on the dashboard where I can study them…”

On past road trips I’ve found that kind of thinking space and figured out….maybe it is time for a new job or time to end or begin a relationship.  I’ve worked out problems as the miles go by, pondered my life, even prayed.  There is something romantic, even spiritual about being on the road, being in motion, going away from something, going towards something but for a time, just being in between. 

God knows folks in the Bible never stayed put for long. Adam and Eve were given an involuntary detour out of the Garden of Eden by a disappointed Creator. The Hebrews took a long road trip out of Egypt.  An itinerant preacher visited villages and big cities but never stayed for long.  So maybe God can finally be found out on the road too, a Deity not static or stuck or status quo.  A Higher Power instead, inviting us to come along for the adventurous journey of life.  The journey of a thousand miles does begin with a road trip, right?

So maybe I’ll see you on the road next weekend.  For we all need an occasional road trip to clear the head, to remember the gift of the journey of life and to just enjoy the ride.  Safe travels.

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