One of the main parts of my life and wanderings these days is the road trip. In fact, I don’t remember a time when road trips weren’t a big part of my life.
As a child, I probably asked “Are we there yet?” 10 times an hour if I wasn’t sleeping. But I also remember a lot of special moments along the way. Special moments like cracking the window to let that cold air roll down my back while cocooned in my blanket. And feeling the heater’s warm air slipping under my parents’ seat, lapping at my legs, as we climbed the Grapevine. Or the time in Yosemite, when I didn’t see the bear coming down the adjacent path and we came face to face. Fortunately, the trashcan treasure that was further down the road was of more interest than a small, 7 year old boy. And what was a road trip without fighting with your brothers in the back seat while mom strained to pull you apart and dad threatening “I’LL STOP THE CAR!”
It seems most Americans were obsessed with road trips back in those days. Air travel was not affordable and super highways didn’t exist—nor did air conditioning! So, folks took off for an adventure, knowing that it would take time to get there and there would be so much to see along the way. It was a time when people took to the road to have a good time, not to make good time as was so aptly put in the movie “Cars”. Roads like Route 66 were swarmed during the summers as people went in search of America. To beat the heat, you would stop early and play in the pools of those neon motels that sprung up everywhere. I remember my friends disappearing for large chunks of time as they went off to discover America with their families. People still took long vacations back then because you had to if you wanted to actually do something.
So many great books were written about experiences on the road, Kerouac’s “On the Road”, Least Heat Moon’s “Blue Highways” and my favorite, Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” to name a few. Books that celebrated the road, the freedom of youth, philosophy and the wonderful people that were met along the way. There is a lot of time to just think on a road trip—more so if you don’t take the kids along! But it is the times between the towns and fuel stops that allow the brain to float in random ways, solving this issue or that and giving new focus.
Although I have always loved road trips, it was photography that really got me into it in a big way as an adult. Sometimes I would take off just for the day, driving 5-600 miles before returning home. Other times I would have a week or so to explore. It really didn’t matter all that much, it was just the fact that you got to hit the road, get away from the routine, that seemed to cleanse the soul. It also offered up some interesting experiences and people along the way.