2018-10-12 / Commentary

Road Trips

It’s not a criticism; It’s an observation

My friend Mike has retired, way past the time most of the rest of us have. I got an email from him on the Sunday before our nation’s birthday reminding me that was his final week of actually showing up for work. He’s been involved with grand kids sports events and catching up on chores around the house since then but is finally in the mode of thinking about actually being retired.

He is still firm in his desire for several of us to take a road trip to the beach like we did before any of us had cars. In the end, our parents had to drive us there and another set came and picked us up. Can you imagine today’s parents doing such a thing for teenagers?

We made plans, secured hotel reservations, and saved money. We thought we had transportation but there was no way our parents would allow that group to drive that far for that long. A last minute refusal combined with sincere and heartfelt promises to be good forever finally swayed the parents to our position. We convinced my dad to drive us down. Mike’s parents would come and get us for the return trip.

I love road trips, have since I first read Blue Highways, a travel account by a Native American college professor named William Least Heat-Moon. He lost his job teaching college kids and decided to see America without the benefit of Dwight David Eisenhower’s interstate system. The book was published in 1982.

I finally got to take my ultimate road trip a couple years ago. Two of my sons started with me, and one completed the loop. 10,000 miles, over three weeks, 27 states, 4 Great Lakes, uncounted National and State Parks, and Monuments. A trip of a lifetime we all want to do again.

During our original beach road trip, everything went great until a guy nicknamed Eyeball threw a bottle at a road sign. The trip almost got canceled at that moment: We had been on the road for little more than an hour. After tense negotiations, my dad agreed to finish his delivery.

He dropped us off at Gulf Shores, Alabama; five teenage boys with big plans and everything carefully planned. We spent our entire allotted funds for the week fashioning a party for some girls we met the first day on the beach. They came to the party but brought their boyfriends.

The rest of the week was a blur of desperation, learning experiences, and things I can’t discuss because I’m not confident in my understanding of 1967 laws and the statute of limitations.

Mike’s parents showed up for the return trip as we hoped, and even footed the bill for some much needed nutrition before we left for home. The journey home was uneventful. Everyone was catching up on a week’s worth of lost sleep and someone kept bottles away from Eyeball. We were all too tired to try anything else.

At least we can drive ourselves on the next road trip. And no one can see far enough to throw bottles at road signs.

Besides, all containers these days are plastic.

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