My baby's on a road trip.
She and two of her college buddies just climbed in her car and headed east about 10 days ago. So far they've checked in from Chicago, Erie, Cooperstown, Salem, Hartford, New York City and Philadelphia.
With my 29 years of dad experience, I wasn't completely thrilled with the idea of three young women heading off over the horizon alone, but I really didn't have the time to go along as a chaperone and, truth to tell, there is a chance I may not have been welcome.
I did what I could -- had our local mechanic check her car out, chatted (mostly to myself) about staying safe, and bought her a three-pack of pepper spray to share with her friends. Their run through may have been more of a Charlie's Angels re-enactment than actual target practice, but at least they knew how to take the safety latch off and which way to point it.
I watched her go down the driveway, and I was a little worried but also a little jealous. It's been a long time since I headed down a road without knowing exactly where I wanted to go.
In 1974, I remember teaching my girlfriend the fine art of driving in city traffic. I picked her up at 4:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning (what better time to learn to drive in a city) and with her at the wheel, we drove around Minneapolis and St. Paul for a few hours, learning the streets and freeways and finally ended up in, ahh, Duluth.
It seemed like the thing to do. We barely had enough money for gas to get home, so our only meal was a pound of hamburger cooked over a fire of twigs on a beach just south of Two Harbors. It all made sense at the time. In hindsight, it still does.
One good road trip can lead to many years of stories, and youth has nothing to do with it. My parents took a road trip to Canada for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. They hit one small town somewhere in Montana or Idaho on the same day a big rodeo was scheduled and found one -- repeat, one -- motel room available. They were a little nervous about renting a room that hadn't lived up to cowboy standards, but it was a bed, and the bullet hole in the door was almost as good as one of those little peepholes that regular motel rooms have.
Typically, though, road trips are a little more memorable while you're still young enough to be unencumbered. My sister and one of her friends once made use of a long weekend to drive to New Orleans. A lovely destination, but not usually considered accessible by car from Minneapolis -- at least not for just a weekend. They drove non-stop, checked into the Hansel and Gretel Hotel (who knew?) which was right in the French Quarter. A ship from the Swedish navy was in port. They spent an evening dancing with the crew, and then climbed back in their car and headed north. And, amazingly enough, they were still friends when they got back.
Road trips. They take you places you don't expect to go.
And that's the best part.
Copyright 2006 Brent Olson.